In a self-built single-room facility in the small North Shore beach town of Haleiwa, Hawaii, Ken Hirata is distilling a unique kind of liquor.

The 46-year-old Hirata and his wife, Yumiko, moved to Hawaii from Japan three years ago to start Hawaiian Shochu Co., the only "shochu" distillery in Hawaii and one of very few in the United States.

"I thought it would be a good idea, living in Hawaii and making shochu, where the quality of sweet potatoes is growing and we can experiment with all kinds of ingredients," Hirata said. "Business-wise, I thought there would be a great potential to grow, but personally, it's a quality of life thing."