Crazy markets, crazy weather, crazy politics—2017 was a roller coaster ride for most everyone, which is why we’re happy to report that things are steady as she goes at the farm. While the coffee, tobacco, chocolate and honey harvests have been about average, with no changes in the varieties we’re growing or new product lines introduced, earnings are up and things are looking promising for cigars on the legislative front. We’re working through some hopefully temporary bureaucratic setbacks with regard to our new bourbon distillery and visitor center, but thanks to you it’s been another solid year for Kaua’i’s premier coffee, chocolate and honey producer, and still Hawai’i’s only tobacco grower and premium cigar maker.
Last year’s bumper crop was a tough act to follow, and this year’s average harvest seems by comparison, well, average. But even average is a great year for Blair Estate, and we’re proud to be able to offer handpicked 100 percent organic Kaua’i-grown, fermented and fresh-roasted coffee through our website, coffeetimes.com.
Kauai Cigar Company is going strong with another solid tobacco harvest. The brands we introduced last year, Ku’e and Wai’ale’ale, are proving as popular as our existing Island Prince, Hawaiian Vintage and Makaleha blends. Currently Kauai Cigar Company offers a portfolio of twenty shapes and six brands, all available in stores statewide or through our website, kauaicigar.com.
The cacao trees we planted last year are thriving, and once we’ve completed the new facility, we soon will be adding chocolate to our menu. Cacao is finicky and very difficult to grow; while Hawai’i has the ideal climate for cacao, the industy is still fairly young. However, chocolate made from Hawai’i–grown cacao has been winning international awards in the past year, putting our Islands on the confectionery map. We hope to soon be a robust part of this burgeoning local industry.
The bees never rest. This year’s harvest of Kaua’i wildflower honey is on pace with last year’s, with hundreds of pounds collected (and untold coffee trees pollinated). Visit coffeetimes.com to purchase this extraordinary honey.
Distillery and Visitor Center:
We have the land on Kawaihau Road. We have the building delivered to the site and ready to assemble. We have the corn for the mash planted. What we don’t have is a permit. Even a small building project on Kaua’i invites pushback, and ours is no different. What’s unfortunate is that some neighbors who opposed our plans were spreading misinformation among the community that we intended to sell alcohol for consumption, running the distillery like a bar, for example, or that there would be open flames or polluting emissions. Some thought the structure would be an unsightly warehouse. Some believed that LBD is suing Kaua’i County for the right to build on zoned agricultural land. None of this is true; there would be no flames, no emissions and alcohol would not be consumed onsite. (In fact, the wastewater from the operation would be even cleaner than the source water, as it would leave the site distilled.) The warehouse is beautifully designed to resemble a rustic barn and would fit with the surrounding landscape.
Nevertheless, after three hearings and a sincere effort to reach out to the community, address their concerns and correct their misapprehensions, our permit was denied on March 1. At the first hearing, we were surprised by resistance from misinformed neighbors concerned about fires, safety, etc. At the second hearing, the neighborhood presented a petition against us. At the third hearing, the investigator analyzed the petition and determined that most of the eighty–nine signees were not living within the affected radius, and so the petition did not have sufficient numbers of signees to deny us. Despite that, the liquor commission denied us based on a technicality; though the commission had approved our attorney’s initial map of the proposed facility, at the third hearing the commission informed us that the map was incorrect. Yet instead of scheduling and allowing us to make the necessary corrections, the commission simply denied us and informed us that we may reapply in one year.
It’s a disappointing (and expensive) setback for us, but we are determined to move forward. First we intend to appeal the commission’s decision, and if that is unsuccessful we will reapply next year. In the meantime, we are exploring several alternatives. We could move the distillery out to our property in Kekaha, on the west side of Kaua’i, where there is likely to be less strident opposition. Alternately, we could move the 5,600-square–foot facility to Hilo while still growing our produce on Kaua’i. We also do not wish to suspend our bourbon production while we await approval from Kaua’i County, so we are exploring the possibility of shipping our corn harvest to a distillery outside of Hawaii. We are seeking approval to state on the label that Kapahi Bourbon is distilled from Kauai–grown corn.
Ambitious plans are often fraught with roadblocks, but just as Kaua’i Cigar Company persevered through its rocky start to eventually produce some of the finest premium cigars anywhere, so too we will overcome the obstacles in our way. Stay tuned!
On the Legislative Front:
It’s been a long road getting legislation passed to bring fairness and parity to Hawai’i tax law regarding premium cigars. Currently there is 50 percent wholesale tax “with no cap” levied on Hawaii–made cigars, which makes it nearly impossible for us to compete against cheaper, imported cigars. We came close over the past few years, with two tax cap bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, enjoying widespread support and even passing in both houses before dying in committee. The tobacco tax cap bills were back in play for the 2018 legislative session; if passed, SB2843 and HB2083 would have ensured that local cigar businesses pay the same taxes as foreign competitors pay on their mass–produced cigars. A tax cap is sensible and would level the playing field for local producers. The 2018 legislative session ends in April. Neither bill was successful as SB2843 was gutted and replaced with a tax increase by the House Health and Human Service committee after passing the full Senate. The Hawaii Cigar Association will continue to lobby the state in an effort to ease the regulatory burdens placed on farmers and small business in the state.
Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much!) to all of you who make our success possible. We will continue striving to produce the finest coffee, tobacco, honey, chocolate (and hopefully bourbon!) that Hawai’i has to offer. From everyone at LBD—myself, Gigi, Jessica and Jorgen; farm managers Tai, Guillermo and Trevyn; sales staff Lei and Donald; and farmers Kimo, Courtney and Scott—we wish you smooth sailing through 2018.
We’re happy to announce that we now accept cryptocurrencies Ethereum and Bitcoin as payment for all mail order products. Call 1-800-750-5662 to order.