As you might have noticed, I have been on a bit of a rum kick lately. Rereading Fred Minnick's wonderful book on the subject while on a cruise ship in the Carribean surrounded by tasty rum (and even some tasty rum drinks) will do that to you.
My favorite rum drink that I had on the trip was a Rum Old Fashioned. They used a spice-infused rum and house-made bitters in the drink (no I'm not trying to be fancy, it was Bacardi 8-year-old rum which the bartenders had infused with spices, not Capt. Morgan or its ilk). When I got home, I knew that I needed to try to reproduce this drink at home. What I landed on was a lot easier than infusing rum with spices. All I did was use a bitters that replicated the experience.
In this case, that bitters was Woodford Reserve Sassafras and Sorghum Bitters. I'd had this particular bottle on hand for quite a while. In fact, it was long enough that I had forgotten I had it. And so I did what any geek would do when I realized that something I had on hand forever was something I really enjoyed. I went looking to find more.
When I got to the website, I found they had a few varieties. I wasn't going to buy five more bottles of bitters without trying them, but luckily they had a five pack of small bottles that would allow me to figure out if the rest of their varieties were any good. Here are my impressions. I used each of them in an Old Fashioned.
Woodford Reserve Barrel Aged Bitters by Bourbon Barrel Foods
Purchase Info: $25 from BourbonBarrelFoods.com
General Thoughts: These are all highly aromatic. The tiny bottles are kind of hard to use without making a mess (as seen in the photo above) but if you progress to a large bottle, they have a dropper in the cap to minimize the mess.
Aromatic Bitters: Pretty basic aromatic bitters flavor profile. Nicely spicy and works very well with bourbon. It's a nice replacement for other Aromatic bitters if you want to move away from Angostura or support a small business.
Sassafras and Sorghum Bitters: This one has a lot of baking spice flavors. It feels sweeter and richer than the aromatic and works very well with both bourbon and rum.
Orange Bitters: Very potent. There is a lot of orange flavor, but not a lot of spiciness. This isn't my favorite Orange Bitters. It works fine, but I'd want to use it mixed with the Aromatic to give it more bitter and spice notes.
Chocolate Bitters: Chocolate and nutty. Overpowers the Old Fashioned but has a nice spiciness on the back end. I'd use this sparingly. I'm not sure that an Old Fashioned is the right drink for this.
Spiced Cherry Bitters: This is named very accurately. Very spicy upfront with perfumed cherry flavors appearing on the back end. This is tasty, but if perfume notes bother you, think about passing on it. I thought it actually worked nicely alongside the chocolate bitters to make a chocolate covered cherry Old Fashioned.
Woodford Reserve Bourbon Cherries by Bourbon Barrel Foods
I just happened to notice these this past weekend while wandering the aisles at Total Wine and thought I might as well grab them to toss into here as well.
Purchase Info: $14.99 at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN. They are also available from BourbonBarrelFoods.com for $16.
Thoughts: The syrup is richly cherry flavored and very sweet. Not a lot of spice here. The cherries themselves are sweet but are a bit tough without the crisp snap of ones I made at home. They work well if, like me, you've run out of the homemade ones and they are a huge step up from the glowing red ones you find in most supermarkets.
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