Red Stag Flavoured Bourbon
Red Stag Black Cherry Flavoured Bourbon 83/100
a Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on January 23, 2011
The original sample for this review was provided to me from the personal collection of J. L. Wheelock, who is part of the Beam Global team here in Alberta. The sample size was smaller than my normal 200 ml minimum sample size, and I was having a little difficulty with the review because I really wanted to be able to mix some cocktails as well as sip the sample neat and with ice to give a true and accurate review. The small size of the sample did not allow me to be so rigorous. When Simon Mooney, another member of the Beam Global Team learned of my plight, he came to the rescue with a sealed bottle of Red Stag for my review purposes. I am fortunate to have such staunch supporters of my work.
Red Stag Flavoured Bourbon is a black cherry flavoured, 4-year-old, Jim Beam Bourbon. It appears to be intended primarily for the mixing of cocktails and bar drinks although it has been suggested that it can be enjoyed as a sipper as well. For the purposes of the review I broke the process into two parts. The first part of the review process involved five independent taste sessions (about one ounce each) consumed neat and with ice, and I drew my tasting notes from that part of the review process. I then constructed a few cocktails including two which I found on the Red Stag Website (The Brass Buck and Red Stag and Cola). I used these cocktails to round out the review with ancillary information regarding the suitability of the flavoured Whiskey for bar style cocktail drinks.
In the Bottle 4/5
If you are from the USA and you are reading this review, you may be confused as to why I am referring to the Red Stag as a ‘flavoured’ bourbon rather than as an ‘infused’ bourbon. The reason is that in Canada, the labeling of this whiskey is much different from what I have seen in the USA. To the left of this paragraph is the bottle which I am reviewing here in Canada. To the right is the bottle shot I found on the Jim Beam Website which I used with the permission of the aforementioned J.L. Wheelock. Notice how the USA label declares this spirit to be an Infused Bourbon with Natural Flavors. The Canadian label declares the spirit to be a Black Cherry Flavoured Bourbon.
A quick check of the back of the Canadian bottle shows us a list of ingredients, “Bourbon, water, sugar, artificial flavour(s), and citric Acid (330)”.
In Canada at least, the Red Stag Flavoured Bourbon is not labeled as being infused with natural flavours. My information on this matter is that process by which the black cherry flavour is obtained does not meet the Canadian criteria for “natural flavour”.
Controversy aside, the Red Stag is presented in a typical flagon style bottle made for easy storage on my liquor cabinet, and for easy pouring at my bar. The bottle and the label are typical of the category and are neither impressive nor detrimental. As always, I am disappointed in the metal screw top cap I see, but as this flavoured whiskey is primarily a mixer I am not surprised.
In the Glass 8.5/10
In the glass, the flavoured whiskey displays a light amber/golden colour. There is a bit of a syrupy look when I tilt my glass and look for legs (which are big and fat). To my mind, the thickness of the legs has more to do with a higher sugar content than it does with a rich oily whiskey. The nose confirms this suspicion as the scent from the glass is rich with sugary sweetness. The aroma I detect is a mixture of a woody bourbon tones and sweeter cherry notes which rise in the air as I nose the glass.
In the Mouth 50/60
The sweetness from the nose continues into the mouth. The taste is big and full of juicy cherries in a good way, but it is perhaps a little too sweet. The initial rich cherry flavour is a delight, but the sweetness begins to overwhelm almost immediately, and the woody bourbon notes while not lost have certainly been clubbed into a submissive posture by the sweetness. As a sipper, I find this perhaps to be in more of the vein of a liqueur than of a whiskey. It is pleasant but cloying if sampled repeatedly.
Mixed into cocktails is another matter altogether. When I mixed the Red Stag into the two of the cocktails I found on the Red Stag Website I found each of them to be much more enjoyable than drinking the Red Stag neat. In particular the Brass Buck, which is a mixture of Red Stag and Ginger Ale over ice was quite nice as the ginger-ale and the ice helped to quell the sweetness and actually allowed the woody bourbon notes to gain some ground in the glass. It was spicier and pleasantly sharp in flavour which appealed to me in a big way.
I tried a few other cocktail variations in recipes which called for cherry whiskey and I was very pleased especially with the more complex bourbon character which shone through most of the cocktails. I admit I am somewhat enthralled by the mix-ability of the Red Stag.
In The Throat 12/15
The finish, as one would expect, is lengthened considerably by the sweetness. My feeling is however, that when consumed neat, this becomes cloying in a hurry. The woody bourbon flavour does appear right at the end to provide a bit of a bitter counter-punch to the sweetness. (Which incidentally was welcomed by my throat.)
The Afterburn 8.5/10
My thoughts on the Red Stag are that the spirit is far more reminiscent of a sweet Black Cherry Liqueur than what I was expecting from a spirit referred to on the Jim Beam website as an Infused Bourbon Whiskey.
My score reflects a spirit that can be sipped straight as an aperitif or a desert liqueur, but which I feel is far more enjoyable mixed in cocktails.
You may read some of my other reviews of Liqueurs and Flavoured Spirits (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Here are the two recipes I found on the Red Stag website which I constructed as part of the review.
3 parts Red Stag
4 parts Cola
Mix in a suitable glass and serve with ice
The Red Stag and Cola goes down very easily and is somewhat reminiscent of cherry cola. Just enough of the bourbon flavour seeps through the cocktail to give you that nice satisfying little kick to the tonsils.
The second cocktail I enjoyed as I reviewed the Red Stag was the Brass Buck.
3 parts Red Stag
4 parts Ginger Ale
Mix in a suitable glass and serve with ice
The Brass Buck was my favourite Red Stag cocktail. The ginger-ale brings out the woody and spicy elements of the bourbon while at the same time quelling the sweetness of the overall mixture. Sitting in my hot tub with the snow blowing and the temperature reaching minus 30 degrees last weekend, this tasted just fine.
Remember that the aim of my blog is to help you drink better spirits, not to help you drink more spirits. Please indulge responsibly!
My Scores are out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret them as follows:
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing spirit. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails.)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)