The flavored whiskey category continues to see growth and enthusiasm among new whiskey drinkers who are looking for something softer and sweeter than traditional American whiskey. Southern Comfort is one of the original flavored whiskeys, and they’ve been putting a lot of effort into being a part of the resurging category. Their last effort, Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper, missed the mark, but, undeterred, Southern Comfort is back with another stab at the space with Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry.
Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry (35%, 70 proof) is called bold cherry for a reason – the nose is dominated by a big powdered cherry note, more like a Dr. Brown’s Cherry Soda than fresh cherries. The cherry notes are so strong in the nose it’s hard to smell anything else. The entry is sweet and thick with strong cherry soda flavor. The strong cherry notes are backed by Southern Comfort’s signature peach, honey, and subtle oak. As we get to the mid palate, it’s a bit of a collision of flavors that don’t come together very well. The idea of cherry and whiskey is a great one, but cherry and peach just doesn’t work. The mix of flavors in the mid palate comes off very medicinal, reminiscent of children’s cherry cough syrup. There’s a little heat that comes in at the end of the mid palate, and like the flavors it feels a little forced. The finish is long, but not in a good way, with the cherry flavor petering into something that tastes fairly artificial and chemical. Missing in the mix is whiskey: Southern Comfort was invented as a flavored whiskey, but the modern interpretation has dropped much of the original whiskey influence. It would have been great to resurrect the whiskey notes in Southern Comfort here.
It’s clear that Southern Comfort has positioned their Bold Back Cherry to be served with Coke (they even sent a bottle of Coke Zero along with the bottle of booze). Mixed with Coke Zero (at a 4 to 1 ratio, Coke to Southern Comfort), the result is unfortunately displeasing. Rather than getting an alcoholic cherry Coke, you get the same collision of cherry, peach, and oak – notes that just don’t fit well together even when you add the vanilla of the Coke to the mix.
Honestly, it’s pretty hard to clash with Coke, which is one of the most affable whiskey/spirit mixers, and yet somehow Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry manages to do just that. For one reason or another (perhaps memories of good times spent with Southern Comfort in college), we really want to root for Southern Comfort. Unfortunately, it’s clear they’ve completely lost their direction with it. A cherry flavored whiskey could work, but it needs to be done with a more natural flavoring profile and a stronger presence of whiskey flavors. The flavor collision here simply doesn’t work, and while Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry isn’t nearly as bad as the Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper, it’s pretty close.