Not our favorite year.
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 Jack Daniel’s barrels in a temperature controlled environment.
First Impression: Very pronounced cinnamon, followed by ginger, gentian, angustora, cardamom, caraway, scents of bitter zest of bark and citrus oils (orange?) also.
Appearance: Brown caramel/toffee color, lets you keep track of where and how much you used.
Taste: This batch seems more like their Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters than their other two- less distinctive impact. As with the first two 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 dryness. And all of them are always slightly sweeter and a good bit more complex than Angostura Brand bitters with cinnamon, gentian, cassia, quinine, etc. Nice lingering finish drying finish with fair amount of gentian and other bitter alkali herbs. Cinnamon is a touch much more aromatic, vanilla and orange / citrus are a bit more pronounced than batch one and two.
TASTING ROUND UP:
Batch One (2007) is earthier with more angustora and bitter herbs with citrus on nosing, more bitter on tasting.
Batch Two (2008) is more subdued (and the most subdued of the three) 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.
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.
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,with the brown shading extending into the Fee Brothers logo. Drawings of upright barrels below the Fee Brothers logo. Black colored shrink wrap around the top and neck. Screw cap as opposed to flip top closure found on some of their other bitters.
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 4, (2010), and Whiskey Barrel Aged 5 (2011)
Final Thoughts: Frankly we are a touch disappointed with this release compared to the others. It seems to have somewhat less of the whiskey barrel influence than the last two, and more like the Old Fashioned with some nuances. It does not seem to be as distinct in character as the other two in terms of differentiation. That being said, it is an interesting addition to any cocktailian’s bar supplies and as a new addition to the series, a must have for most cocktail mavens.