Clumzy Plumzy - Sour Plum Vodka
It’s a popular expression particularly familiar to the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia, the term itself translates to “Cheers” in Cantonese, and is most frequented (and loudly so in large masses) at Chinese weddings as a toast to the newlywed couple. It is also a tradition to drag out the first syllable, “Yam”, for as long as possible, and as loudly as possible, symbolizing equally lengthy and bountiful blessings to be wished onto the couple of the moment.
The past weekend, I was invited to attend a close friend’s wedding, and what such Chinese wedding here in Singapore would be complete without the hearty exclamation of that expression, “Yam Seng”.
But this session was different. Not just because it was a wedding held under the shroud of the Covid pandemic (which with it came a whole slew of complex regulations on large gatherings); but certainly the pandemic did little, and if even possible, exaggerated the fervor for weddings; no, at this event, we were invited to try a curious little sour plum vodka shot.
This was even highlighted by the emcee as the guests took their seats around tables of five (as prescribed by safe distancing regimes), and eagerly awaited the kickoff of the matrimonial celebrations.
“Among us, one of the groom’s friends has started producing his own Sour Plum Vodka. The bride and groom have procured several bottles and would like to invite the guests to try it,” the eloquent emcee announced.
I was piqued. My personal attraction to Asian flavors, as well as enjoyment of vodka at celebrations, appeared to have merged into a little frosted shot glass of honey-colored liquid sitting in front of me on the banquet table.
With the end of the raucous toast, the guests across the ballroom uniformly downed the shot recoiling with a deep reverberating “ahhhhhh” as the aromatic vodka cleaned off with a deep satisfying heat in its finish.
Here’s my take on it (tasting notes):
Color: Honey, deep burnished gold. Little flecks of sour plum bits.
A tarty yet deeply sweet fruit compote at work on the nose. (Image Source: Jamie Oliver)
Nose: Wildly aromatic, the rich sweetness of a fruit reduction is intermingled with a tart citric sourness – obviously the sour plum at work here. The zesty twang is also reminiscent somewhat of passionfruit. The saccharine note has a whole lot of depth to it and at the same time the clean, crispness of the vodka, that smells somewhat clarified like sake here, is apparent.
The twang of zestyness is coupled with rich honeyed notes.
Taste: The tip of the tongue starts with a citric zest with a twang of bitterness, but not nearly overpowering – it is surprisingly mellow for vodka in fact. Don't get me wrong, there is a bite but it simmers down pretty soon as the flavors open up and emerge in full. It then follows through with a distinct hawthorn flavor – the characteristic sweet, tanginess that comes with a light jammy sensation, very chewable with a slight astringency that gives it a bit of a bite.
The taste of hawthorns is very distinctive on the palate. Very nostalgic. (Image Source: Pinterest)
For those in Asia, think Haw Flakes or Hawthorn Rolls, and for those outside of the region, perhaps a good comparable is quince paste or a fruit roll-up. Basically the idea of fruit leather – fruit paste that is dried and pressed.
Fruit leather - it's a real thing. Think fruit paste, tart yet sweet and just slightly umami. (Image Source: Healthy Substitute)
There are also gentle notes of vanillin and caramel. I should say that the flavors are well-balanced with a good velvety texture – syrupy but not cloying. The sourness, sweetness and alcoholic heat all hum at the same frequency here.
Finish: Fairly clean, with lingering sweetness and tart sourness that holds out just a tad longer. There’s a drying quality to the finish as well, from the leftover acidity, with some light woody notes. Overall great mouthfeel and remarkably smooth.
All this flavor stemming from a little sour plum. Delightful! (Image Source: Aliexpress)
This comes in at 17.4% abv. Decent for loosening up and having a good time, but not nearly too much that you'd pass out.
Safe to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it and helped myself to a second round. I would have gone for a third, if not for the fact that the hotel bar had ran out.
Given my enjoyable experience and perhaps set against this unexpected context of a good friend’s wedding, which I certainly did not expect to be trying some new spirit, I was particularly curious as to what this bottle looked like. I had asked the ballroom staff if they could sneak out an empty bottle to satisfy my curiosity but alas, the bottles were returned to the purveyor himself, Alex.
Yet thanks to the tireless staff, who seemed to relish in how much the guests enjoyed this unusual addition to the event’s drinks menu, it wasn’t too long before I found a bottle of the Clumzy Plumzy in my hands. And not too long after, Alex, co-founder of Clumzy Plumzy, whose Sour Plum Vodka it was that I enjoyed, was present as well.
A guy of tall stature who wore a gravity-defying smile, he had gone table to table to gather feedback and thank the guests who complimented the spirit.
I thoroughly enjoyed this spirit, which was certainly unexpected of what I had planned for the night, it was clean tasting, crisp, with a great velvety, silky texture, alongside perfumery, fragrant notes on the nose. Its taste was remarkably distinctive – of Haw Flakes that many in Southeast Asia would have had memories of snacking on as school children, certainly this bottle packed with it a spoonful of nostalgia.
I found this drink well-rounded, not nearly too alcoholic but at the same time maintaining a kick. I could see this as a great party drink, or even a daily sipper; heck it would make a delightfully fun gift for a housewarming. Those who enjoy umeshu (and in particular Choya) would especially appreciate this. It goes great with red meats (which I can attest as I savored my second shot alongside some); not nearly too heavy, it would make a great aperitif.
Judging from the ballroom of guests’ response, Clumzy Plumzy was by far a hit.
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