July 10, 2009

Jim Beam White Label Review, and Just For Fun, Jim Beam Red Stag Review

Jim Beam White Label is the best selling bourbon in the U.S. and abroad. The White Label is Beam's standard bottling, and to many people is synonymous with bourbon. It's aged 4 years, making it relatively young, and is priced very competitively at around $13.00 per 750 ml.

White Label's color is pale amber, and you can tell it hasn't had too many years in the barrel. It is also 80 proof. Its nose is pleasant and soft, very floral and clean. It's pretty thin in the glass, and is without the strong legs that some people pay close attention to. Tasting gives slight cinnamon and a sweet dankness. This dankness, in the finish, turns into what I consider the signature Beam flavor: heady, sour funkiness. I think this taste is attributable to the Beam Family yeast, and it imparts a marked organic mustiness to the bourbon.

I think there are better bourbons at this price range. While I can enjoy the vast majority of bourbons neat, I do prefer Beam White on ice. It also mixes very well in cocktails. Given its ubiquity, if it's all you can get you hands on, it won't ruin your evening. All in all I don't seek White Label out too often.

Moving on, we have Jim Beam's Red Stag. The Red Stag website explains the product: "Born in the heart of Kentucky Bourbon country, Red Stag by Jim Beam™ contains all the pride of Jim Beam's 200 year old family tradition. Through a slow infusion process, our distillers start with fine four year old Jim Beam® Bourbon and then complement its distinctive taste with hints of natural black cherry flavor. The result is a sweet well-rounded taste that's delicious mixed or straight up."

I first heard about Red Stag in late February, and it was officially released on June 1. I had occassion to get a bottle, so this review marks my first encounter with it. I should also mention that I am still having an internal battle regarding flavored bourbons - are they too gimicky, thereby insulting bourbon heritage? Or are they merely another product, albeit aimed at a particular market segment, that simply add to the array of whiskey choices? I don't know, but I am trying to be open-minded. Anyways...

Red Stag, per the label, is "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused With Natural Flavors." It is black cherry flavored, is 80 proof, and is virtually identical in color to Beam White Label, with a slight red tinge.

The nose is unsurprisingly syrupy sweet, and smells candy sweet. In the background is a distinct bourbon and ethanol smell. The taste allows a lot of the Beam-ness to come through, and while flavored, you still know 1) there is bourbon in here, and 2) that bourbon is Beam. I appreciate that Beam did not sacrifice bourbon taste for the sake of flavor infusion. It finishes, well, like Beam and cherries. The closest thing I can compare it to is whiskey mixed with Torani blackberry syrup.

Red Stag is not a failure. I would drink it again willingly, on the right occassion. The Beam company being what it is, I'm sure there was substantial market research and all that to make the introduction of Red Stag something more than a calculated risk. I guess we'll see, and if nothing else, at least us bourbon enthusiasts have one more thing to talk about.