Howard heeds the siren.

The Hukilau organizer looked right at Howard and exclaimed – “Someone stole all of the top-shelf rums from the tasting this afternoon. Can you believe it?” Howard gulped, paused, and finished off the top-shelf rum in his glass. He might have some splaining to do.

Howard likes rum. If you visit Bull Tiki, his and Jennifer’s wonderful home tiki bar in Durham, you’ll likely be treated to a rum tasting. If Howard visits someone else’s bar (oh, like mine, just a mile or two away), he’s not shy to suggest that there might be rums on your shelf that he hasn’t yet tasted. It’s a not-so-subtle but quite-welcomed hint that you’ve got an opportunity to taste rum with your FOMbro. Whether at home or abroad, when there’s top-shelf rum just sitting around that appears to be at risk of neglect, Howard springs into action.

That’s exactly what happened at the Hukilau.

Howard attended the rum tasting seminar at the Hukilau a few years back and had some lingering questions for the presenter. He waited patiently after it was over, after everyone else had asked their questions, so he’d have the presenter all to himself. What could be better than a rum enthusiast getting personalized attention from a rum expert? Not much – but wait for it. After talking rum for a bit, Howard couldn’t get his mind off the fact that there were some awesome rums, sitting in bottles, only half empty, just next to him. So, he had to ask:

“What will happen to all this rum?” The presenter said – “I don’t know. It’s not mine. You should take a bottle.”

So, Howard did. Well, he took three bottles. I mean, he had not driven to Florida, so he figured that three bottles might be all he could finish off prior to flying home. But, when he got back to his room, the other neglected rum bottles – still sitting in that conference room – were like a siren, calling to him. His mind began to wonder what might happen to the rest. He imagined some waitstaff person pouring top-shelf rum down a sink, and his heart began to race. So, he rationalized that the heroic thing to do was to take all of the bottles of rum. A few minutes later, there were a dozen plus bottles of high-end rum in this room. He smiled, took stock, but then started to feel a little guilty. All this rum for him? It was tempting, but his conscience got the best of him. His final plan? He’d offer shots of the most-excellent rum to others around the pool. It was perfect. The rum would be put to good use by those most likely to love it, and Howard would be a popular guy for doing the right thing.

As he was sharing his bounty at the pool, he struck up a conversation with one of the Hukilau organizers, who mentioned that she’d just heard that all of the expensive rum had been stolen from the seminar. Howard froze for just a moment, imaging what sounded like a completely different kind of siren (the blue light kind), and quickly confessed. Thankfully, the organizer understood, and they laughed off the incident (likely over some more good rum).

One of my favorite features of Howard and Jenn’s Bull Tiki is the levered bar top. Using a simple method of rocks in a bucket tied to a rope that’s hidden from sight, the bar top swings up via a pulley with the perfect counterbalance, giving a practical and nautical touch. In addition to this ingenious feature, you’ll find a marvelous collection of artifacts at the Bull Tiki. Built from what used to be a carport off their mid-centry home, Jennifer and Howard’s sunken home bar houses a beautiful collection of tikis from regional artists like Tiki Rancher, original Witco paintings, vintage oil lamps, and other mid-century treasures. Outside there’s a tropical garden with banana trees that provide a stunning backdrop against the handcrafted jade tile and bamboo screens on the windows. There’s a repurposed stained-glass window from a local factory close to where Jennifer grew up. When you step into the kitchen and living areas of the home, you’ll be treated to Jennifer’s vast collection of vintage Pryex and have the opportunity for some loving from Clover and Violet, the canine kids.

Over the past couple of years, Jennifer has commissioned craftspeople and artists to create specialized items for the bar. There’s now a custom wooden bar menu. Jeff Poe of Phunco, who built the beautiful jade and bamboo window screens, also designed a Bull Tiki graphic logo, which you’ll find on a sign at the entrance and printed on their coasters, as well as a unique fabric for Bull Tiki. Jennifer commissioned Rocket Betty to transform Phunco’s fabric design into an aloha shirt for Howard, which he proudly wore for our visit.

In short, if you’re with Howard when he hears the rum siren, you should follow – don’t run. You might get in trouble, but it’ll be worth every sip.

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