I recently visited the Namihana distillery again where Hirata presented me with a bottle of his 2017 Banzai Strength Shochu that was inspired by what I did for Frolic's Something New event.

Photo By Ed Morita

Revisiting Namihana for a shochu worthy of a Banzai toast

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In 2015, Frolic hosted its first event called Something New. The event featured chefs tasked with creating dishes that highlighted a locally produced ingredient.

As one of the participating chefs, I was given Namihana Hawaiian Shochu as my theme ingredient.

Ken Hirata at Namihana's Haleiwa distillery.

I visited the Namihana distillery in Haleiwa where owner Ken Hirata gave me a tour and explained how he turns locally grown sweet potato, into Hawaii's only locally produced shochu.

I decided to make a cocktail with his shochu to pair with my dish. Hirata looked dumbfounded when I said that I planned to barrel-age some of his shochu to turn it into a whiskey.

Namihana in its original form is clear. The aged versions take on the color of caramel from the wood.
Banzai strength!

   

The result was a smooth woody shochu that made a tasty and unique tasting Manhattan cocktail. I presented Hirata with a bottle of the barrel aged shochu the night of the event, which he giddily accepted.

I recently visited the Namihana distillery again where Hirata presented me with a bottle of his 2017 Banzai Strength Shochu that was inspired by what I did for Frolic's Something New event.

Every year, Hirata makes a small batch limited edition shochu that includes a unique flavoring ingredient.

In the past, Hirata has done a pineapple Banzai. This year, he has aged the shochu with charred Mizunara wood to reflect his Japanese roots.

Mizunara is a variety of oak tree that grows in Japan. Because of its rarity, barrels made from this wood is usually reserved for premium Japanese whiskies like Yamazaki Single Malt.

To complement the Mizunara, Hirata has added local Kiawe wood to represent Hawaii, where Namihana has found a home.

Notice the difference in color. 

This year's wood-aged Banzai proved to be Namihana's most popular yet, selling out to pre-orders in record time.

Hirata is contemplating something similar to Banzai in the future.

The popularity of this year's Banzai has Hirata contemplating doing something similar in the future, so you never know when the wood-age Banzai may return in some form.

Regardless of the flavor, Namihana Banzai will please any Shochu lover, so get your pre-order in as soon as you can.

Namihana Hawaii Shochu Distillery
66-542 Haleiwa Rd (Gated entrance on Paalaa Rd)
Haleiwa

Email: kaloimo@gmail.com