The Retractable Awning Debate

Real customers with real suggestions on a rainy evening, afterhours at SWAM… 

First of all,  the bright idea of an awning in front of the store to relieve them of the plight of rain drops melting their sugar-coated bodies prompted a suggestion to install one.  This had to be one the most ludicrious building improvement ideas I could ever propose to my landlord.  But to no escape, the suggestion became a topic of exterior renovation and to the point of funding the endeavor.

No matter how much the loyal regulars want to help me, I just need to look them in eye and say “Are you ____ kidding me??”  Yes, I can honestly be that frank.  Seriously, a retractable awning? I love the benches, though.

When SHOP*MINGLE*CHILL figured in to be the mantra of store, I never expected ‘chilling’ at SWAM would be a regular past time.  Always appreciative for the company regardless of rain or shine, but you can lay that awning argument to rest.  It’s in the round file.

P.S. To Bully and Russell (aka Two Beer Queers)…You’re still not getting the awning in front of the store!

BullyOSullivan Bully O’Sullivan

narrowly missed a hydroplaning truck on h1 & nearly sliced off my fingers washing dishes — all b/c @swamwine doesn’t want an awning
iBlala Russel Kealoha

A dingo almost took my baby, someone tried to eat my musubi, & a bird pooped on my car… all cause @swamwine didnt have an awning…

Category : Blog

Bourbon and Mom

My mom, and I love her dearly, needed an ‘intervention’ when she mixed my 20 year Pappy Van Winkle with honey to cure her tickle in her throat!! Where were you Jack Daniels, Wild Turkey, and Seagrams? Needed a market tester of urban-baby-boomer-mothers?? Hallelujah! My ‘indirect’ extra sensory perception AKA spidey senses said created a product for sick moms not to use 20 yr Papppy Van Winkle. Thank you for listening.  Wonder if the honeys will ever overshadow the mint julep?

Jack Daniels Honey: Newest Member of the Honey Bourbon market

  • Aroma: Butterscotch
  • Viscosity: rich
  • Taste: Smooth and honey goodness

Wild Turkey American Honey: First out on the market

  • Aroma: Honey
  • Viscosity: not as rich and thick
  • Taste: much more bourbon-like

Seagrams Honey: The most affordable honey bourbon

  • Aroma: Honeycomb
  • Viscosity: rich
  • Taste: the sweetest of all the honey

Evan Williams Honey: A great alternative

  • Aroma: Honey and vanilla
  • Viscosity: rich
  • Taste: smooth and sweet


Category : Blog

Hidden Treasures

Once in a while we have customers with some amazing stories.  One story just seemed too incredible to be true.  Imagine buying your first home, your dream home in a more older established community.  Then get your buddies to help you move in and store your stuff.  Upon investigating the house’s storage possibilities, they come across a ‘secret’ closet.  No one knew about it, not even the previous owner’s family nor the realtor who sold them the house.  What they discover in this pitch dark and narrow closet was treasure.  As he tells me the story he pulls out his wine bag, a Chateau Latour 1964 and Chateau Petrus 1966, and asked if they were any good.  My jaw dropped.  Treasure indeed!  He said that there are cases of wines from different vintages and wineries but mostly in dating back in the 60’s.  Then he asked what shall they do with the wine.  I emphatically said to drink it!  What an experience to taste wines like these.  Once in a lifetime opportunity, especially if you are not an avid wine collector. 

 After the weekend passed, he came back with a sample for us to try.  Wow, how thoughtful and totally unexpected!!  He said they had a great time opening up some of the bottles and sampling wines that were tucked away and forgotten 40 years ago.  He brought by the Petrus 1966.  The wine looked muddy and had a very distinctive aroma of something I can’t even describe but was not offensive.  The flavor was still strong with leather and earth tones.  In my opinion, the wine was very good considering the questionable storage situation.  This was a great example of wine aging from producers who know their wines will hold over the years.

Previous to this incredible hidden treasure story, I encountered another rare discovery from a customer.  We were only two years into our business when a customer dropped by the store and handed me a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red, a gift.   I took one look at the bottle and just knew I could not accept it.  It looked very old and possibly very valuable.  I said I would love to display the bottle.  Two years later and visits from 3 different Masters of Whisky, each commenting on how rare and special the bottle was.  One of them recommended the bottle should not even be displayed.  I spoke with the owner of the bottle asked if he wanted it back.  He graciously declined and proposed that we try to sell it.  We both felt an uneasiness about selling his father-in-law’s bottle, so we decided to donate the bottle back to the Johnnie Walker’s Archives, which they were excited to receive.  We felt it was the right thing to do.  He and his wife will be recognized by Johnnie Walker by assigning an Accession number on their behalf.   One day we’ll take a holiday and visit the bottle in Scotland.

 1937 Johnnie Walker Red.  In 1937, ‘The Walking Man’ is introduced on the label.  Notice he’s walking in the opposite direction of the current Walking Man logo. 

I must say I have amazing customers.  No wonder why I love to come to work everyday.


Pomerol 1966

(from Wine Spectator)

Score: 93

Release Price: $NA

Current Auction Price: $1,815

Country: France

Region: Bordeaux

Issue: Feb 15, 1991

Extremely decadent and rich, with masses of thick, earthy chocolate flavors. Very rich yet balanced. Much rounder than most 1966s.–Pétrus vertical. Drink now. –JS

Category : Blog

Hawaiian Vodka Made in Honolulu, HI

Just got a pre-launch tasting of a new vodka from Hawaii.  And my partner, Mark, took the tour of the distillery.  This one is actually made (distilled, cut, bottled, labeled, packaged) in Hawaii on Oahu, near Sand Island.  Many “made in Hawaii” brands are technically not entirely made in Hawaii, but this is the real deal. 

This vodka is called, quite appropriately “Hawaiian Vodka.”  The distillery is located in a small 1200 square foot warehouse just down the road from Honolulu International Airport and on the way to Waikiki.  The owner, Dave Flintstone, started in Maui as a scuba instructor (and not a “brontosauraus bulldozer driver!”) via the carribean where he learned the art of distilling rum.   He was quite shocked to learn that there was very little distillation going on in Hawaii (Koloa Rum from Kauai, Old Lahaina and Maui Rum, Pau Vodka from Maui, and Ocean Vodka) so he set out to make a more popular vodka on Maui.  A year and half later, he moved to Oahu.

Water is the most important ingredient in vodka as far as smoothness and taste.  Hawaii has vast amounts of natural aquifers that are filtered by lava cinders from the ancient volcanos now extinct.  If you ever had pure Hawaiian Water, it is smooth and soft.  Hawaiian Vodka uses a combination of cane sugar, cane juice, and molasses to get the low wine or “stuff you ferment”.  Dave’s Vodka is distilled at 190 proof, using a small copper pot still, with both a “swan-neck” top – like the ones you see in Scotland to make single malts and “plate-top”- kind of what you see in bourbon distilleries.  It is then cut to 80 proof and bottled (4 at a time) with a special jet system that shoots a stream of air into the bottle as the vodka is filled.  Dave feels it gives his vodka a little softer feel.  The cap goes on and Dave hand labels all the bottles using a kind of gig that he has to do twice, once for the front lower label and a second for the back and image label.  Hand packed into 12pack cases of 750ml bottles and sent out to just a few retailers lucky enough to get their hands on it.  It’s extremely limited quantities. 

My impressions were:

Sight: clear, but when swirled it has a slight viscosity to it that made it cling to the glass

Nose: clean, slight citrus or flowery smells that many people find in their vodkas – I like it that way as flavor can be added with lemon or lime and other liqueurs.

First impression: smooth, no burn or harsh taste.  Clean – no sweetness to it even though it is made from cane and sugar.

Finish: also clean and smooth.

Final thought:  although it is a very neutral vodka, I don’t believe it would do well in a mixed drink.  It’s better straight, chilled or on the rocks which exemplifies the natural smoothness.  Leave the mixing to Skyy and Absolut as the alcohol “feel” of these vodkas translates better.

Like the lifestyle of Hawaii, this is a spirit that captures that – easy going, laid back, smooth.  Locally made in Hawaii using Hawaiian Water by a cool guy, Dave Flintstone, in a small upstart distillery.  If you would like to inquire about Hawaiian Vodka,  email him at  and he is on Facebook at 


Category : Blog

Black Iguana Frozen Rita

Black Iguana in box and indiviual wrapped

Oh do I love alcohol in a pouch because I’m a sucker for packaging. When I first saw Black Iguana, immediately I had to try it.  My mom and part time tasting partner, agreed. We froze one pouch for about two hours.  The pouch does not completely freeze because of the alcohol, so it was served slushy.  First we tried sipping through the green straw provided. Oh!  Brain FREEZE!  Not a good idea.  Also not much slush came through sucking from the straw.  So mom decided to just cut open the pouch and drink it from a glass.  Much better! This is a ‘dangerous’ rita,  candied lime flavor without a bitter aftertaste.  It would have been too easy to drink if I didn’t suffer from that brain freeze.  Seriously, one individual could consume the entire box which contains four pouches.  This is definitely marketed to the female consumer. I envision this frozen rita to be consumed by the pool side, at the park, and definitely right after cleaning the house.  Very refreshing, light on the alcohol, and managable individual portions.

Black Iguana is pre-mixed with 100% Blue Agave wine from Mexico but is packaged in Texas.  What is Agave Wine?  ‘Agave wine’ is produced from the fermentation of agave sap and much lower in alcohol.  ‘Tequila’ is the distillation of the same material but resulting in a much higher proof.

One box contains 4 pouches and 4 straws, 1 pouch = 187 ml , 8% alcohol by volume, price under $20/box

more info check out

Category : Blog

Welcome to SWAM: Shiroma’s Wine and More

Allow me to introduce myself, Jill Shiroma, owner/operator of SWAM: Shiroma’s Wine and More and author of this blog.  Soon it will be our 5th year anniversary.  Thinking back five years ago, SWAM was just a business plan.  On paper, the business looked so promising. But in reality,  just opening the store was the most difficult and stressful moments in my life.  It took us 5 months to find the location. Mililani was our first choice, however, Mililani Towne Center’s anchor tenants did not want a wine store in their center to compete with their liquor sales. Second was Waipio, where the now defunct Wine by Numbers was located.  Thank god that we didn’t go there or it would have been us out of business.  Then we stumbled upon a location in the Waimalu Plaza on the border of Pearl City and Aiea.  LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.  We were so happy with our find, but we did not budget in our business plan for a complete build-out.  A complete build out meant dealing with an architect,  a contractor, and mother nature.  We thought our build out would be easy and quick.  It’s just a shell and one wall to build.  Hell, not even close! Mother nature decided to rain for over 30 days in the month of March 2005.  Nothing got done for one month.  Oh, the stress was mounting. The liquor license permit would expire if we did not open by June 1 and we would have to go through the whole process again. By May, we finally were able to paint and construct the shelving.  We worked every day and night.  It was beautiful.   It’s like watching your child blossom.  I would go outside and gaze at the taped up windows and envision SWAM with all its potential.  Nonetheless, the clock was still ticking till our expiration date.  With the majority of our investment spent on the build out, there was very little to spend on inventory.  Hence we threw away the business plan and started to fly blind.  On May 25, 2005 we blessed the store with barely stocked shelves and opened with 6 days to spare.  People questioned the longevity of the store because of the scarce selection.  We had no choice.  We needed to do business to stay in business.  Five years later from the bare shelves to an overstocked store, we endured the stress of opening and we thank the community for sticking with us and welcoming SWAM as part of the neighborhood. 




Category : Blog