I do love my Kentucky bourbons. It's not unexpected, I grew up in the shadows of the Commonwealth's most prominent distilleries. I acquired a taste for this uniquely American spirit early on - and cultivate it to this day.

Before you foray into the dark spirits aisle, you do need some training, young one.

* All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. Tennessee whiskey (like Jack Daniels)? Not bourbon. Canadian whiskey? Nope. Scotch? Definitely not bourbon... you get the idea.

* The only thing that can be added to bourbon is water (and only to bring it down to proof). Other whiskey makers can add colors and flavors to their products.

* Whiskey can age in re-used barrels. By law, bourbon must use new charred American white oak barrels. Scotch whiskey often recycles barrels first used for bourbon.

* It can't say "bourbon" on the label if it's not distilled in the United States. And it can't be "Kentucky Bourbon" unless it's distilled in Kentucky.

I love the rich notes of caramel and vanilla, the hints of oakiness and the subtle tones of old leather, cigar smoke and ever so occasionally a bit of fruit.

Which brings me to today's review of Red Stag by Jim Beam. The legendary distiller has veered from its path of old school Kentucky bourbons, which also includes Knob Creek and Basil Hayden labels, to introduce this Kentucky Straight Bourbon infused with black cherry.

To me, this newcomer to the bourbon lineup walks a lot like Wild Turkey's American Honey liqueur, but Red Stag is not labeled as such. Still, American Honey fans - and I am one - will likely find similar occasions to serve Red Stag.

I was delighted to catch the smell of bourbon when I nosed the glass and even more thrilled to discover the cherry flavor was even more subtle than the honey in Wild Turkey's product. It is smooth, warm and pleasingly sweet.

I enjoyed mine straight over cracked ice - the 80 proof spirit goes down easier than its 100-plus proof cousins. Add a little orange bitters for a quick Manhattan-like cocktail and combine it with your favorite bourbon mixer. Adventurous cooks should find lots of uses - I'm thinking a little hit in chocolate brownies would rock!

New on the beer aisle

Athens-based craft brewer Terrapin Beer Co. is about to release its sixth side project, a Scotch Ale dubbed 90 Shelling, a play on the Scots' habit of referring to this brew as "90 Shilling."

Terrapin's Brew Master Brian "Spike" Buckowski has crafted a deliciously malty rendition of the classic - and its limited release in Georgia should sell out quickly.

Less than a dozen cases of 22 oz. bottles will likely hit shelves in Savannah - and the boys at The Distillery told me they expect to get a couple of kegs..

Email Tim at savannahfoodie@comcast.net





About The Author

Tim Rutherford

Tim Rutherford

Tim Rutherford grew up in rural Kentucky – then left home to pursue more than three decades as a photojournalist and newsman. A ground-breaking meal in New Orleans in 1979 set him on a path exploring food and wine. Six years ago he changed career paths – now spending his time writing about the people and places... more

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