Photo by Jason Genegabus / firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jason Genegabus / email@example.com
It always seems like I'm learning something new from Lanai Tabura (pictured above).
The former radio morning show host and entrepreneur schooled me on wine a while back when he launched his Look Me in the Eye brand with former Hawaii resident Mikael Sigouin. We sat inside Stage Restaurant at the Honolulu Design Center and he lectured for a good hour on the finer points of the alcoholic grape juice.
Then last month, we crossed paths again on the set of "Hawaii's Big Deal" celebrity poker tournament at Aloha Tower Marketplace (more on that in an upcoming column). I may have been in a stronger poker position sitting to his right, but the gargantuan ashtray he brought to the table was an early indication that the evening's extracurricular lesson would cover the art of smoking cigars.
"I represent 75 brands," he said over lunch at Tacos Ricos on Tuesday. "Of the top 10 brands in the world, we probably have five."
We were eating Mexican food because I wanted to try and expose Tabura to something new, and he'd yet to try the fare at the Kapahulu taqueria.
"I've prayed for this," he said between bites of chorizo tacos. "Every time I go to L.A. I eat this kind of food."
Satisfied that I had a successful Tacos Ricos convert sitting across the table, I returned to the topic of cigars. How does a guy go from waking up at three in the morning five days a week to playing golf and pushing quality smokes?
"After I figured out how much money I made for Clear Channel and they never took care of me, it was easy," he said. "I'm never going to let that happen again.
"Cigars are such a luxury, and I always thought that luxury products, even in a bad economy, don't go bad."
For most of this year, Tabura has organized and hosted a number of "cigar tastings" at various locations on Oahu. He said sales have gone up by 50 percent since he's gotten involved, and also noted there are more and more cigar smokers in their 20's and 30's than just a few years ago.
"It gives you that feeling of power," he said. "I call it the magic wand."
While he does represent a number of brands on behalf of General Cigar, the entrepreneur is focused on launching his own brand — Paka — sometime in 2011. Tabura gets a twinkle in his eye when he starts to recite some of the research he's done at Bishop Museum on the role of tobacco in the Kingdom of Hawaii.
"The alii used it as a luxury product and they smoked all the time," he said. "Tobacco was used as currency.
"All the queens and princes smoked cigars. If you go to Bishop Museum, they have drawers and drawers of pipes and tobacco sacks that aren't even on display. Tobacco right now grows wild on almost every island. You can see it in Waianae, out by Kaena Point."
TABURA WON'T have any prototypes of his new cigar available this weekend, but Saturday's Macanudo 50th anniversary party promises to have plenty of other options available. Admission is $50, which includes three different Macanudo cigars, two drinks and heavy pupu. Doors open at 3 p.m. on the rooftop at Dave & Buster's at the Ward Entertainment Complex in order to accomodate the start of the UH/Fresno football game, which will be shown live duing the party.
"R. Field will be there selling all our brands," added Tabura. "And I give everybody coupons — buy three and get one free."
Macanudo 50th Anniversary Celebration
Hosted by Lanai
» Where: Dave & Buster's, Ward Entertainment Complex
» When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9
» Cost: $50 (21+)
» Info: firstname.lastname@example.org