After a lovely morning at the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm I headed to the farm at Ocean Vodka to learn how this popular organic vodka is made. The farm offers a tour and tasting of their vodka for $10 a person with really entertaining tour guides.
They grow 30 kinds of organic sugarcane on their 80 acres and do the entire production and bottling on site. There are a number of varieties of sugarcane throughout the world, only 50 strains have names, something I found to be really interesting. At Ocean Vodka they mainly use two which I scribbled down and cannot read in my notes! I got to taste them both, this is what they look like:
In addition, Ocean Vodka is trying to preserve the original Polynesian varieties that came as part of the original canoe crops (I wrote about these crops in my Hilo Farm Tour post) and they have 27 of these strains in a Polynesian Preservation Field.
Unlike the burning that they do in the other parts of the island, the sugar cane here is handpicked with a machete which is why the plants are grown in a very organized way, 12 feet apart so that machetes and water can get in there.
On the tour, they walked through the process for making their organic product in the distillery, how they bottle it and how to taste the vodka. They are also family run, a surfing family to boot, and I love the surfing posters in the bottling area – a reminder of what they are working hard for!
Besides being organic, small-batch, and local, Ocean Vodka has a really unique and fascinating ingredient..the water. It is brought to the surface off the Kona Coast from 3000 feet below. It is then organically purified and desalinated with a proprietary, natural filtration process that removes sodium while retaining all the rich minerals.
This water is bottled and becomes Mahalo Water, the most expensive water in the world. It is also Hawaii’s number one export and is not shipped to the U.S. but rather Japan (40, 40-foot containers every month) where is sold for $6-8 a bottle, a 16-oz bottle, not even 2 liters! The pH balance of the water is the same as plasma, or human blood, and the Japanese view it as medicinal. What I can tell you is that it makes a darn good vodka!
Organic sugar cane and Mahalo water using solar-powered machinery equals sensational!
Their vodka can be found 34 states and some Canadian provinces and is served on every Hawaiian Airlines flight (I know because I may have had a drink on my flight….).
I won’t say that it is a great place for kids, although there were children the day I went. They can’t taste the vodka and even the truffles in the gift shop have them as well, but it is a fun spot for adults! Whether it is for a tour, an event like a wedding or one of their new concerts series that Ocean Vodka has put together, the folks that run this place are super cool! They have a great website with lots of drink recipes, I have tried the Strawberry and Thai basil drink, it is delicious! If you like their Facebook page there is a “quitting time” recipe every Friday.
How about you? Have you been to a vodka farm or distillery? How about a sugar cane farm?
My visit to Hawaii was courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, my farm tour was comped. As always, all opinions are my own.
You can also view more of my trip to Maui in my Magnificent Maui Wanderlist on AFAR.
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