Jim Beam has been quite savvy when it comes to innovating their way into a trend. Jim Beam Red Stag was a major leap into the flavored whiskey space at a time when flavored whiskeys were just starting to take off. Beam has continued to leverage the Red Stag brand to try out new flavor combinations that may be complementary to their base whiskey. As a whole, Red Stag has been a little hit or miss with their flavor combinations, finding great success with their popular Red Stag Black Cherry and Spiced Cinnamon but less so with Honey Tea. Jim Beam has again expanded their Red Stag line with Red Stag Hardcore Cider, an offering aimed at jumping on the surging market for hard cider, which has seen a number big brands, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, who own Stella Artois Cidre, making major moves into the space.
Red Stag Hardcore Cider (80 proof / 40% ABV, $17.99) has a distinctive apple note to the nose. While the apple note isn’t as artificial as Red Stag Cherry, it doesn’t quite capture fresh, crisp apple. The apple note in the nose is much more akin to concentrated instant apple cider. There’s also a sweet undertone to the nose giving it a slight candied apple note. The entry of Hardcore Cider is sweet apple cider, but again, more like instant packet apple cider than fresh pressed. The entry is so solidly apple and sugar you wouldn’t know that Hardcore Cider is 80 proof. In the midpalate, Red Stag Hardcore Cider does pick up some spice and a little heat from the base whiskey, but it’s difficult to pick out many more of the flavor characteristics from the base Jim Beam. The finish is sweet and long with the apple cider concentrate lingering on the palate for a very, very long time.
While Red Stag Hardcore Cider may not be as artificial tasting as some of the other entries in the Red Stag line, it is very sweet. This sweetness not only supports the apple flavors, it really defines the spirit. The sweetness also does a fantastic job of covering up the proof of this spirit, making it incredibly easy to knock back several shots without realizing just how much alcohol you’ve consumed. While we didn’t strongly dislike Red Stag Hardcore Cider, it’s cloying sweetness did really turn us off. With so much sugar, Hardcore Cider loses any crisp or dry qualities that we look for with cider flavors, which could have been easily captured with a better finish. Having said that, so many flavored spirits have been coming in under-proofed lately, so we’re pleased to see that Jim Beam continues to deliver their Red Stag products at 40%.
How much you like Red Stag Hardcore Cider will greatly depend on how much of a sweet tooth you have. If you’re looking for a sweet apple flavored spirit which still packs the punch of a full whiskey, then Red Stag Hardcore Cider might be for you. For whiskey drinkers looking for balance of whiskey flavors in their whiskey, then this release won’t be for you.