Awarded a gold medal by the Beverage Tasting Institute in 2014, the FEW Bourbon is a high-rye bourbon from Illinois that uses a “special peppery yeast” to give it a little something extra to bring up the spice level and add a new dimension to the whiskey. It’s also aged in, relatively, young Minnesota oak barrels which it seems lends a peculiar and unique herbal quality to the bourbon that isn’t unpleasant, but it sure is different.
Based out of Evanston, IL FEW takes it name from Frances Elizabeth Willard who was the co-founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU was a key player in establishing the national Prohibition and is also based out of Evanston. Though the name isn’t the only thing they get from their home in Illinois. Each bottle is adorned with images of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition which was held in Chicago after it’s devastating fire and when it comes to their ingredients they try to keep it as local as possible there as well.
To quote their founder and master distiller Paul Hletko “If we can’t grow it ourselves, we buy it locally and if we can’t buy it locally we buy it from friends.” Which according to FEW means that all of the grains used in their products are “grown less than 100 miles from the distillery and many other ingredients are sourced from even closer”. They strive to make all of their products a unique representation of the area they’re from… and it shows. These guys are definitely among the few doing craft distilling right.
FEW Bourbon Whiskey Review
Age: 3 years
Distiller: FEW Spirits
Mashbill: 70% corn, 20% rye & 10% malted barley
Bourbon spice shoots up and out of the glass bringing with it strong notes of cinnamon and clove riding on a very herbal body. Anise, caramel, nutmeg, butterscotch and a resinous pine mix and mingle with citrus peels and an ambiguous sweetness. There is a bit of rye spice lurking about with a touch of young astringent oak in the background.
Corn dominates the initial palate with clove, cinnamon and caramel moving in behind creating a lively C quartet. That pervasive herbal nature from the nose is alive and well on the palate along with some dill, bourbon spice, pepper, astringent oak and juniper in the place of the resinous pine.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
There is a strange balance in the glass that, oddly enough, works rather well and is complimented by a round medium body and a smooth polished texture.
Very herbal with notes of caramel, pine, anise, cinnamon, clove, butterscotch and oak moving in and out at a medium pacing.
It’s rather gin like in character, but more round and rich than the majority of gins I’ve had with the bourbon characteristics making a strong enough showing to keep everything in check. It has a complex and intriguing aroma and flavor that is easy to drink, but for my tastes not exactly what I would readily mark as bourbonesque. The herbal nature is fun and tasty, but it also moves things off just enough that this wouldn’t be my first choice when I’m in the mood for a great bourbon. All in all though it’s a good whiskey that’s worth trying, but that herbal nature could be a bit startling if you’re not expecting it.
*This sample was kindly given to me by the good folks at FEW for the purposes of this review.