Disclosure: this sample was provided for review, not purchased. Although nobody can be completely free of subconscious bias, I have done my best not to let Founder’s 49’s generosity influence my review.
Pau Maui is made in Maui, Hawaii, and in my opinion, it’s a high-quality spirit. I’ve put off writing this review for a long time for multiple reasons: the first is that I’ve been focusing on my professional magic career, and the second is that vodka doesn’t really give me much to review.
Unlike some other so-called “pineapple vodkas,” this is not a flavored drink. This is simply a vodka made with pineapples. That is, it is close to odorless, and close to tasteless.
Let’s look at the legal definition of vodka:
“‘Vodka’ is neutral spirits, so distilled or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color and containing, when bottled, less than four grams of natural flavor components consisting of esters, acids, and higher alcohols per 100 liters at 100° proof, and bottled at not less than 80° proof.” – Source
Different vodkas do have very subtle distinctive character, aroma, and taste, but they are too subtle for most people to notice, with the exception of that overused scale of the liquor world: smoothness. Some vodkas are very smooth, and others are very rough. Most other distinctions require a very refined palate to detect (and don’t let marketers tell you otherwise).
So, since my palate is only moderately refined, I have very little to go on in writing a full-length review of a simple vodka. That said, I’m intrigued by the uniqueness of the spirit.
Firstly, unlike most vodkas which are made from grains or potatoes (or the occasional grape or other oddball), Pau Maui is made from the pineapples which are so abundant on its home islands. Secondly, and the writers for the bottle are quite proud of this: it is distilled in glass stills, ostensibly to provide a cleaner, clearer environment for its distillation. I went looking for pictures of the stills, but couldn’t find any, so I contacted the company to ask for pictures, and they provided these:
So does it live up to expectations? I tasted it neat and unchilled in a glencairn glass in late November (I have really been putting this off).
Color: colorless. So far, so good.
Nose: Very clean, with only the lightest hint of alcohol.
Body: Watery body and no burn. It almost seems cool on the tongue.
Flavor: Water. There’s a slight sweetness to it, but I would not consider it sweet, like a cheap over-sugared vodka might be. It’s very well-balanced.
Finish: It goes down like butter. Beautifully clean, with a cool finish. There’s a hint of alcohol, and the novice taster may note some burn, but to my palate, this is as smooth as the mirrors in the telescopes on Mauna Kea.
Here are the particulars:
Proof: 80 proof, the minimum and most common proof of vodka
Produced in: Maui
Base ingredient: Pineapple (no confirmable influence on the character, though the vodka had a hint of sweet)
Unique selling point: An unusual base ingredient, an exotic locale, and a unique set of stills
Price: variable, but I was able to find it around $30/fifth.
If you like vodka: I would recommend it. I think it’s a great sipper, though I don’t personally sip very much vodka. When I run out, I’ll miss it, but I don’t think I’ll be putting up the $30 to replace it.
If you want to make cocktails: I would aim lower on the price spectrum. Luksusowa is exceptionally good and very cheap, and as controversial as Absolut is among vodka snobs, it’s also very good for cocktails in my opinion, and $10 cheaper than Pau Maui.