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Old Forester Smoked Cinnamon Bitters

Bitter(s) Review: Old Forester Smoked Cinnamon Bitters   (88/100)
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka The Rum Howler)
Published March 4, 2019

Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the longest continuously produced Bourbon in the retail market today having begun production in 1870. Additionally it was the first bourbon sold exclusively in sealed bottles. As well as making whiskey, Old Forester produces a line-up of what they call ‘cocktail provisions’ which includes a two syrups, a tincture and three brands of Cocktail Bitters.

Their Smoked Cinnamon Bitters were apparently inspired by Old Forester Master Taster, Jackie Zykan’s paternal matriarchs. As related on the company website,

My grandmother’s den always had a faint smell of sooty, wood burning fireplace. She used to make “whiskey cookies” every Christmas (which were just baking spice packed fruit cake cookies she added a generous helping of whiskey to), which as a child made you feel like you were getting away with something by being allowed to have one.

According to the ingredients list on the bottle, the bitters contain Old Forester Bourbon, Black Tea Cherries, Cedar Smoked Cinnamon, Wild Cherry Bark, Gentian Root and Clove.

The bitters arrive in a 2 oz black medicine-dropper bottle which gives the bitters a bit of a medicinal look, which is in keeping with the tradition of bitters originally being produced as an herbal remedy for upset stomach. I like these medicine dropper bottles as bitters are very flavourful and being able to control the output of the bottle to a single drop at a time is very handy.

When I put a couple drops on my tongue it was easy to taste the smoky cinnamon flavour which was accented by clove, There was quite a bitter backbone to the flavour which I suspect was a combination of the gentian root and the wild cherry bark as this bitterness carries a similar flavour to wood tannin.

As I tasted the bitters, I immediately thought not of bourbon which these bitters appear to be designed to complement, but rather I thought of aged rum. In fact the first cocktail I created with Old Forester Smoked Cinnamon Bitters was a Rum Old Fashioned with Smoked Cinnamon Bitters made with Rum Nation’s 7 Year Old Cask Strength Reunion Rum (see recipe below). This is because woody smoke, cinnamon and cloves are flavour descriptors I often encounter in aged rum and highlighting those flavours in an Old Fashioned cocktail is definately a good thing to do. These are also postive flavour descriptors encountered in good bourbon so the same line of thinking would lead me to strongly suspect the bitters will work very well with both spirits.

I am not so confident that the Smoked Cinnamon Bitters would be as ideal for lighter Canadian Whiskies, or for unpeated Scotch. Peated Scotch on the other hand is worth a solid look. I didn’t have time to experiment with all of these spirits, but I did have time to try two other recipes, a Smoked Cinnamon Bourbon Buckeroo, and a Rum and Cola with Smoked Cinnamon Bitters. All recipes were great and I have shared two of them below.

Old Forester Smoked Cinnamon Bitters are a great compliment to my home bar. Even if the peated scotch pairing doesn’t work out as well as I suspect it will, the flavour enhancement the bitters give to aged rum and bourbon cocktails are more than enough reason to own them.

My final score is 88/100!

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Suggested Recipes

Rum Old Fashioned with Smoked Cinnamon Bitters

1 1/2 oz Rum Nation Cask Strength Reunion Rum
1 tsp Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
4 drops Old Forester Smoked Cinnamon Bitters
3 large Ice Cubes
Strip of Orange Peel

Add the three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Add orange peel and stir
Allow the cocktail to sit a few minutes so that the flavours can mingle

Enjoy Responsibly!

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Smoked Cinnamon Bourbon Buckeroo

1 1/2 oz Old Forester Bourbon
3 drops Old Forester Smoked Cinnamon Bitters
Ice
3 oz Cola
Slice of Lime for garnish

Rub the rim of a standard rocks glass or highball glass with lime
Fill with the glass with ice
Add Bourbon and bitters, then fill with Coca Cola
Stir Lightly and garnish with a lime slice

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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You may (loosely) interpret the scores I provide as follows:

0-50 A concoction which if it doesn’t kill you will make you very ill indeed!
50-59 Not deadly, but not really useful either.
60-69 Limited appeal but useful for some cocktail styles.
70-79 Useful and versatile
80-89 Excellent/bold flavour enhancement for a variety of cocktails
90-94 A must-have addition to your home bar
95+ Turns your cocktail into the Elixir of the Gods!

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:

70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal
90 – 95 Gold Medal
95.5+ Platinum Award

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