There’s a new kid on the block and its name is PLUSH Vodka. Make no mistake, the passion and brains behind the brand don’t view their product as a passing trend, but as one that will continue to grow as people have the chance to taste its unique plum flavor—whether over the rocks, with club soda, cranberry juice or in any number of signature cocktails. Topping that list are the Royal Plush, Plumjito and Club Plush (more can be found at www.plushvodka.com).
Owner/creator/founder Malcolm Hale describes the smooth-tasting, sophisticated brand as the first and only plum-infused vodka that is also gluten-free. The brand was first introduced to the public in May of 2016 and the feedback to date has gone above and beyond Hale’s expectations. “People are often shocked and surprised at how smooth it is, how good it is,” said Hale, who also created and operates a clothing line in Brooklyn, New York. “People love it.”
The idea for an innovative vodka evolved—quite simply—from a moment a couple of years ago as Hale was sitting back, sipping a glass of—you guessed it—vodka. It suddenly occurred to him that there had to be a way to create a better, smoother tasting variation of this sought-after libation. In fact, he not only thought there could be a better vodka, but believed he could create such a product.
From that brief yet significant “aha” moment, PLUSH Vodka was born. Launched in Brooklyn—where Malcolm was born and bred—the brand rapidly became available at liquor stores, restaurants and bars throughout his hometown as well as Manhattan, Queens, Long Island and Staten Island. Soon after, people could purchase it at numerous locations in Florida and one in New Jersey.
The vodka will soon make its entrée into South Jersey and Philadelphia, explains Hale, who is currently working on expanding the brand throughout the tri-state (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) region.
In Manhattan, it was selected for MTV’s “Wild N Out” Premiere and Red Carpet Celebration, as well as VH1’s Love & Hip Hop Viewing Premiere. The brand was featured at the 2017 Super Bowl Legends Lounge in Houston, Texas; a Verizon Golf Outing on Long Island, the 2017 NFL Alumni Golf Outing in South Jersey, Atlantic City’s Boxing Hall of Fame at the Claridge Hotel and the “Fix My Life” TV show Viewing Party in Atlanta.
Although the smooth tasting beverage has made its mark over the last year or so at restaurants, bars, hotels, lounges and special events, over a year of intensive legwork, market research and tastings took place prior.
“There was a lot that went into the launch,” explained Ramein Rasoli of Manhattan, chief creative director/brand partner, who also maintains a photography business, as well as a career as a VP pharmaceutical brand developer. “We wanted to make our mark with something different right out of the gate. We wanted to enter the market with a reputation that would get us noticed.” From there, Rasoli elaborates, their plan was and is to continue to build upon that reputation.
Other investor partners are former NFL player Fred Baxter and Romelle Archer. The PLUSH team also includes employee Kevin Bracey, an account manager.
According to the 27-year-old Hale, who recently relocated to Philadelphia from Brooklyn: “Our vodka is six times distilled. It’s infused with natural plum flavor.” The distillation process takes place at a facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. While other competing brands may be just four or five times distilled, Hale underscores that being six times distilled yields a purer, more natural product.
And plum, it seems, has been around as a complement to alcohol for centuries. Rasoli, who was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, points out that in the Far East, the plum has been used for hundreds of years, often in the form of plum liquor, also known as plum wine.
“In Medieval times, people were always drinking wine,” said Rasoli. “A lot of alcohol was paired with one fruit—the plum.” Suffice it to say the partners behind PLUSH understand full well what history has taught: the plum is the ultimate fruit as a complement to top-shelf liquor.
Rasoli acknowledges that the market is crowded and the competition stiff. He says that some of the big brand vodkas have gone a bit over the top with flavors, citing examples such as cheesecake, cherry pie, watermelon. “You take those and you lose the vodka aspect; it just becomes about the flavor,” he said.
Besides being the only plum-infused vodka, Rasoli attributes their success to date to the brand’s total package: “It’s having the ability to tell our story and have people hold the bottle in their hands. When people hear the story of why the plum was chosen, it really does elicit that sentimentality towards the historic aspect.”
“Most companies will come out with a straight vodka first,” he continued. “The fear there was that we would just get lost in the market. There are so many brands that come out every day. When the plum idea came to Malcolm, it just made more sense to start with that.”
The partners work with mixologists to create palate-pleasing cocktails. “We found that cranberry juice and plum vodka is just as good of a mix as cranberry and straight vodka,” said 34-year-old Rasoli. “It has a little bit of a unique flavor.”
Rasoli notes that with any start-up, it’s all about the hustle: getting to the liquor stores, having them try the product, holding tasting events, whatever it takes. Yet, it is specifically that hustle that has earned the brand rave reviews. “We started off small,” said Rasoli, adding that in a very short span of time they were at the Super Bowl Legends Lounge (where many former NFL players/legends gather and celebrate during Super Bowl weekend).
The word PLUSH connotes something richly luxurious. “That is the feeling we want our customers to experience when they sip PLUSH,” explained Rasoli. “While the product itself is not overly expensive (pricing is competitive—from low to mid-level range of vodka), the taste is that of sophistication, which invokes the feeling of something luxurious.”
Sure the market is crowded, yet the PLUSH brand is focused on the opportunity to tell its story. Each and every component of the product, says Rasoli, complements the next—from the unique bottle design, to the flavor, the marketing and promotions, the branding, the story behind it. “We want everything to line up and really be as one so the customer gets the PLUSH experience.”
To achieve that goal, much of Hale’s day is often dedicated to the vodka and myriad of business details: checking in on existing accounts, maintaining customer relationships, setting up and attending events, trying to establish new accounts, events and more.
“It’s not easy to create a liquor,” acknowledged Rasoli. “We want to be able to grow a home base and create a stronghold here. We don’t want to be all over the place. We want to build relationships and show our customers—each and every one of them—that we’re a brand that they can look to, that they can count on; that we’re not just in it for the money and the growth. We’re also in it for the passion for our product.”
To learn more, visit www.plushvodka.com or inquire at email@example.com or 718-600-2869.