One Door Closes, and Another Door Opens!

After twenty-six years of opening doors, one eventually is going to shut.  But with any lost opportunity, a new door always seems to open.

So, in the same way that we have since 1993, LBD Coffee and its multiple agricultural brands has continued to plow forward in many exciting ways.  And, like the many years prior to to this one, our farms successfully fended off government over regulation and continued to produce many great Kauai grown goods including coffee, cigars, chocolate, honey, and most recently, American bourbon!

Regardless of the 2019 hurdles, LBD pushed ahead in its pursuits and manufactured its first Kauai grown corn into Kapahi Bourbon Whisky, and Virgin Kea Moonshine. It took many hands from our farmer friends at Beck’s Hybrid, Don, Pat and gang at Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane, Washington, Trevyn, Tai, Lei, and Donald at LBD, our glassmaker Lily in China, and label printer, Sancho in Esteli, Nicaragua.

As we stated last year our decision to distill our Kauai grown corn into whisky on the mainland was difficult, but it ultimately turned out to be the right decision as the Kauai County Liquor Commission in May of 2019, after a two year fight, voted by a 4-3 margin to not approve our farm distillery.  Presented with a petition by one crazed neighbor and signed by 32% of our neighbors, four of the commissioners ultimately chose to deny us a permit.  Under Hawaii law it takes 51% of registered property owners living within 500 feet of the premises to trigger an automatic denial to an application to manufacture, an activity that one would think was protected under the Hawaii right to farm law.  After all, distilling crops into spirits is something American farmers have done since the founding days of our nation.  Commissioners, Maryanne Kusaka (who chose not to even attend the hearing), Shirley Akita, Jean Iida (who was directed by Commissioner Kusaka to vote no) and Gary Pacheco (who asked if a denial would mean we would leave that farm), turned a blind eye to state law, American history, common sense, reason and disgraced themselves by exercising a personal bias against a Kauai farmer who had the overwhelming support of his fellow Kauai residents, outside of the immediate neighbors.  Fear of smoke, vagrants, GMO corn, fire, dust, noise, tourists, traffic were all topics that were peddled by one unscrupulous neighbor who made it her crusade in life to sell lies and misinformation in an attempt to stop a local farmer’s craft distillery. Kauai Distilling Company held every other federal, state, and county permit that was required under the law, but that was simply not enough for the nanny state agenda that ultimately ruled the day. Commissioners Paul Endo, Gary Matsunaga and William Gibson should be commended for their vote to support Kauai agriculture, and our farms even in the face of personal bias by other commissioners who spoke out against the applicant’s political opinion and personal beliefs. These constitutional rights were trashed by the Kauai County Liquor Commission in a government that is run like a banana republic.  Neither the mayor of Kauai, Derek Kawakami, his manager, Michael Dahilig, or any of the seven County Council members, Arryl Kaneshiro, Ross Kagawa, Mason Chock, Luke Eveslin, Felicia Cowden and accused drug dealer, Arthur Brun spoke up in support of our farm and distillery.  What has become a troubling trend in Hawaii is the lack of support for its farmers who add value to their crops, local industry, and entrepreneurs who dare to dream of starting a business on the island.  Perhaps the most unfortunate part of all this is that future generations will continue to be trapped in a downward spiral of plantation like thinking. A process of thought that refuses to adopt and adapt to the changing world around it. A world that continues to allow the poaching and exploitation of agricultural lands on Kauai by the wealthy elite who choose to build multi-million dollar gentlemen estates. The County of Kauai government collects large and bogus sums of real property tax dollars at the expense of real farmers being pushed off of these agricultural lands. It is truly shameful, and Hawaii continues to earn its reputation as the worst place in America to start and operate a business.

However, and regardless of the nonsense, LBD continued to take advantage when presented with obstacles and found even better business solutions to meet its needs.  Our Kapahi Bourbon Whisky continues to be produced at a partner distillery in Spokane, Washington. And since 2018 an extensive inventory of American Oak casks filled with Kapahi Bourbon Whisky continues to build and rest comfortably away from the non-farming nanny state NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) prohibitionists.  With capital investments in machinery to bottle and label our whisky our first bottles of small barrel aged Kapahi Bourbon are set to hit store shelves in the spring of 2020, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome and quality.  The taste has exceeded our expectations!

Nearly six thousand square feet of cigar tobacco processing infrastructure was moved in 2019 away from anti farming antagonists in Kapahi up to an LBD farm that is far from the public’s eye. Tobacco growing is scheduled to resume in 2021.

Along with our first ever Hawaii grown bourbon we will also introduce our Virgin Kea Moonshine, a grain alcohol made with the same mash (ingredients) as our whisky.  This sweet and smooth tasting, 22 plate, double distilled, chill filtered, clear 90 proof moonshine is an amazing spirit.  It can be enjoyed neat, on ice, or used to make just about any popular cocktail including the Moscow Mule, Virgin Coke, White Russian, Mojito, Old Fashioned, and many more.  To learn all about our bourbon and moonshine business and to find out where you can buy these new farm products please visit kauaidistilling.com

Beyond the solutions discovered in our distilling business, LBD also found the time, and resolve to re-launch seven previously released cigars.  With an old and legendary corojo variety of seed and years of aging behind our tobacco leaves, the special blends of Ku’e, and Wai’ale’ale again became a reality.  The goal of these two brands was always to round off and compliment the offerings that have been created by the Kauai Cigar Company since 2006.  With over 100 cigar blends, and sizes spread out across six incredible brands we feel like we have created a utopia of offerings as the only federally licensed tobacco grower/manufacturer in Hawaii!  Connoisseurs can visit kauaicigar.com to preview any of our offerings, and yes, you can legally mail order these great cigars direct from our Kauai farm.  Without the incredible support of our manufacturing partners in Nicaragua the Kauai Cigar Company would not be possible.  Special thanks to Cigar Rings, Tabacalera Tambor, and Taller de Carpinteria “Sarita” for their hard work and dedication to quality.

Sancho Oset of Cigar Rings, Esteli, Nicaragua produce some of the finest cigar brand printing in the world. We are grateful for their service and commitment to quality.

Special mahalo to my good friend Yader Zavala in Esteli, Nicaragua. Yader and his crew hand craft all of the boxes that package Kauai Cigars. Without these skilled tradesmen our brand would not be possible.

Les Drent, Valdivia Lopez, and Yader Zavala take a break from cigar making to enjoy a Real Esteli football match.

On the legislative front, we continue our eight-year long struggle to seek parity in the Hawaii state tax code, and our attempt to be treated fairly and equally with an assessed flat rate tax of 50 cents per premium large cigar.  Our past bills have passed both sides of the legislature, but the cigar tax cap has yet to become law.  If passed this new tax would eliminate the obscene and unfair 50% wholesale tax on a Hawaii grown agricultural product that costs far more to grow and produce than other imported cigars.

Coffee Sees Smaller Harvest

In 2019 we saw a smaller crop of coffee as we are in years one and two of re-growth since our last two prunings.  When coffee trees are pruned, or topped, it takes two to three years for maximum cherry production to return.  However, what little coffee we have is exceptional quality.  Available only through mail order our Blair Estate 100% Kauai coffee and 100% Kona coffee is custom roasted to order only, and just like it has been done for the last 25 years! 

While the coffee harvest was small, the honey flowed and the kids had fun picking and selling lychee roadside at Blair Estate.

Our wonderful honey is still flowing as the bees require little effort outside of harvest days.  Most of the work involves harvesting, and bottling the honey.  The farm kids, Jessica and Jorgen, continue to oversee those tasks as they earn money to fund their many great adventures in life!  Chocolate production continues to grow, and our inventory is bursting as we hope in the future to sell our chocolate commercially.

In closing it has always been our intent to sell all of our products from the farm, but that initiative, like the distillery, was stalled as a result of Kauai County government ignoring a State law passed in 2012 that explicitly allows farmers to sell their value added crops from their farms.  This effort has turned into a nearly three year legal struggle as we wait on lawyers, the fifth circuit court in Kauai, and commissions to rule on our fate.  It is unfortunate that the County of Kauai stands in the way of small farmers moving forward in both agricultural manufacturing and selling direct to the public on their farms.  With the high cost of a runaway and heavily speculated real estate market, an escalating housing crisis, low minimum wages, and the availability of skilled workers the central focus of government remains to be tourism and collecting taxes from wealthy land owners exploiting agricultural lands.  Despite all of this, LBD Coffee has and will continue to fight for its rights and push forward with the many great products we grow, manufacture, and market.  We have great confidence that all of these issues will eventually reach a head, and that LBD will continue growth on its farms. 

Perhaps 2020 will be the year that brings accountability to local government and its non support of island farming into the public spotlight!

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