“On the nose” is a term that comes to mind when considering FEW Spirits. The brand takes its name from Frances Elizabeth Willard, a suffragette who spearheaded the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in the late 1800’s. Abstinence and sobriety were chief among the organization’s goals, which played right into the push for Prohibition in 1920. FEW’s website describes the inspiration as “creating whiskey in the seat of Prohibition…a good place to start a bold, paradigm breaking whiskey brand.”
Somewhat less paradigm-breaking is their on-hand portfolio, which includes bourbons, ryes, single malts, and gins. Then there’s the subject of today’s review: FEW American Whiskey. What distinguishes this expression is less the combination of bourbon and rye, but the inclusion of malt whiskey “that has been imbued with cherrywood smoke.” My exposure to American malt whiskey has been rather limited, with Balcones 1 being fairly impressive while Woodford Reserve’s Malt Whiskey was…decidedly less so. Let’s see what this decade-old brand currently has to offer.
Nose: Malty and grain-forward. Sweet, floral, and effervescent, but also a bit savory with an oddly metallic air, like a not quite heated grill or smoker. Young with rye-like herbal/floral notes; think lavender Epsom salt. Off-cherry and orange. Anise, mint, and bergamot. A touch of vanilla buried underneath everything.
Palate: Medium-light mouthfeel. Sweet upfront, slight spice and effervescence on the back. Caramel, mild pepper, and mint. Somewhat grassy with a generic citrus lining the mid-palate. A lightly smoky earthiness followed by that odd metallic note.
Finish: Light and bit abrupt. Pepper and bergamot kick things off but fade out soon enough. Gets close to replicating the nose with the youth and malt, along with a barely smoky cherrywood. Bit of lingering mint and eucalyptus.
This is undoubtedly one of the most unique whiskeys I’ve had to date. I can’t confirm how much malt whiskey is in a given bottle, but I’d say it defines this expression. The metallic notes I mention aren’t necessarily off-putting, but rather like tasting the smell of a slightly warmed up barbecue grill. Add the herbal qualities I got throughout (likely thanks to the rye) and the end result is something I think I like, but more so from a challenge standpoint. Every revisit brought a little something different, which made this whiskey all the more intriguing.
Although I could potentially get behind FEW American Whiskey, where I’m stumped is who I’d honestly recommend this to. The whiskey itself is worth trying for anyone who’s curious enough and can procure a pour with little cost or effort. Yet between the $50 price tag and likely-polarizing personality of this whiskey, I can’t recommend making a blind purchase. Furthermore, although I feel like I’m more open to buying a full bottle (my friend got his for half price and gave me the leftovers), I doubt I’d ever choose it over other expressions available for around the same price.