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Monday, November 30, 2015

Single Malt Report: FEW Spirits Single Malt Whisky

Evanston, Illinois was a dry city until 1972, almost forty years after national prohibition was repealed, partially thanks to the efforts of suffragette Frances Elizabeth Willard a century before.  When naming Evanston's first post-prohibition distillery, distiller Paul Hletko honored (or insulted) Willard's efforts by using her initials, F.E.W.  From distiller Hletko's interview with Martha Stewart Magazine:
A true grain-to-glass distillery, Few [sic] ferments, distills and bottles all of its products from scratch on-site. All the grain used in our products—corn, wheat, rye and barley—is grown less than 100 miles from the distillery, and other ingredients are sourced from even closer: I planted hops in my own backyard for my American Gin.
I went with Martha Stewart's site since FEW's official site provides nothing but vague gibberish about the company's origins.  Anyway, FEW makes a bourbon, rye, white gin, and barrel aged gin, with similar easily recognizable labels depicting the 1892 Chicago World's Fair.  They also made this single malt whiskey once upon a time, though I'm not sure if they still do.  It no longer appears on their site and it's starting to get scarce on the West Coast.

Distillery: FEW Spirits
Region: Evanston, IL, USA
Grain: Malted Barley, a portion of which was smoked using cherry wood
Age: damfino
Maturation: American oak
Alcohol by volume: 46.5%

I obtained this sample at a paid LA Scotch Club event, a curling event actually.  The whisky intrigued me since Serge and Whisky Jug were very enthusiastic about it.  But when two of the LASC members, who are both LAWS members as well, emphatically encouraged me to take the bottle away from them, I started to have my doubts.  And I declined taking an additional sample.  Was that a good decision?

Tasting Notes:

It's color is a dark bourbon brown.

Immediately the nose is homemade cinnamon applesauce, then Hostess apple pies, then real peach pies.  Buttery dough.  It's all very vivid, with lots of barley running through it.

First there's just a ton of cinnamon in the palate.  Then peach lambic and a sweet witbier.  A few minutes later it's clover honey, sawdust, halvah, and Play-Doh.

It finishes plenty sweet.  Cinnamon, honey, and Play-Doh.

WITH WATER (~40%abv):
Cinnamon schnapps and apple schnapps on the nose.  And then here comes the Play-Doh, along with a little bit of banana bread.

How about cinnamon Play-Doh on a palate?  Small notes of black pepper and apples.  Not that sweet.

It's also less sweet than before in the finish.  All black pepper and cinnamon.

More words:

I'll start with the positives.  It really is its own creature and is bottled at a good ABV.  The nose is unique, in a positive way.  Lots of lively spirit kicks around throughout...

...but then in the palate that whole uniqueness turns into an awkward curiosity.  While the beer notes are certainly palatable, the sweetness and oak are not.  And it begins to feel like a lot of American craft/artisan/handmade whiskies, somehow both undermatured and woody.  Adding water turns it into a total jumble, though it does cut down the sweetness.  Meanwhile, I don't understand its pricing at all.

Caveat: Almost everyone online seems to like this whisky more than I do.  Until the LAWS dudes post their reviews, the only other folks who have released less than positive reviews are a few of the Booze Dancing guys.  If you've tried this whisky let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below.

Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - $60-$80 (yeesh)
Rating - 76