Cigar Aficionado

Flavored—But Surprisingly Good

I wanted to hate this product.

When Jim Beam announced its Red Stag, Bourbon infused with black cherry flavoring, the purist in me was horrified. What lunatic would want to take something so noble as Bourbon and sweeten it up with fruit? After all Bourbon is the purest of all spirits, strictly produced as a straight whiskey, no flavoring, barrels only used once, no coloring. It isn't vodka for goodness sakes. And what would it taste like anyway? Cough syrup?

Then I got a chance to taste and changed my mind. Bobby Gleason—you may know him as Bobby G, the fastest bartender in Las Vegas—wheeled a bar cart into our offices and started mixing up concoctions that turned my head.

First off it doesn't taste like cough syrup, although I would have to say it isn't really a Bourbon either—strictly speaking. Of course, you get the cherry flavors right up front, very sweet, but not cloying. The finish has a bit of nut on it. But I won't bother to review this as sipping whiskey as I think it is as a cocktail mix where the drink shines.

Of course, it is a natural in a Manhattan, which already is garnished with a cherry. Bobby G used fresh cherries instead of maraschino to hold down on the sweetness, and it was outstanding. The Old Fashioned was also a delight. But the list of possibilities goes on as far as your imagination. Gleason created a Sloe Stag with sloe gin that balanced sweet with sour very well. Also, chocolate with cherry is a no brainer. His success with mixing lemon, sour, mango nectar and Tabasco surprised me.

Check it out at for more recipes. But I beg of you don't give up regular Bourbon.