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- Brand: FEW Spirits
- ABV: 46.5%
The FEW Spirits Distillery, just north of Chicago in the posh suburb of Evanston, was ironically named for temperance leader Frances Elizabeth Willard. In their short history, they’ve produced a line of craft spirits, including bourbon, rye, gin, and white whiskey. I’ve previously reviewed their rye, which evolved into an excellent fruity warmer after a few months’ bottle time tamed some roughness.
FEW released their first single-malt whisky (spelled without the “e”) recently. First impressions were that it’s among the best young whiskies I’ve tasted, and an additional month in the bottle has helped smooth out some (if not all) of the spirity youth. The barley was smoked with cherry wood, which may have been a bit of creative jiggery to add some jowls and wrinkles to this kid, but the end result warms your innards like a confectionary oven. Aging, which likely met the three-year requirement by at least an hour, was undertaken in FEW’s own ex-bourbon and ex-rye casks. A little less young, boozy burn would push this one into the 90s.
Nose: Astoundingly thick, vegetal, and smoky-sweet. Hot cherry pie and black coffee dominate at first. A few drops of water and a few minutes’ time reveal burnt honey, chocolate, malt, almonds, asparagus, mustard, and a few traces of leather and pickled herring. Earns a spot on the lower end of my Top 10 Noses list, and it’s certainly the best young-whisky nose I’ve ever encountered.
Palate: Very hot and spirity for several seconds: the main downside. Evolves beautifully, however, with shortbread cookies, sourdough bread, and rye bread. I’m guessing that the cherry-wood smoking might have played a role in ironing out the young and yeasty bread flavors. They’re sweet and comforting, never grainy nor acidic. A little more time opens up some apple jack, dark chocolate, and half a dash of cayenne pepper. This kid’s way too brash at first, but he matures quickly.
Finish: Long and malty, but with a slight unpleasant new-make kick at the end. Spicy, nutty, woody, and loaded with those good bread flavors. The cheap, boozy exit is unfortunate, but it’s a long and luscious ride until then.
Of the near-dozen Chicago-area craft distilleries launched in the 21st century, FEW has earned a reputation among the elite. This whisky is strong evidence that their reputation is earned. I can’t wait to taste what they’re producing in another eight or nine years.