Felice Bisleri & Co. of Milan
920ml, 25% ABV, 1933
Few, if any, Italian bitters have such a fascinating story and visionary behind them. Born in Gerolanuova, in eastern Lombardy, in 1851 Felice Bisleri lead a fascinating life starting at age 15 when in 1866, with the outbreak of the third war of independence, he ran away from home to enlist in the Volunteer Corps of Giuseppe Garibaldi Italian involved in the invasion of Trentino.
He was awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor for his actions at the Battle of Bezzecca in July of 1866, where he continued fighting despite being injured. While the true unification of Italy didn’t occur til after the First World War Felice departed military service after the capture of Rome in 1871. Returning to Lombardy, still yet 20 years old, he settled in Milan and began to try his hand at a number of jobs before settling in the field of pharmaceutical chemistry.
He married in 1875 and took over a modest shop that was equiped with a basic chemical laboratory. An avid reader he was self educated in his field and in 1878 he had distilled a bitter beverage tonic that eventually became Ferro-China. Thanks to his tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit, in some ways a precursor of the times, he was able to brand and offically market his product by 1881 and eventually left his shop for a large facility at Via Solair, 11 Milano (a building that exisists to this very day though long since converted into apartments).
While he created a number of other medicinal compounds, as well as authoring a number of important paper and books, Felice remained best known for the China. The addition of iron salts is what differentiated his from the slew of chinas produced at that time in Italy (French chemist Joseph Caventou never patented his method of chinchona extraction in 1870). The flavor profile is deep and intense, still blossoming with red fruit components and the soft earthy bitters so many people favor in aged China.
Lighter in body then the majority of its former competitors its elegance is reinforced by a mild copper penny, metallic and blood like finish. The tactile sensation on the palate is worth exploring this bottle alone. The formula of Ferro-China Bisleri had been passed down through the generations, but by the early 2000s there was a void in consumption prevailed and it was later sold.