After nearly two years of pandemic related business struggles, and little growth on our Kauai farms, 2022 has been a year of economic normalcy and financial stability for all of Hawaii. To spark new growth this year we brought on two new valuable partners to help with our bourbon business. Hartung Brothers and Johnson Brothers of Hawaii both played important roles in furthering our dream of making and distributing world class whisky. On the coffee side Kona prices have unfortunately soared again as a result of a new pest. Our new chocolate bars have reached shelves across Hawaii, and Kauai Cigars continue as a highly sought after luxury item for many connoisseurs visiting the islands. A new face on the farm and more as we welcome you to read our annual year end newsletter.
Kapahi Bourbon Distribution Booms!
In the spring of this year LBD teamed up with Johnson Brothers of Hawaii, a national distributor of liquor, wine and beverages. Johnson Brothers has had a presence in Hawaii since 1988, and boasts a state of the art headquarters in Kapolei, Hawaii, and this new partnership has taken our Kapahi Bourbon from a handful of stores on Kauai, and Oahu to over 130 retail locations, and restaurants across the entire island chain. Since our first distribution of our Kauai grown Kapahi Bourbon Whisky back in March of 2020, a date that coincides with the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, LBD was able to grow our store accounts minimally to include a handful of locations on both Kauai and Oahu, but after partnering with Johnson Brothers our whisky has reached many more local consumers, as well as visitors all across Hawaii, and much to everyone’s delight. Logistically this made sense because of the burdensome liquor regulations that exist in Hawaii. Every County requires not only a license to distribute, but a physical warehouse to sell from. With the realization that self distributing our bourbon would only tie down our efforts we decided to keep our focus on the farms, and making great whisky. After several meetings and penciling out our long term strategy a decision was made to partner with the team of dedicated and talented staff at Johnson Brothers. Not only are we excited about the future of retail sales, but we are enthusiastic about the potential to reach a lot of restaurants and bars throughout the islands. For a complete listing of stores, restaurants and bars either selling or serving our whisky please visit our distribution list to find a location.
LBD Coffee attends the annual Distillers Showcase in Manchester, NH. Left to right: Frank Martin, manager for Baystate Wine & Spirits with Gigi and Les Drent of LBD.
Kapahi Bourbon Lands in New Hampshire!
Over the last 7 years half of the Drent family has returned to its roots by spending winters in the Live Free or Die state. Having grown up around the game of hockey my son was introduced to the sport at 7 years old and never looked back as his love for the game grew during his childhood years. While spending a handful of cold months in the northeast I looked at the opportunity to expand our Kapahi Bourbon distribution and New Hampshire seemed like a good fit. The state operates a different model than Hawaii for selling liquor and wine. The granite state owns its own outlets (76 stores to be exact) so they serve as both distributors, and retailers and boast a tax free environment for doing business! As a foreign vendor from Hawaii we partnered with Baystate Wine & Spirits, a local broker that also distributes in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. As a result of this expanded distribution we have the ability to reach a broad swath of the north eastern US. In fact, many travel across borders from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont to take advantage of the lower priced alcohol, and broad selection offered at these New Hampshire stores. Time will tell if our bourbon sales are as successful as they are in Hawaii, but I can’t imagine a great tasting whisky not doing well in any locale!
Hartung Brothers Grow and Process Their First Corn for the Kauai Distilling Company
2021 marked the sad departure of Beckʻs Hybrid from Kauai. This family owned corn grower based in Atlanta, Indiana had been operating in Hawaii for many years, and assisted the Kauai Distilling Company with its first commercial corn growing and processing in preparation of making bourbon. The dedicated and talented team at Beckʻs Kauai closed the last of its operations in July, but with every door that closes another one opens. Hartung Brothers of Madison Wisconsin also operates on the island of Kauai and produces some of the finest hybrid corn around. Grateful for this new partnership, we were able to move our combine corn head along with the only operating combine on the island to Hartung Brothers from Beckʻs. With all the equipment in place to continue growing whisky corn on Kauai a new relationship was formed. This partnership will benefit not only the preservation of agricultural land on Kauai, but our farmers as well. The first crop of corn left Hartung for the distillery in September and this fall we returned to making great bourbon after two years of non production.
Dry Fly Goes All In on New Distillery!
Since the time our distillery permits were denied back in 2019 and after a nearly three year legal battle with the County of Kauai, its antiquated and backwards thinking Liquor Commission as well as antagonizing non farming neighbors living on and around agricultural land we have been distilling, and barreling our Kauai grown whisky in Spokane, Washington with our partner, Dry Fly Distilling. After the first two generations of our bourbon were produced in 2018 and 2019 Dry Fly began itʻs big move in the fall of 2021 to a new 24,000 square foot expanded location in the downtown area. Don, Pat and crew now boast a beautiful state of the art German built Carl still and tasting room and can produce an amazing 9 barrels of whisky a run! Starting in October and running into November of 2022, Dry Fly will dedicate their still to making all of our Kapahi bourbon whisky.
Our Aging Bourbon Just Gets Better and Better
Much like the tobacco used in our Kauai Cigars age makes everything better and that holds true in the art of whisky making. Having passed the four year mark on our first 53 gallon barrels of Kauai grown bourbon it is amazing to taste and follow this aging process. Many of these tasting notes are now being printed on our new bottle labels for customers and are always available to track on our web site. We also transferred the final thirty 30 gallon barrels of Polihale bourbon to twenty three 53 gallon used wheat whisky barrels to see what kind of interesting affect this double oaking will have on our bourbon. Only time will tell so continue to journey along with us!
A New Cooperage for our Bourbon Our new American Oak barrels in 2022 will be made by Nadalie, a craft cooperage located in Calistoga, California. Nadalie sources the majority of its white oak from the forests of western Pennsylvania, and the staves are air dried for two years, rather than kiln dried. This slow process of aging the wood produces a much more refined taste through the aging process by limiting the oak impact and highlighting the natural fruit notes in the wood. Nadalie’s history spans five generations and dates back to the original cooperage in Montpellier, France in 1902. They were the first French cooperage to operate in the United States and began operations in 1980, in the heart of Napa Valley, California. It will be exciting to follow the aging process of our whisky in these new Nadalie made American Oak barrels.
Blair Estate Chocolate
After documenting the chocolate and coffee experiments I performed on the farm during Covid and creating and selling our first commercial chocolate bars in 2021 we have grown our store accounts in Hawaii and have even included a couple in New Hampshire and Vermont where we continue to spend part of our time. New processing equipment including a commercial cracker, winnower, 100 pound capacity melanger, and melter were added. I also discovered that our Diedrich coffee roaster can be used to also roast chocolate so we now have the ability to roast nearly 60 pounds of chocolate in one go! This is a great improvement as our small 5 pound chocolate roaster was being heavily taxed by constant use. All these additions have greatly sped up the chocolate making process at the farm and will be needed in the future as the cacao orchard we planted during Covid in 2020 will begin bearing fruit, and a lot of it!
Blair Estate Coffee
2022 will certainly see a reduction in coffee production at our farm as it is one of those years where our trees are in a grow back stage after two straight years of pruning. Half our orchard is in year two of its return to maximum production, while the other half was stumped after the 2021 harvest season. The fall of 2023 and 2024 will again be peak years as our orchard reaches maximum productivity before the next cycle of pruning starts again. The quality of our coffee is excellent as always. I contribute this to both our pickers who pick only fully ripened coffee cherry, and a milling process that removes nearly all defective coffee beans from our inventory. As we have for the last 29 years fresh roasting our coffee to order only will always be a big player in the overall cup quality at Blair Estate.
We have been extremely fortunate to not be victims of either the coffee berry borer (CBB) or the newly discovered coffee rust disease which is plaguing the rest of Hawaii’s farms, and especially the famed Kona coffee crop. Our fingers are crossed that we do not see these pests arrive at our farm and we continue our isolation measures by keeping the potentially pest carrying public away from our coffee farm.
Coffee Times 100% Kona Coffee
Having now spent 29 years in the Kona coffee industry as both a roaster and advocate it is with great sadness I have to report that things are not well on the Big Island for our partner farms. For over 100 years Kona was able to isolate itself from the rest of the world and avoid some of the most devastating pests to coffee, the coffee berry borer (CBB), and coffee rust. But now those pests have reached Hawaii and they are taking a terrible toll on our fabled farms. While no one is really sure how exactly these pests arrived most agree that they were brought by humans, and that global warming has played a significant role in helping them spread throughout the region. State government is attempting to fund and support the fight against CBB and rust, but I do not believe anyone has any idea what the long term impact will be. In the short term the ever increasing demand for 100% Kona coffee, and a 50% loss of production have sent green Kona prices to around $26-$30 per pound. This is especially shocking when you consider that the majority of premium green coffee from around the world trades for about $3 to $4 per green pound.
We will never give up supporting Kona coffee, and the many that love this coffee will not either. Roasted prices are expected to jump to over $60 per pound in 2023, so that cup of home brewed 100% Kona coffee will now look to cost consumers around $2 per cup. It’s hard to believe that in 1993 I was selling Kona coffee for $9.95 per pound!
Kauai Cigar Grows Once Again
Mail order for our Kauai cigars in 2020 and 2021 reached new levels as travel to Hawaii was severely impacted. This was actually the only sector of our business that grew during the pandemic. We also didn’t realize how popular our cigars were with local consumers as in-store sales dipped, but were still supported by a local cigar loving population to keep us afloat! 2022 is looking like the best year ever for overall sales as all of our five brands/blends are performing very well and are obviously being enjoyed. We hope that both federal and state governments will remain sympathetic to the rights of legal aged adults to enjoy premium cigars and that they will not enact any more draconian laws to limit our personal freedoms. The courts have certainly sided with our industry over the last two years as the nanny state continues its push against us.
A New Face at the Farms
LBD is happy to announce the addition of Bryce Rauterkus to our management staff. Bryce will manage our research farm in Lihue and take over the duties of Trevyn Pless who is now spending more of his time with the coffee and recently expanded chocolate orchard on our Kapaa farms. Bryce moved to Kauai at the beginning of 2022 with his wife and daughter. He studied biology as an undergrad at University of California, Santa Barbara, and has experience doing ecological research in greenhouses and the field. The last 8 years he has worked in agriculture with a wide variety of experiences: greenhouse floral production, managing an agricultural project in Haiti for multiple years, owning and operating a pasture raised poultry farm, managing community gardens and working for a fast growing company developing new post harvest technologies to increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Welcome aboard, Bryce!
As 2022 moves to a close we wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and hope your days are shared with family and friends. To aid in your health and happiness we will continue to grow and produce some of the finest value added agriculture from Hawaii. We also hope that you will be able to enjoy a fine cup of our coffee, light up a cigar, have a swig of our bourbon, or a piece of our chocolate along the way in 2023! We’ll leave you with the recipe to my latest indulgence, a smoked Hawaiian old fashion.
- Ingredients: 2 ounces of Kapahi Bourbon Whisky
- One teaspoon of simple syrup
- Three dashes of Angostura Bitters
- Kiawe Wood Chips or your favorite smoking wood (hickory, maple, oak)
How we make it: in a cocktail shaker combine the Kapahi bourbon, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. Then add ice and stir for 30 revolutions to chill and mix. Strain into a whisky glass, and then add smoker to the top with your favorite wood. Smoke chips with a butane torch and let sit for 30 seconds allowing smoke to adhere to the cocktail. Remove smoker top, zest and then add the orange peel.
Much Aloha from all of us here at LBD.
Les, Gigi, Jessica, Jorgen, Tai, Trevyn, Donald, Lei and Bryce