Published Sunday, November 01, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.

Cinnamon used to be the most basic spice in your cupboard. Now it’s gone upscale. So will a fancy brand from Vietnam costing $8 an ounce actually make baked goods taste better?

  Penzeys Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon

“Slightly smoky” and filled with complex “warm clove” and “fruity” flavors, its spiciness was “strong, yet not overpowering”; it “started mellow, then built to a spicy finish.” “I’m taken to the Far East!” raved one taster of the “warm and fragrant” flavor and aroma. When it was baked into cookies and cinnamon buns, tasters could detect “toasty” flavors and “clove and floral” aromas. It had the most volatile oil of all the cinnamons, at about 7 percent of its total weight.

Vietnam $5.45 for 1.7 ounces ($3.21 per ounce)
  Durkee Ground Cinnamon

Nearly tied with the winner, this grocery store cinnamon was “unique,” “complex,” “woodsy,” and “floral.” Tasters perceived a “finely ground texture” that “incorporated wonderfully” into food. It reminded tasters of “cloves,” “allspice,” and “nutmeg.” “Very present, but not too pungent,” its “warmth lingered in the mouth.” Its “fruity, floral” flavors were evident in the cookies and cinnamon buns.

Indonesia $3.50 for 1.75 ounces ($2 per ounce)
  Smith and Truslow Freshly Ground Organic Cinnamon

Freshly ground to order, this mail-order brand is the most expensive cinnamon in our lineup. Described as “woodsy,” “citrusy,” and “floral,” it was a favorite for a “remarkably sweet” flavor that “gradually gets hotter.”

Vietnam $26 for 3.2 ounces, four 0.8 ounce jars ($8.13 per ounce)
  Adams Ground Cinnamon

The “sweet,” “complex” flavor of this cinnamon from a Texas spice company tasted of “cardamom” and “cloves.” Described as “rather fruity,” this cinnamon was a little too “floral-tasting” for some. Others sensed a faint flavor of “Red Hots candy."

  $3.99 for 2.33 ounces ($1.71 per ounce)
  Morton & Basset Ground Cinnamon

This “warm” cinnamon had “fruity” and “honey” flavors that made it “easy on the palate.” But the “mild cinnamon taste” seemed to “wash out at the end,” leaving tasters wanting more spiciness.

Indonesia $5.19 for 2.2 ounces ($2.36 per ounce)
Recommended with Reservations
  Sauer's Ground Cinnamon

This cinnamon possessed a “peppery,” “fragrant” profile, but was “somewhat weak” with “very little heat” and tasted “more floral than spicy.” “Reminds me of my grandma’s potpourri,” commented one taster. Another asked, “Is this true cinnamon?” In sum: “Underwhelming.”

Indonesia $3.50 for 2.25 ounces ($1.56 per ounce)
Recommended with Reservations
  Spice Islands Ground Saigon Cinnamon

This “sweet and warm” cinnamon with “clove” notes was “pleasant” and “slightly smoky” with “moderate heat” and a “pronounced Red Hots candy flavor” that started strong but “faded quickly.” Some tasters noticed a “rather gritty” texture and likened it to “sawdust.” Others complained about a “medicinal flavor” and an “artificial” aftertaste.

Vietnam $4.75 for 1.9 ounces ($2.50 per ounce)
Recommended with Reservations
  McCormick Gourmet Collection Saigon Cinnamon

This cinnamon was called “quite strong” and “earthy” by some, but many tasters found it “flat,” “one-dimensional,” “ho-hum” and “generic,” like “Hot Tamales candy” that “doesn’t blow my head off.” Other tasters felt it was “harsh and bitter,” evoking “soap” or even “furniture polish.”

Vietnam $4.69 for 1.87 ounces ($2.51 per ounce)
Recommended with Reservations
  Tone's Ground Cinnamon

This “average” cinnamon was described as “muted,” “meek,” and “dull”—“simply not hot.” It initially tasted like “Big Red chewing gum” but then “really mellowed out at the finish.” Some tasters noticed a “dusty” quality. Overall, it was “run-of-the-mill” with “very little depth.”

Indonesia $6 for 8 ounces (75 cents per ounce)
Recommended with Reservations
  McCormick Ground Cinnamon

This cinnamon had a “peppery finish” and possessed a “very assertive,” “Red Hots candy” taste, but its “big cinnamon flavor” had “little complexity” that faded when baked in cookies and cinnamon buns. Some tasters detected a “gritty, dusty” texture; others found it “musty” and “stale” with a “chemical flavor and metallic finish.”

Indonesia $2.99 for 2.37 ounces ($1.26 per ounce)