As stated in the Good Book, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and then whiskey.” I think it goes something like that. I forget the particulars, but whiskey is a powerful and storied beverage, fueling great political leaders, revolutions and even those dark days of prohibition. And generally, it’s my favorite spirit.
So it was with some trepidation that I first tasted Jim Beam’s black cherry infused bourbon, Red Stag. As with other cherry flavored liquors, I was fearful of a syrupy medicinal sweetness overpowering the spirit.
On the nose, the natural cherry scent is most prominent with the bourbon scent lingering in the background. It tastes sweet but doesn’t completely mask the flavor and heat of the bourbon or the oak accents. I tried it straight, on the rocks, mixed with Coke and in a manhattan. Consumed neat, the black cherry flavor was way too powerful and sweet for my liking; adding ice or a dash of cold water mellowed the flavor some. Mixed with Coke, it was still too sweet but somewhat tempered, and in a manhattan, it held up okay, but didn’t have the typical whiskey bite and well-balanced flavors.
Overall, Red Stag exceeded my low expectations and fared better than some similar spirits. That said, it will stay toward the back of my home bar. But try it for yourself. Bourbon purists will find it too sweet to drink straight, or to drink at all, but those with a sweet tooth who typically shy away from the bite of bourbon might find Red Stag to be the gateway they need to enter the realm of whiskey drinkers.
Proof: 80 proof (40% Alcohol by Volume)
Price: $18-20 for a 750ml bottle