Haleakala Distillers                                                   This Rum’s on a Roll!


What started as a rum-making hobby in 2003 for Jim “Kimo” Sargent and his wife, Leslie, has matured into an award-winning enterprise today. 

According to Manager, Brian Sato, the first major leap happened when Jim realized he could make money on his rum and decided to go full steam.  The second leap happened in 2010 when Haleakala Distillers doubled the production and sales of its Maui Dark Rum after a major, mainland restaurant began adding it to their pre-made Mai Tai mix.   

“So we went from producing our dark rum in cases to producing it in bulk,” Sato says. “Now our biggest competitor is Bacardi and Captain Morgan but once they taste Maui Rum, they are hooked.  We sell all our products to restaurants and hotels and have only three part-time employees.   We’re going to have to hire more people.  We’re at the point of making the determination of just how big we are going to get in six months to a year.”

With its Maui Dark Rum on a solid roll – winning a Gold Medal in 2009 and Silver in 2008 at the International Cane Spirits Festivals – Haleakala Distillers continued developing its other notables, such as: their Maui Gold Rum which was given a National Best ranking by Chicago Tribune in 2008, their Maui Reserve Gold that is aged in oak barrels, a Maui Platinum Rum and it’s original Braddah Kimo’s Da Bomb Extreme Rum.

But that’s not all.

More recently, what’s getting Haleakala Distillers some unique attention is its 2009 debut of an 80-proof liqueur called Okolehao, a well-recognized spirit throughout Hawaiian history.

“Okole,” Sato says “is Hawaiian for your you-know-what and ‘hao’ means ground or metal.  One version of the word dates back to the whaler’s who made the drink in the same steel pots they used for boiling blubber.  They used one pot for the Ti roots and another for fermentation.  Put together they looked like a metal butt. 

“The other is the impolite version and that was if you drink enough, your butt’s on the ground.   Really, though, Okolehao is synonymous with any alcoholic beverage because someone in every family had a still and made it with either Ti leaves or corn, potatoes or even rice.”

For its Okolehao, Haleakala Distillers keeps true to the original Hawaiian source by extracting starch from the root of Ti leaves grown in East Maui.  And while they produce this liqueur in limited quantities, Sato says, “it’s holding its own”. 

Okolehao is excellent as a stand-alone sipping liqueur but works equally well in mixed drinks and more surprisingly as a drizzle on ice cream and pastries.   Sato likes to experiment with his spirits and is always happy to share any successes. His Upcountry Banana Bread recipe is provided below.

He suggests, however, that you not experiment with sending your Maui Rum purchases back home because the Post Office won’t take them.  Instead, send them through your checked bag…


To find where you can purchase Maui Rums and Okolehao locally and elsewhere, visit the web site of Haleakala Distillers at www.haleakaladistillers.com.   And to find Haleakala Distillers, simply look toward the slopes of Haleakala around the town of Makawao and the Haleakala Ranch.  Don't bother visiting, though, because they have no tours, on-sight purchases or tasting room…yet.

In the meantime, try these delicious recipes, enhanced of course by Maui Rum!

Brian Sato"s Upcountry Banana Bread

6          Apple bananas, brown-skinned and very ripe
1          cube butter
2 c       flour
½        teaspoon salt
1 t       baking soda
1 t       baking powder
2          eggs
3 T      Maui Dark Rum

Mix all and bake in greased pan at 350*, 50 – 60 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.  I sometimes add ½-3/4 cup chocolate chips and a cup of Kula strawberries that have been quartered and macerated in 3 teaspoons of sugar overnight.  I  bake this version an extra 15 minutes.

West Maui Book Club’s
Maui Chocolate-Covered Mac-a-Macs

5 egg whites, pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 cups finely ground macadamia nuts
4 cups shredded sweetened coconut
zest of ½ lemon
1.5 TBLS Maui Dark Rum
4 ounces semisweet chocolate

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or Silplat. Preheat oven to 300*

Beat room temperature egg whites with salt until stiff peaks form, slowly adding 1 cup powdered sugar in the final stages. Gently fold in the macadamia nuts and add the coconut, the remaining cup of powdered sugar, the lemon zest and rum.

Spoon teaspooned-sized drops onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside. Cool on the baking sheet.

Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler and set over gently simmering water. Stir occasionally as chocolate melts. When melted, lower the heat to warm. Alternately, microwave on high for 30 seconds, then check to see if melted. If not melted, stir and microwave for another 30 seconds.

Dip Mac-A-Macs into the melted chocolate, coating one-third to one-half of each cookie. Place dipped cookies on waxed paper to set. Serve when chocolate is firm.

Makes about 3 dozen.