Friends for over 30 years, Mike Ryan, an engineer and businessman, and Joe D. Bakker II, a lawyer and retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who was an Artillery Officer and a Judge Advocate, decided to create Semper Fi Brands. With their direct and indirect military backgrounds, their slogan, “Go big or go home” represents their attitude to their whiskey business. Their Big Stick Bourbon, an homage to President Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far,” does just that. A charred American white oak stave is included inside each bottle.
Many bourbon drinkers have a love-hate relationship with oak staves in their whiskey bottles. A few years ago, it was a popular fad to insert your own oak stave, but it was quick to pass as drinkers realized the diminishing returns of said practice. It’s hard not to come into Big Stick Bourbon without thinking about it, but in the end, the bourbon ultimately will speak for itself.
Immediately you’re taken aback at how approachable this bourbon is. Having a stave soaking in the bottle doesn’t make this an over-oaked or overly charred bottle of bourbon (at least not yet anyways). Instead, the bourbon includes many more flavor notes I’m not used to tasting with a given bottle of bourbon. I had a good deal of fun with it and I can see how many casual bourbon drinkers would get a big kick out of it. To more experienced whiskey drinkers, it will come off tasting a bit more like a finished bourbon, albeit only slightly-finished. Yet, it’s very approachable in the end, but I do wonder what it will taste like if you end up with a bottle that’s been sitting on the shelf for some time. Without bottling dates being present, there’s no way to really know either.