Take a Tour of This Whiskey Distillery on Oʻahu
Koʻolau Distillery in Kailua offers a peek into how its craft whiskey Old Pali Road is made.
Eric Dill had in mind a specific kind of whiskey that would work in the Islands.
His criteria? It had to taste right while sitting on Kailua Beach or on the sandbar in Kāneʻohe Bay or on a humid evening on your lānai (balcony).
“It had to be light, approachable, made for the Hawaiʻi environment,” says Dill, a disabled veteran who spent 27 in the U.S Marine Corps. “It couldn’t be heavy or peaty.”
And that’s exactly what Old Pali Road whiskey is.
Dill and his buddy, Ian Brooks, also a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, started Koʻolau Distillery in Kailua on Oʻahu a couple of years ago, specializing in a bourbon-style American whiskey, using primarily corn—local when possible—with malted barley. The end result is a light and smooth whiskey that, as Dill wanted, could be enjoyed on a sunny day on the beach.
Recently, the company started hourlong tours of its distillery in Kailua, with Dill sharing his nerdiness for the laborious process, much of which is still done by hand. He’ll talk about the high quality of Hawaiʻi’s water, rich in minerals and high in alkaline, which helps produce a smoother flavor. He’ll talk about importance of “happy yeast” and how he evens sings to the yeast in the fermentation chamber. And he’ll let you sample the 140-proof hearts, what ultimately becomes the final product.
The tour ends with a whiskey tasting—and the chance to buy bottles of Old Pali Road whiskey, company merchandise and other products, including hand sanitizer the distillery started making at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and bars of Mānoa Chocolate that uses cacao nibs soaked in Old Pali Road whiskey-filled barrels.
You’ll learn that Dill and Brooks don’t like to take shortcuts, they don’t mind the extra work to make craft whiskey—and they love what they do.
“This is a passion product for us,” Dill says. “We’re not trying to make a lot of whiskey. We’re trying to make the best whiskey we can.”
Tickets for tours: $20 adults, $15 for kamaʻāina and military dependents, $10 for active duty military, veterans and retired military; 905 Kalanianaʻole Highway, Unit 5014, (808) 261-0685, koolaudistillery.com
Recipe: Hawaiian Hoki
- 2 oz. Old Pali Road whiskey
- 0.5 oz. lime juice, freshly squeezed
- Ginger beer to top
- Mint sprig to garnish
Add bourbon and lime juice to tall glass with ice. Pour ginger beer on top. Garnish with a spring of mint.