Spirits & Liqueurs Liqueur

Red Stag by Jim Beam Review

Is this a whiskey? Technically, no. Is it good? Also no.

Red Stag by Jim Beam bottle

Liquor.com / Laura Sant

liquor.com rating:

This bourbon-infused black cherry liqueur is packaged like a whiskey, but its fruity, medicinal flavor and viscous texture are far from what drinkers might expect.

Fast Facts

Classification cherry liqueur infused with bourbon
Company Beam Suntory
Distillery Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)
Cask new charred American oak
Still Type column with a pot doubler
Released 2009
Proof 65 (32.5% ABV)
Aged no age statement
MSRP $18

  • A starter “whiskey” for newbies who may find straight bourbon too strong

  • At 32.5% ABV, it’s suitable for mixing in low-proof cocktails.

  • The bottle, bearing the Jim Beam name and its distinctive shape, will lead consumers to believe Red Stag is something approaching a bourbon, when its flavor resembles anything but.

Tasting Notes

Color: Light golden amber—essentially the color of a youngish bourbon. Is it natural or artificial? Jim Beam doesn’t say.

Nose: Very sweet and artificial, resembling cherry candy (a tasty cherry candy, to be fair) more than an alcoholic spirit

Palate: Is it a bourbon? Is it a liqueur? Judging from the ultra-viscous mouthfeel and medicinal, artificial flavor, it's decidedly the latter. 

Finish: The slightest hint of alcohol on the swallow, followed by a lingering sugary, slightly medicinal aftertaste

Our Review

According to the label on Red Stag's bottle, the liquid inside is a black cherry liqueur infused with Jim Beam’s bourbon, and according to the brand’s “sell sheet,” it’s a bourbon with natural cherry flavors. Contradicting claims aside, Red Stag does not contain the minimum 80 proof to qualify as a whiskey—and is likely the worse for it.

Interestingly, the liqueur launched with a proof of 80, but in 2015 Jim Beam lowered it to 70, and since then has further watered it down to 65. A look at the consumer reviews on the brand’s website, many of which long for a return to 80 proof, seems to indicate that many drinkers feel the liqueur's enjoyability has declined along with the ABV.

If the category to which Red Stag belongs is in question, one thing is clear: Red Stag is not a good representative of either one. It doesn’t taste like bourbon, nor does it resemble a liqueur like Cherry Heering. Red Stag is meant to be consumed chilled, but this does little to improve its flavor. In a highball with ginger ale or cola, the medicinal notes come through more than the cherry, and it would take an electron microscope to detect any whiskey flavor.

Jim Beam recommends drinking it mixed with cola or blended with iced tea and lemonade; neither one renders a particularly enjoyable drink. Perhaps the former 80-proof version was better, but in its current formulation, Red Stag simply doesn’t work. Even flavored-whiskey fans are unlikely to be satisfied by this bottle.

Interesting Fact

Red Stag was released in 2009, making it one of the very first of a crop of flavored whiskeys, including Fireball and Screwball, that have carved out a sizable and growing niche in the spirits market.

The Bottom Line

Red Stag, a bourbon-infused black cherry liqueur that attempts to bridge two categories while belonging to neither, is likely to leave even flavored-whiskey fans unsatisfied.