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Red Stag, by Jim Beam

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So the folks at Jim Beam have just released Red Stag, which is essentially Jim Beam 80-proof Bourbon infused with Black Cherry flavor.

Legally, it is not "Bourbon", since Bourbon cannot have anything added to it after distillation, except water, but it can be called "flavored Bourbon". (I know, I know, splitting hairs, but still...)

I've been reading about this for months. Noted American whiskey authority Chuck Cowdery initially said that this product was either completely insane or genius, he couldn't decide which.

I'm trying it right now. Drinking it straight, it has all of the harshness of Jim Beam, with a little treacly-sweet cherry flavor, to me. Mixed with Coca-Cola, it is rather pleasant. It might make for an interesting Manhattan shortcut for someone who eschews rye for their Manhattans. Not bad, not bad at all, but not something that I, personally, find really appealing.

I like that they gave it it's own name, to establish a new identity, rather than being lazy and calling it Jim Beam Black Cherry, or something along those lines. It's a dignified product.

If you are a hard-core Bourbon enthusiast as I am, well, this product isn't aimed at "us". Rather, it's a "gateway" or entry-level product designed to appeal to the non-traditional Bourbon drinker.

I'm sold, though. I honestly believe that there is a place in the market for this. If you're curious to try it, I'm sure that Bourbon in Adams-Morgan and Glover Park will be places where you can try a taste.

If you are a Jim Beam buyer, you may purchase a 750ml bottle of Jim Beam 4-yr Bourbon with a 50ml "hitchhiker" bottle on the neck at no extra cost.

From the AP (via HuffingtonPost):

CLERMONT, Ky. — Bourbon drinkers have been mixing Jim Beam for years. Now, the maker of the world's top-selling bourbon is too.

Part of Illinois-based Fortune Brands Inc., Beam is preparing a national rollout of Red Stag, a specialty whiskey that infuses natural black cherry flavors into 4-year-old bourbon.

Even brand ambassador Fred Noe, a great-grandson of Jim Beam, sees the tinkering with a time-tested Kentucky tradition as a positive way to lure new customers.

"The bourbon purists might think it's a little too sweet," Noe said during an event touting Red Stag at Beam's Clermont distillery in central Kentucky. "But for somebody who is not a big fan of bourbon, this may be an opportunity for them to enjoy bourbon in a little different way."

The 80-proof Red Stag by Jim Beam, as the product is formally called, is being billed as Beam's biggest rollout since the launch of Jim Beam black label bourbon more than a decade ago. Shipments start June 1 after about a year and a half in development.

Chuck Cowdery, an American whiskey writer and author of "Bourbon, Straight," likes the taste.

"I think the quality of the infusion, the depth of the flavors is pretty sophisticated," he said. "It doesn't taste like they threw some flavor house cherry flavor in there."

The product could appeal to younger consumers who may prefer bourbon in cocktails rather than straight up, he said.

Beam joins other Kentucky bourbon makers that already flavor their standbys.

Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., which plans to mix honey flavoring into its popular Evan Williams bourbon and call it Evan Williams Honey Reserve, come September, has offered Evan Williams Holiday Egg Nog in season since the early 1990s, spokesman Larry Kass said.

Wild Turkey's American Honey, a liqueur blended with honey and Wild Turkey bourbon, has been gaining sales the past couple of years, said Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey's associate distiller. But he said it's premature to predict a craze.

And Adam Graber, senior brand manager for Jim Beam, agreed.

"There's probably one or two other flavors that make sense in that category," he said, not divulging those other flavors. `But I don't see it exploding like a flavored rum or a flavored vodka."

Graber said Beam will be "fairly conservative" marketing Red Stag, with the biggest promotional push a sponsorship of Kid Rock's summer concert tour. Red Stag has a suggested retail price of $17.99 for a 750-millileter bottles.

For other views on Red Stag, just Google around, you'll find plenty of blog posts from people who've gotten to try it already.

John Hansell, editor of The Malt Advocate, had some interesting serving suggestions:

Jim Beam will be debuting a new bourbon product in June. It’s called Red Stag, and it’s described as “Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey infused with natural flavors.” (While the label doesn’t identified it as such, the closest category I would put it in is “liqueur.”) The label states “Black Cherry” as the main flavor. It’s bottled at 40% ABV.

I was on the list of writers to get an advanced review bottle. I got it yesterday and tried it informally last night. (It was my companion while watching two hours of “24″ on TV. There certainly were plenty of commercials for me to contemplate what I was drinking.)

I like the fact that the bourbon notes come through very clearly. The black cherry flavors married nicely with the bourbon notes. It’s too sweet to drink neat. I enjoyed it on the rocks, which helped to cut through some of the sweetness.

I also tried it once with a a bit of lemon juice, which also helped to tone down the sweetness. Then, I tried it with a dash of bitters to make my own pseudo-Manhattan, which I also enjoyed. (Like I said, there were a lot of commercials, so Red Stag kept me entertained.)

Bottom line here: I like it. And if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you can control the sweetness by adding bitters or lemon (or some other citrus-based juice) as you see fit. It’s a nice change of pace.

If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get to drizzle some on vanilla ice cream tonight. (Pretty please, with a Red Stag on top!)

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