There’s been a lot of talk recently about “craft” distilleries that don’t really make their own products. In short, many of these companies are really just “Potemkin distilleries,” as Chuck Cowdery calls them, that buy whiskey in bulk and sell it under their own label.
The merits of such a strategy are a subject for another day. What’s more interesting to me is when a craft distillery does things the old-fashioned way, crafting their own spirit by hand, learning how to make the best product they can, aging it appropriately, and then selling it with their own name on the bottle.
FEW Spirits is a company that does just that. I knew this was a company I’d like when I first read their story. Founded in Evanston, Illinois, considered by many to be the birthplace of the temperance movement, FEW takes its name from the initials of Frances Elizabeth Willard, the national president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement and one of the nation’s leading advocates for Prohibition.
A clever name isn’t enough to garner much favor, though. What matters is what’s in the bottle. And it’s there that the folks at FEW demonstrate that they really know what they’re doing.
FEW Spirits Rye Whiskey is made from a mashbill consisting of 70% rye, 20% corn, and 10% malted barley. It is aged for “less than four years” in new oak barrels, and is bottled at a robust 93 proof (46.5% abv). This whiskey is distilled in a 1,500-liter Kothe copper-pot still, if you happen to care about that.
It has an aroma of cereal grains and sweet fruit, with some very appealing hints of toasted coconut and brown sugar. Not surprisingly given the proof, it also has a fairly potent kick to the nose.
Interestingly, though, that heat doesn’t carry over onto the palate. It has neither a fiery alcohol presence, nor the harsh edges one might expect from a young whiskey. It tastes like toasted cereal, slightly sweet at first, with a dryer taste of spice (rye and cinnamon) coming after. There is very little flavor of oak, but there is a nice amount of vanilla.
Overall, it’s a well-balanced whiskey, and although it doesn’t have some of the richness that an older spirit might, it is quite impressive as is.