When I learned that Maui had its own local vodka distillery, it didn’t take much to get me out for a tour. Booze, views, and sunshine? Yes, please.
Located in beautiful upcountry Maui only a short drive from Pukalani, Makawao, Kahului, and Paia, the Ocean Vodka organic farm and distillery sits on 80 acres of gorgeous land on the slopes of Haleakala. Once we arrived for the tour, we were greeted with samples of two types of raw sugarcane to cleanse our palettes and treated to sweeping views of the West Maui mountains in front and rolling clouds over Haleakala in back. Good start.
Shay Smith, Founder, and President of Ocean Vodka, led our tour of the farm and distillery, which began with an overview of the process involved in growing sugar cane. Ocean Vodka prides itself on its sustainable and organic practices, growing several different kinds of sugar cane without the use of synthetic pesticides or herbicides, which is then hand-harvested to show people that “you can act responsibly with the environment and your health in highest priority and still produce a superior product.” Each sugar cane species is labeled, making it incredibly easy (and interesting) to see the differences between each variation and how they grow over time.
Next, we were shown how the sugar cane becomes vodka, which includes precise heating and cooling control through continuous column distillation, where the impurities are slowly separated, resulting in smoothness and impurity-free vodka. The only spirit in the world to use deep ocean mineral water, Ocean Vodka’s flavor is enhanced by naturally occurring minerals found 3,000 feet under the surface of Hawaii’s Big Island, hence the name. Ocean Vodka is USDA 100% certified organic, gluten-free and all-natural. Even the warehouse and bottling center on the property is 100% solar-powered. Shay walked us through the labor-intensive bottling process and was nice enough to give us a little insight into how a third-generation Maui resident ends up in the organic vodka business, which is now in its 9th year and doing very well.
The final stop of the tour, and my personal favorite, was the sampling of the vodka along with deep ocean water used in the distilling process. If I had three thumbs, they’d all be up. We were also pointed in the direction of the beautiful Martini Garden, where fresh, local ingredients are grown for martini-lovers, including Kula lavender, rosemary, and mint. You’re even allowed to take some samples for yourself!
When asked about what’s next for the growing vodka company, Shay explained the possibility of upcoming live music events on the farm (supplied with lots of yummy cocktails, I’m sure) as well as a possible next step into the rum business.
Tours are given seven days a week from 9:30am to 4:00pm and cost $10 per person (12 years and older) and include a complimentary Ocean Vodka shot glass.