Well, this is different. Label's different, liquid looks different, the smell's different, and the taste is damned different. Funny thing is...the bottle's the same.
It's Red Stag by Jim Beam, labeled as "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused with Natural Flavors," with a big sub-label "BLACK CHERRY." Which right away makes me wonder if there are other flavors ready if this works. I also wonder at how they put the Jim Beam name and seal and bottle on this new and kind of risky venture. (Budweiser Select, anyone?)
Does it work? Well, the cherry flavor is, as it says, an infusion of natural flavors, and it smells and tastes like it. It tastes like bourbon that's had cherries steeping in it, something we used to do back home in Pennsylvania Dutch country, a thing called cherry baunz (you also added sugar and tried to crush a few stones). The fruit flavor is not nasty or fake -- as I mentioned to a friend on-line, it's impressively authentic -- and it's not completely overwhelming. It does come across as too sweet...but for what? For bourbon? It's not, it's flavored bourbon. That's one of the good things Beam did: everything is spelled out nice and honest on the label.
And the best part of it being flavored bourbon, is that they kept it 80 proof, which keeps it from being wicked gross nasty sweet, like the first batch I tasted of Wild Turkey's American Honey. But like American Honey has become (and I do nip off Cathy's bottle occasionally), this stuff is just sweet...and it fits. Because it's got real bourbon flavor, coming from real bourbon. It's the bourbon that keeps me picking up the glass.
I almost want to mix this with some heavy cream. I think that's where Red Stag's best future lies: recipes and cocktails. I do have a shameful liking for sweet Manhattans; this might be wicked tasty. Sipping? Huh-uh. Over ice, splash of seltzer? Getting warmer. Don't think of it as bourbon whiskey. Think of it as cherry baunz.
And I just got the word: on shelves in June.