More cinnamon flavor forward than the previous releases – which is saying something.
Notes: Fee Brothers has been in business since April 1,1864 in Rochester, New York. Along with being one of the few remaining manufacturers of bitters, they also are one of the largest bar mixes and supply firms in the U.S. and produce flavorings and syrups for coffee shops, restaurants, etc. It actually contains real angostura bark unlike Angostura Brand Bitters. Like the difference between a regular pastis and absinthe, the small addition of a original ingredient, can make a huge difference. Aged in Jim Beam barrels (14 in all) in a temperature controlled environment.
Appearance: Slightly darker color this year – even more brown and a touch more red and closer to the brown caramel/toffee color of the first 3 batchs/years.
First Impression: An even more pronounced cinnamon – even more than the last 2 years, it is the primary s scent that almost overwhelms the others until you push past it. It then evinces a few more ingredients; ginger, gentian, angustora, cardamom, caraway, scents of bitter zest of bark and citrus oils (orange ?, grapefruit? ) also. Seems to have some angostura brand clove components and also some vague familiarity to Peychauds.
Taste: As with the first five releases a touch sweeter than the Old Fashioned Aromatic with some oak pepper / char elements with hints of vanilla with a very nice gentian and angostura bark dryness. All of them are always slightly sweeter and a good bit more complex than Angostura Brand bitters ( and with far less of the clove signature of Angostura) with cinnamon, gentian, cassia, quinine, etc. Nice lingering finish drying finish with fair amount of gentian and other bitter alkali herbs. This years whiskey barrel choice seems to leave a bit more char and wood components than the previous batches with less whiskey sweetness and vanillin’s. Cinnamon is much more aromatic, vanilla and orange / citrus are a bit less pronounced than batch one, two, three, and to a lesser degree batches four and five, reminding again of the Rebel Yell Cinnamon bourbon liqueur (anyone else remember that stuff? ) as the cinnamon rather overshadows many of the other elements leaving it a touch unbalanced compared to past efforts. However if you are looking for a real angustora bark containing barrel aged bitters this is your only option.
TASTING ROUND UP: Batch One (2007) is earthier with more angustora and bitter herbs with citrus on nosing, more bitter on tasting. Note: 2 Barrels – Jack Daniels. Batch Two (2008) is more subdued (and the most subdued of the six) with more clove and bark with ginger sweetness and zest . Batch Three (2009) has a lot more cinnamon and cassia notes, with a good deal of quinine-like notes for finish. Note: 4 barrels – Jack Daniels in a temperature controlled environment. Batch Four (2010) Very pronounced cinnamon, followed by ginger, gentian, angustora, cardamom, caraway, scents of bitter zest of bark and citrus oils (orange?) also and cloves, vague familiarity to Peychauds. Note: 8 barrels – Jack Daniels. Batch Five (2011) This batch is very cinnamon forward – more so than any previous release. Note: Woodford Reserve /Labrot Graham barrels (10 in all) in a temperature controlled environment.
Drinks: This bitters can be used in the large number of drinks recipes calling for bitters (unless another type is specified) or for baking and cooking. Also great to add to mineral water as a simple drink – I call it an “adult” soda. Please note that in classic cocktail books when the term bitters is used with no type given ( such as orange or Peychauds bitters) they usually mean an angostura type. More modern books may specify the Angostora BRAND which is quite different in taste from the older varieties that actually contain Angustora bark ( among many others spices) and much more clove forward in taste.
Bottle: Simple paper wrapped clear glass bottle, with a screw cap closure. It is distinguished from the other bottles by the simple black color of the printing with slightly darker brown accents at the shoulders in the script work, without the brown shading extending into the Fee Brothers logo (logo area has no shading). Drawings of upright barrels below the Fee Brothers logo with reverse printing or negative of the label. in previous editions the printing was black on wrapper, now it is reversed and the letters are outlined /surrounded by black ink. Logo is about 1/2 between size of 2007 and 2010 bottles, with darkest shading yet above logo and some shading below. Other differences to label are the words “cocktail flavoring” added below the word bitters, black band is slightly larger to accommodate this, and the barrel graphic are larger and actually touch the edges of the Fee Brothers logo. Further the addition of the ingredients of two dyes (red and yellow ) to the ingredients listBlack colored shrink wrap around the top and neck. Screw cap as opposed to flip top closure found on some of their other bitters. For a photo of some of the previous line up click here: Whiskey Aged Bottles Line Up
Other: Other varieties of bitters include: Aztec Chocolate, Cherry, Celery,Cranberry, Grapefruit, Lemon, Mint, Old Fashioned Aromatic (Angostura),(West Indian) Orange, Peach, Plum, Rhubarb, Black Walnut , and the others of the Whisky Barrel series : Whiskey Barrel Aged 1 (2007) , Whiskey Barrel Aged 2 (2008), Whiskey Barrel Aged 3 (2009), Whiskey Barrel Aged 4, (2010) and Whiskey Barrel Aged Batch 5
Final Thoughts: A touch disappointing that the cinnamon content is still very much higher than I would personally like to taste. That being said it is still one of the few whiskey barrel (or any barrel) aged bitters out there and can be a pivotal and distinctive ingredient in a cocktail .