Chicago is a dynamic city with some amazing history and sights, and as such, deserves a whiskey that meets the standard it sets. Thankfully, there’s a local distillery in Evanston which produces a bourbon that perfectly embodies the spirit of the city.
Evanston, located just north of Chicago, was the birthplace of the temperance movement that spawned Prohibition in the United States. For nearly a century following the end of prohibition the city continued to maintain some of the most restrictive laws regarding the sale and consumption of spirits, but all of that started changing in 2001.
Paul Hletko didn’t start out in the distillery business. Engineer, patent attorney, and rock and roll band member, Paul took a rather unconventional route to the whiskey business. According to Paul, the biggest inspiration for his turn to distilled spirits came from his grandfather, who owned a large brewery in Poland prior to the outbreak of World War II. Paul’s grandfather was forced to flee the country and spent the rest of his life unsuccessfully fighting to get it back. That determination and love for alcoholic beverages was a family tradition Paul wanted to continue.
Between 2001 and 2011, Paul was instrumental in getting the laws changed in Evanston to allow for alcohol distribution and production to resume. The path now clear, he opened his very own distillery called Few Spirits dedicated to doing things right: in-house production using local ingredients.
Few Spirits’ Bourbon Whiskey starts as a dry mix of 70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% “two row” malted barley (which is a regional variety of barley). That grain bill is fermented using a specific form of yeast that’s typically used in the production of saison beer (a typically lighter and crisper form of beer).
The fermented mash is distilled on-site and barreled in charred new oak barrels, where it sits for at least one year (current batches are rumored to be three years old) before being bottled.
I think this packaging is pitch perfect for Chicago.
It feels like the bottle is designed to pair perfectly with the Wrigley Building or the Tribune Tower, neo-gothic structures that bring you straight back to the 1920’s. The bottle is rectangular with flat sides, a sharply tapering shoulder, and a short neck.
On the front and back of the bottle are full size labels in the same style of the 1920’s with monotone printing and old fashioned type face. The label isn’t too busy or over stated, but instead has just enough artwork to make it interesting.
I’m usually the first person to complain about a label taking up the entire space of the bottle and not letting the whiskey show through, but I think this actually works better with the larger label. It’s a great homage to the history of the area.
There’s the normal caramel and vanilla flavors there, but I think there’s actually more of that mellowed out barley bringing a cereal aroma into the mix as well. There’s also a bit of fruity aromas thrown in, perhaps some cherry that adds a bit of depth. It’s not heavy or particularly rich, instead it seems approachable.
I get the feeling that those lighter and fruitier notes are thanks to the saison yeast used in the fermentation process, since it’s flavors and aromas that I’d usually expect in a beer instead of a whiskey.
The spirit has a medium weight to it, not too thick and not too light. It’s right in the sweet spot.
The immediate flavor reminds me of the Copperworks malt whiskey that I reviewed not too long ago, which was a 100% malted barley concoction. There’s the expected vanilla and caramel flavors, but they quickly mellow into something that I would describe as Honey Nut Cheerios.
After a couple seconds, those initial flavors give way to a peppery nutty spice that remains long after the spirit is gone.
I’m a huge fan of this flavor profile. It’s subtle yet strong, delicious and not overpowering. Something I’d be super happy to sip neat anytime.
I was worried that with a bit of ice, the majority of what makes this whiskey good would disappear. But I was happily surprised to find the flavor profile fully intact on ice. There’s the caramel and vanilla flavors, and the Honey Nut Cheerio flavor that comes in later, but instead of that peppery lingering finish there’s now an even more intense caramel and vanilla taste.
The only thing you’re missing here is that peppery nutty taste. The more subtle flavors are expressed even more clearly to make up for it, though.
In my opening, I mentioned that this bourbon perfectly embodies the spirit of the city and I think I’m on the money with that. On the outside, the bottle mimics the architecture and history of the area, but on the inside it’s using local ingredients to bring some new life to the bourbon scene with a vibrant and unique flavor.
|Few Spirits Bourbon|
Produced By: Few SpiritsProduction Location: Illinois, United States
Classification: Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 46.5% ABV
Price: $51 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 5/5
I like quirky bourbons, things that bring a flavor that I haven’t seen before or break the normal mold. In this case it’s a perfect blend of artistic style that matches the city, locally produced whiskey that’s loyal to the region, and a slightly different approach to distilling bourbon that results in amazing flavors.