Trepidation was Wine Spectator's Jack Bettridge's first reaction to flavored whiskey. Five years ago, Jim Beam's master distiller, Fred Noe, asked him to taste what was then the company's newest product: Red Stag, a Bourbon infused with black cherry flavor. Even the seventh-generation distiller was a bit sheepish, acknowledging that the concept was probably foreign to his purist whiskey leanings. But he urged Jack to try it anyway. Not wanting to seem snobbish, he agreed, even while secretly assuming he'd be sampling something akin to cough syrup. The first sip didn't horrify him—not a ringing endorsement, he'll admit. It would do in a pinch. But it wasn't until the cocktails started to flow that he finally got it.
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