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A cherry bourbon? That ain't Jim Beam ... err, but it is, discovers Don Kavanagh.

Don Kavanagh has been involved in the hospitality trade for more than 25 years and is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

I've had something of a love affair with America for many years now. It's hardly surprising - I was virtually raised by US television shows, music and movies, developing a possibly unhealthy interest in the sort of orthodontically perfect girls I found there.

These days my American romance tends to involve bourbon rather than girls with dazzling smiles and big hair, which is probably a small mercy.


Bourbon in this country almost always means Jim Beam. Sure, there are other great whiskys from America available here, but with almost 70 per cent of the market, Beam white label is virtually unassailable as market leader.

So it's interesting to see the company bring out a new product that virtually runs against the grain of everything it's done in the last 200-odd years. Red Stag is bourbon-based, all right and recognisably so, but it's also infused with cherries.

Now when you consider that Beam has carefully tended its reputation as being traditional, old, handcrafted and all the rest, the introduction of a cherry infusion is very surprising. But not as surprising as the taste - it's really good.

When I first opened it all I could think of was Southern Comfort, but it's not like that at all. It's got a very sweet nose and there is a real blast of cherry flavour on the palate, but it's also 40 per cent alcohol and a well-made spirit.

It's a fantastic drink and you can expect to see it cropping up in cocktail bars near you any day now.

Infusions aren't unknown in bourbon circles, but this is the first one I've come across that is widely available.

But it won't replace straight bourbon as one of my favourite drinks. There is something welcoming and reassuring about that lovely blast of sweet vanilla, hazelnut and caramel that drifts out of a glass of bourbon. It's as perfect a reflection of its place of origin as single malt is of Scotland.

Its sweetness comes from the corn that makes up most of the mash and from the white oak barrels it matures in; and like most Americans I have met, it has a generosity of spirit (pardon the pun) and an approachability that appeals.


Americans may have some hard questions to answer over such issues as global bullying, George W Bush and the woeful remake of the Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, but as long as they keep making bourbon I'll always love them.