What It Is: Darius Rucker’s new Backstage Southern Whiskey
Who Tried It: Rennie Dyball, Senior News Editor
Why We Tried It: Um … why wouldn’t we?
Level of Difficulty: 0
When Darius Rucker was just starting out as a solo country artist, I was invited to attend a very small show he was putting on in N.Y.C. Maybe 200 fans, tops. If that wasn’t special enough, my husband John and I went backstage to meet “D” and join the ceremonial group whiskey shot with him and his band to kick off the show. It’s a longstanding tradition for Rucker (also the frontman for Hootie & the Blowfish, who penned a song titled “Whiskey and You,” it’s worth noting) to bring good luck for each show. I never forgot his congeniality and that fantastic, intimate performance in the city.
So when I had the chance to sample Rucker’s Backstage Whiskey and review it for PEOPLE, I jumped at the chance. There was just one problem: What do I know about whiskey? My experience with the spirit is pretty much limited to when Jack Daniel’s shows up at tailgates and ill-advised late-night shots.
Luckily, my husband John knows his way around the whiskey section of the liquor store a whole lot better than I do. What follows is our tasting session. Also known as: Hot date night at the kitchen counter after the kids are in bed.
Opening the bottle and smelling for the “notes” (we did a wine tour in Sonoma years ago and it ruined us forever) …
John: A little bit of licorice I think, which is a little strange.
Rennie: A little spicy. And fire.
John: No! Like moonshine.
Rennie: I think it smells like fire … Okay, now I think it smells nice. Maybe a little cinnamon.
John: Sure. Cinnamon.
Rennie: You don’t get the cinnamon?
Rennie: It smells smoky right? Smoky, cinnamon, maybe a little licorice.
John: I’m telling you, I get a tiny bit of licorice.
Rennie: I like it. Tastes way better than it smells.
John: Oh! Little bit of honey.
Rennie: (Rolls eyes but tries again) Actually, yeah!
John: There’s smokiness, there’s honey …
Rennie: (totally joking now) Cloves …
Rennie: Really? I was just saying random things.
John: No, that’s the smell that I was looking for!
Rennie: Oh, okay.
John: Let’s see what happens when we add an ice cube because that usually changes it.
(An ice cube is added to each glass)
Rennie: What are you getting?
John: See how it changes it?
Rennie: Not really. I like it better without the ice.
John: I get more of an oaky taste with the ice added.
Rennie: I think I’m a little drunk.
WATCH: You’ve Got to Hear Darius Rucker’s Forrest Gump Impression
Final thoughts from John…
“I like the bottle. There’s nothing fancy about it, and it reminds me a little bit of a Buffalo Trace bottle, which makes me happy because I like Buffalo Trace. It’s a cork top but it’s a plastic cork. I don’t know if that has any impact on how awesome the whiskey is.”
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“Looking at the color, it’s definitely a darker whiskey and that makes me excited. Because a darker whiskey, there’s more joy in it. I think it’s a deeper brown with a little touch of red in it. If you pour this right next to a Jack Daniel’s, you can see this one is much darker. It tastes good neat, and even better with a little ice.”
The verdict: From a man who knows his whiskey, this one is a hit. And from a woman whose first choice in adult beverages is typically Chardonnay, Backstage Whiskey is definitely worth a try. Even if nothing will top drinking it with Rucker himself.
Backstage Whiskey is available now ($28.99) in South Carolina and Tennessee and will soon be rolling out nationwide. Rucker’s bourbon brand, Forbidden, is in the works next.