By Jake Emen
FEW Spirits is based in Evanston, Illinois, just north of the north side of Chicago, along the western shores of Lake Michigan. Chicago has a rich, well-known heritage in terms of whiskey and the Prohibition era and FEW takes its name somewhat ironic name from the initials of Frances Elizabeth Willard. This Evanston resident played a prominent role not only in the suffrage movement, but (like many women activists of her day) was also instrumental with the temperance movement. Willard made Evanston the home of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
Evanston was a natural home for a temperance league, as it was founded as a dry community and remained so over 100 years, from 1858 until 1972, when restaurants and hotels were finally allowed to serve liquor. It took more than another decade, until 1984, until retail stores were allowed to sell the stuff. Come 2011, Paul Hletko launched FEW. Take that, Frances!
FEW’s basked of spirits includes a gin, a white whiskey, a rye whiskey and a bourbon, in addition to periodic limited editions such as their single malt whiskey. The bourbon became one of the constituents of the Four Kings collaboration blend that attracted so much attention last month.
FEW Bourbon Whiskey is aged less than four years in charred new oak barrels from Minnesota. The Minnesota oak is younger due to a shorter growth season, thereby offering a tighter grain than normal cooperage timber, changing the aging dynamic somewhat. F.E.W. distills their bourbon from a mashbill of 70% corn, 20% rye and 10% two-row malt to 67.5% ABV and barrels it at 57.5% ABV, before ultimately bottling it at 46.5% ABV (93 proof).
In the glass, FEW Bourbon is a deep copper in color. On the nose, you get notes from each component of its three-grain mash bill. There’s a malty sweetness with caramel and vanilla, as well as a strong rye spice, and a woody accent. On the palate, FEW Bourbon starts dry and rather spicy, with tastes of wood and a bit of pepper. Some sweetness soon kicks in with malt, caramel and molasses. There’s a long, rather warm finish, with the spice and wood lingering behind.
Add some ice and you’ll notice that the corn becomes prominent for the first time, with much reduced spiciness, although the wood remains. The long, warm finish is replaced with a quick finish of malt and corn.
Costs vary for F.E.W. Bourbon, with online listings for a 750 ml bottle ranging from $49.99 to nearly $80. If you’re based in the U.S., however, you shouldn’t spend more than $50 or $55 for a bottle.
Note: This review was based on batch 5/14, bottle #108, barrel #13-339.