Our team was given the opportunity to take an educational field trip out to Haii’imaile Distillery on Maui to speak with Mark Nigbur / Master Distiller. The group was able to spend time with Mark tasting and gaining insights to the production of Pau Vodka, Paniolo Whiskey, and Fid Street Gin, as well as, soon to be released distilled elixirs. It was an amazing experience for the team that they all enjoyed immensely.
Here are some of their memories...
"The trip to Maui this past Monday was an amazing journey that was educational, informative and just a lot of fun...The pineapple is a resourceful plant that can actually regenerate itself in the wild by the slip, the crown or from the eyes itself. The fruit sits on what is called a peduncle which feeds the nutrients to the fruit. We got to pick a pineapple off the peduncle while in the field and had a “pineapple popsicle”. Mike cut the fruit for us and we held it upside down while we enjoyed it right there, fresh off the plant. He explained that the sugar is most concentrated in that area since that is where the nutrients are fed in to the fruit. It was the sweetest, juiciest pineapple I’ve ever had. Delicious!...They were so informative, gracious and free with answering our questions, exchanging ideas and were truly a joy to be around. This was probably one of the most fun and educational experiences of my life."
-- Kerry Ichimasa, Assistant Wine Director
"When we got back to the distillery we were introduced to Nicole who would be showing us around. She told us that Mark originally wanted to make the vodka from taro but couldn't quite get it startchy enough so he tried pineapple.When she was showing us the glass stills we were also joined by Ryan and Mark. During this time they answered questions that we had like if Mark had always used stainless steal shaving in the distiller or had he tried anything else. Mark told us that he started with the stainless steal but tried marbles but found that they were too heavy. Then he tried using ceramic ring but found that the stainless steel worked best.
We moved on to the tasting were Mark let us try anything we were interested in. The ones that really interested me were the Oak aged Vodka and the Vodka and Cognac blend as I had never seen them before. Mark told us how he came up with the idea of the Vodka and Cognac blend. They gave us bag that each had a hat, shirt, cocktail glass, shot glass and a flask inside. Mark also told us to pick a bottle each to take home and he would send it to Derrick for us. We all told him that it was okay but he insisted. Even though my personal favorite is the Fid street gin we all selected either the oak aged vodka or the vodka and cognac blend because we hadn't seen them before.
Just an all around awesome trip. Can't thank Mark, Ryan and Derrick enough. They were just so generous and down to earth. Also Mike and Nicole who took the time and showed us around the field and the distillery. Just all around great people."
-- Jared Park, Assistant Restaurant Manager
"After meeting both Master Distiller, Mark Nigbur, and Operations Manager, Ryan Mabbutt, you can tell that Hali'imaile Distilling Co. is founded in innovation, creativity, and an overall zest for life. Hearing about their own personal journeys into distillation and creating unique spirits, gave me a new appreciation and inspiration for their product.
To me, the products that Hali'imaile Distilling Co. makes truly can sell themselves. Local. Flavorful. Inventive. But after meeting with everyone, from the distillers, to the pineapple plantation workers, to the tasting room employees, it truly makes me proud to serve their product. Mike, who led us on the tour of the pineapple fields was funny and informative. You can tell he really enjoys not just his product (the tasty Maui Pineapples), but living in and supporting Maui agriculture. He knew everything there is to know about pineapples, from their multiple ways to germinate, to the different personalities of the fields themselves. I was very impressed with his passion. Nicole, who led our tasting group through Pau products was very informative and happy to share her knowledge with us. The overall hospitality on every level made the experience unforgettable.
I am very grateful to Young's Market, Hali'imaile Distilling, and Alan Wong's for providing me with this opportunity. I feel closer to the product, now knowing where it comes from and the joy of the people who make it. The distillery highlighted the emphasis of the pineapple being a welcome symbol to the islands, and I think it is a serendipitous emblem for both of our companies to work together to share the tastes of Hawaii."
-- Ariana Tsuchiya, Sommelier