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 thereafter, the city retained some of the most restrictive laws regarding the sale and consumption of spirits, but that started changing in 2001.
Ten years after that change began, in 2011, Paul Hletko, a former patent attorney who helped remove some of the most restrictive liquor laws in the city, opened Few Spirits — a distillery dedicated to doing things right: in-house and 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 Whiskey
Owner: Few Spirits
Production: Evanston, Illinois
Grain bill: 70% corn, 20% rye, 10% malted barley
Aging: At least 1 Years
Proof: 46.5% ABV
Price: $51/ 750ml
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.