Previously here at Thirty One Whiskey, we reviewed the bourbon from Few Spirits in the Chicago area, Few is much more than a one trick pony. They also produce a rye whiskey with the same focus on local ingredients and craft distilling. Since we’re big fans of their bourbon, we were pretty excited to check out more of their offerings — and let’s just say, they didn’t disappoint.
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’ rye whiskey starts as a dry mix of 70% rye, 20% corn, and 10% “two row” malted barley (which is a regional variety of barley). Interestingly, this is pretty much just an inverse of the grain bill from their bourbon, which uses 70% corn instead — but keeps the malted barley content the same. 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 a minimum of one year before being bottled.
I think this packaging is 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, and I can still see a decent amount of the spirit itself around the edges and sides.
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten this specific aroma before, but what’s coming off the glass can best be described as a couple of cocktail cherries on a cedar board. Exposed to the air for a bit, those strains start to be more individually recognizable with some vanilla in there, a bit of cinnamon, and brown sugar rounding it out (in addition to the aforementioned cherries).
Taking a sip of this whiskey is more like taking a big bite out of a slice of rye bread. Those grains and the peppery spice are large and in charge throughout the experience, with some honey mixed in for sweetness. It’s smooth, delicious, and leaves a bit of that spice lingering well after the whiskey has disappeared.
Normally with a bit of ice, you expect the more delicate flavors to drop out of the running, leaving only the strong behind. But in this case, the only thing that happens is that there’s a little less emphasis on the peppery spice.
The rye bread flavor is there in all of its goodness, and the sweetness of the honey remains in its delicious supporting role. If anything, there’s a little more vanilla flavor coming through from the aging process in those wood barrels.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Interestingly, this doesn’t need quite the level of sweetness that you’d usually put into the cocktail. A little less sugar goes a long way.
Otherwise, the drink is great. The cherry flavor is a great addition to the honey and rye bread, and the sweet honey notes balance out the bitterness in the bitters with ease. And, to top it all off, the peppery spice of the rye adds some complexity that’s enjoyable and delicious.
Normally, a rye whiskey or a rye heavy bourbon is something that does amazingly well in a mule. And in this case it’s still a hit, but it’s not quite as well-performing here as some other spirits in its category and class.
In general, all of the components are there. The vanilla and honey balance out the bitterness, there’s some added depth from the rye bread, and that traditional peppery spice adds something to the finish that you don’t see with another spirit. The issue I have is that this is a pretty straight rye, and so there’s not really anything else it brings to the party. Some of the other spirits we’ve reviewed bring a fruity flavor or something else to bear… but with this rye, what you see is what you get.
This is a great rye whiskey. It’s got some amazing packaging, the flavor is on point, and overall the experience is well worth the price of admission. I think the Hudson Manhattan Rye is still going to remain my gold standard for what can be done with a rye whiskey, but this is a damn fine example in its own right.
|Few Spirits Rye Whiskey|
Produced By: Few SpiritsProduction Location: Illinois, United States
Classification: Rye Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 46.5% ABV
Price: $54.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
Few spirits can make something this good.