Prunus Mume California Umeshu
Fruit: Prunus mume (ume plums)
Process: maceration on fruit
Maturation time: 1-2 years
Nose: marzipan, stone fruit, tart pineapple hard candy
Palate: sweet, pucker-tart, chocolate taffy, lemon peel, yellow lifesaver
RELEASE NOTES: The prunus mume tree is commonly called a Japanese or "ume" plum and is actually more closely related to an apricot than a plum, despite the name. While the tree is originally from China, the fruit is often encountered here in the US at Japanese restaurants in pickled form as umeboshi or with perilla leaf as the paste in an umeshisho roll.
The fruit is nearly inedible raw - the sour pucker verges on overwhelming bitterness, similar to the effect of biting into an olive right off the tree. But temper that epic pucker with some sugar and spirits and you've got something we (not so humbly) profess to be the best liqueur in the world.
Japanese umeshu is commonly called "plum wine" despite the lack of plums or even wine in many cases. It exists in Japan and, to some extent, here in the US as a class of commercial products as well as a common home recipe because it’s fairly simple to make if you can get the ume. Because the fruit macerates in spirits and sugar until the liquid is consumed, many umeshus are actually sold and served with a delicious boozy plum intact in the bottle or glass (we couldn't fit ours through the bottle neck, sorry).
The plums used to make our liqueur were grown in California. We only source from organic or no-spray orchards because those are the growers we want to support and because any spray residues on the skin of the fruit would end up in the bottle. We tend to get our fruit a little on the green side because it's easier for the growers to pick and transport with minimal losses this way. Some folks like a riper ume for their umeshu, but we actually prefer the brighter aroma and flavor profile that green fruit has after about a year of maceration.
Prunus Mume (the liqueur) is clear, pale gold with a pink tint. The nose is clean with a medium intensity. There is instantly recognizable marzipan followed by aromas of ripe stonefruit (peaches, prunes) and a yellow pineapple hard candy sold under a brand name we can't say (even if it saved our life). The palate is sweet, but it's entirely in balance with the tart pucker from the fruit and we can't help but think of another hard candy we can't say the name of (even though we're such a smarty). To top it all off, there is a chocolate taffy finish to this liqueur that reminds us of a THIRD candy we can't name (even if you held our tootsies to the fire).
Clearly, this liqueur is bringing up some childhood candy things for us.
We also taste some preserved lemon on the finish, for those slightly less childish palates.
Enjoy Prunus Mume over a big ice cube, or with a splash of soda.