Founded in 2011 in the ‘Seat of American Prohibition’, FEW Spirits located just outside Chicago in Evanston, IL, is the manifestation of founder Paul Hletko’s dream of honoring his family’s brewing legacy to produce non-traditional spirits rivalling those produced in KY. With the first-ever distillery in Evanston, Hletko faced an uphill battle to get a Distiller’s permit. Once he achieved this he named the distillery using the initials of honored American educator, temperance reformer, and women’s suffragist, Frances Elizabeth Willard, who made Evanston the headquarters for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. FEW was one of the original true craft distilleries in the US and as such has consistently controlled all aspects of their spirit production using a grain-to-glass approach and sourcing their ingredients as locally as possible. Having celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021, the distillery now produces a wide variety of straight bourbon and rye whiskies, American whiskies, flavoured whiskies, and gins. All of their whiskies are also currently aged in small Minnesota Oak barrels ranging in size from 5 to 30 gallons. 

When FEW first fired up their stills the Craft Whiskey scene in America was only in its infancy and true craft distilleries were few and far between (pardon the pun). Back in those days, it took them two weeks of full-time work to produce enough spirit to fill a single 53 gal barrel and so the decision was made to be one of the first distilleries to use non-traditional small-sized barrels ranging in size from 5 to 30 gallons to age their whiskies. These barrels were almost 10 times more expensive than a standard barrel and to make things even pricier not just any oak would do. FEW wanted the best oak sourced as locally as possible, but they also needed something that wouldn’t over-oak the spirit or absorb it excessively due to a porous grain structure. In came Minnesota Oak and with its short growing season, subsequent tight grain, and distinct flavour profile. FEW have not used a different type of oak, regardless of the premium. As for this whiskey, FEW’s bourbon comes from a high-rye mashbill using grains sourced from within a 100-mile radius of the distillery and is fermented using a peppery Saison style yeast. Proud of their grain-to-glass philosophy, they control every aspect of their whiskey production in-house and Paul even signs the labels for each batch by hand. Today we’ll be looking at their standard release of straight bourbon which is a great jumping-off point for this brand. Having spent over 10 years perfecting it, their bourbon and rye were THE whiskies that FEW built their reputation on.

Vital Stats:

Name: FEW Bourbon Whiskey
Age: NAS
Proof: 93 Proof (46.5% ABV)
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Mashbill: 70% corn, 20% rye, 10% malted barley
Producer: FEW Distillery, Chicago, IL
Website: https://www.fewspirits.com/
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: On the nose there’s a complex blend of dark brown sugar bordering on molasses, young grain notes, a touch of pine sap, faint dried cherries, robust baking spices, dark chocolate, and dry oak as you nose deeper.

Palate: The palate opens with sweet dark sugar syrup, rich cocoa and a touch of bitter charred oak, earthy rye spice, baking spices, faint pine sap, and warm soda bread as you continue to chew.

Finish: The finish opens with a quick wave of residual spice followed by dark sugar notes, dark chocolate, pine sap and an aftertaste of charred oak and near-burnt sugar notes.

Overall 

This bourbon is both delicious and a craft whiskey down to its bones. It has flavour complexity, young grain notes, pine-forward oak notes, but most importantly it has that distinct and unmistakable FEW character. Personally, I have been drinking FEW whiskies for over 6 years now and sipping this brings me right back to that first experience with ‘FEW funk.’ All these years later, I’m happy to report that the funk is still strong, albeit wrapped in more complex and mature flavours than I remember. Another interesting aspect about this whiskey is that FEW use a Saison-style of yeast which produces citrus and peppery notes during fermentation and this also comes through nicely. Combine this with the robust Minnesota Oak profile and you’ve got a whiskey that’s bold and dripping with flavour intensity. Now bottled as a straight whiskey, this is one the oldest Few bourbons I’ve had the pleasure to taste. Thinking back over the younger iterations it’s clear that although it has always been a solid craft bourbon, the extra maturation in those small casks has had a very positive impact. The grain notes are softer around the edges, the green pine notes are pulled back, and the whiskey has benefited significantly.

Coming from humble beginnings, FEW now have over a decade of experience in producing great whiskies under their belt. In this time they have continued to improve the quality and flavour of their whiskies and have innovated aggressively whilst still staying true to the spirit of their mission. The whiskey remains as bold as ever, the flavours are better balanced, and the innovation has continued to flow. Tasting this it’s no surprise that Heaven Hill Brands have acquired the brand amongst 5 other brands owned by Samson & Surrey. It shows great potential, has had consistent growth internationally and now has access to the combined talent, scale, and resources of Heaven Hill to further accelerate the brand’s growth.

Try or Buy?

The RRP for FEW is around $40 in the US, €65 in Europe, and around £60 in the UK. For this price you’re getting a true craft bourbon that is guaranteed to challenge the traditional bourbon profile of many other brands you may have tried or have bottles of. Maybe a touch pricey? I like to know where my money goes and

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Before you go…

Before you go…

Before you go…

Did you enjoy this blog post? Like you, I’m a whiskey enthusiast. I don’t earn any money from distilleries, their parent companies, or their subsidiaries for my reviews. If you like what you’ve read and want to support this page then why not buy me a whiskey?

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Your contribution is appreciated and will ensure I can keep this website impartial, operational, and stocked full of new content. Cheers!

Your contribution is appreciated and will ensure I can keep this website impartial, operational, and stocked full of new content. Cheers!

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