Following the growing trend of flavored whiskies, Red Stag Honey Tea and Red Stag Spiced are two of the newest releases from Jim Beam, hitting shelves last month. They join an increasingly crowded array of other whiskey liqueurs such as Evan Williams Honey Reserve and Wild Turkey American Honey. For the Red Stag spirits, Jim Beam starts with their classic four-year aged bourbon and infuses it with either spices or honey and tea leaves. Flavored bourbons aren’t for everyone, but some argue that they do make a good starting point for a drinker looking to transition to whiskey. They also offer some interesting flavors that can mingle well in mixed drinks.
Red Stag Honey Tea
This 80-proof bourbon has bit of a burn up front, followed by a strong honey aftertaste that is syrupy and thick. The tea flavor doesn’t really come through noticeably, perhaps overshadowed by the more powerful honey taste, which also hides most of the actual bourbon flavor in this spirit. Overall, the taste is extremely sweet, without a backbone of texture. Theoretically, both honey and tea flavors should work well with bourbon, but the combination creates a somewhat muddied spirit. Adding seltzer water and some ice did improves the taste considerably, and the liqueur would mix well with ginger ale or make an interesting addition to a mint julep.
Red Stag Spiced
The Spiced bourbon, also weighing in at 80 proof, is a lot more pleasant than the Honey Tea. The cinnamon notes are dominant in this spirit, with spicy flavors similar to Red Hots, without being too sweet or candy-like. Like the Honey Tea, the flavors end up overpowering the actual taste of whiskey. However, this bourbon is more effective at balancing the infused flavors with the booze itself. This spirit is suitable for drinking on the rocks or as a substitution for regular whiskey in an old-fashioned or a manhattan.
Overall, these whiskies are very sweet and overpower any strong flavors of the bourbon, which is perhaps the point. These aren’t necessarily bourbons for die-hard bourbon fans, but could help lure those who don’t love the taste of whiskey away from other more popular but less flavorful spirits. Of the two new Red Stag infused bourbons, the Spiced is probably the most successful. The cinnamon and spices will blend nicely in mixed drinks and don’t totally overpower all the bourbon notes, so it also can stand alone over rocks. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re whiskey-curious or a non-traditional whiskey drinker
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