If there was ever a word so god damn awful it’s guaranteed to send a shudder down your spine it is the dreaded p-word – prohibition *a wolf howls in the background and you get the feeling you are being followed by a man with an axe*.
This was the boozeless condition that afflicted the United States of America for thirteen parched years thanks to the tireless campaigning of the American Temperance Movement.
The Movement advocated the ‘Noble Experiment’ to save society from the horrors of alcohol abuse throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and they succeeded in 1920 with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and the Volstead Act which completely banned the sale of alcohol in the U.S.A.
This led to a decade and three years of corruption and violence across America as mobsters and moonshiners sought to bring alcohol illicitly to the understandably thirsty public before the Amendment was finally repealed in 1933.
Lawless: A recent film depiction of the violent Prohibition years outside of Chicago.
What isn’t as widely known is that even after the repeal of the Amendment, the ban remained firmly in place across many parts of America. No more so than in the city of Evanston, Illinois. For it was in this city that the ferocious Prohibition campaigner Frances Elizabeth Willard lived.
Evanston became the homeland for the Temperance Movement and the city remained as dry as desiccated coconut in a desert of dehumidifiers from 1858 to 1972 – when restaurants and hotels were finally permitted to sell alcohol – and it wasn’t until 1984 when it could again be sold in shops.
Out of great adversity, however, comes great innovation, and in 2008 Paul Hletko opened Evanston’s very own craft distillery. With a great big dollop of irony, he cheekily named the distillery FEW in homage to the city’s most famous sober resident, Frances Elizabeth Willard.
Barrels of spirits maturing.
Paul comes from a great tradition of brewers. His grandfather owned the major pilsner brewery in what is now the Czech Republic and later lost it to the Nazis during WWII. After surviving the concentration camps, he was sadly never able to reclaim his brewery. So it was with his grandfather in mind that Paul opened his distillery and began taking a hands-on approach to producing new and innovative spirits.
The range is unusual insofar that they are all made at the distillery from grain to glass, meaning that the grain is entirely mashed, distilled and bottled on the premises which is uncommon not just for an American gin distillery but also British – Chase and Adnams being the only none major labels we can think of that do this. Furthermore they are ‘few’ in the sense that they are all small batches and are not mass produced. In fact, there are only two stills in the distillery, one for gin and one for whiskey.
Finally in keeping with their proud Chicago history – Chicago is very close to Evanston – all the bottles are decorated with images from the 1893 Chicago World Fair Exhibition – furthermore the batch number and Paul’s signature are on replica ticket stubs on the bottom of the bottles. Anyway I’m sure all the talk of the p-word has got you thirsty so we proudly present the FEW Spirits range!
FEW Bourbon Whiskey – £37.95
Not content with just producing any old Bourbon, Paul has decided to age the whiskey in casks made of oak from Minnesota which has a shorter growing season hence a tighter grain. Long story short the wood imparts beautiful flavours of clove, vanilla and caramel in this fantastic Bourbon.
Nose: Cloves, vanilla and caramel form a rich and spicy aroma.
Palate: The flavour is sweet with notes of toffee and caramel with spicy notes of cardamom and cloves.
Finish: The finish is long and lingering with warmer spice notes tingling until the very end.
FEW Rye Whiskey – £39.95
This Rye Whiskey melds rye (70%) with the mellowness of corn (20%) and complexity of malted barley (10%) in its mash bill, leaving us with a rather fine drink indeed.
Nose: The aroma is particularly fruity with notes of apples, pears and plums with a spicy after thought.
Palate: The flavour is as fruity as the aroma with more apples and pears but also a little unripe banana and candied orange peel.
Finish: The finish is long and lingering with notes of fresh orange juice, spice and apple tart.
FEW White Whiskey – £32.95
This is a white whiskey (or white dog) from the FEW Spirits Distillery; white whiskey is un-aged and has a particularly rich character. This white whiskey is made of a mash of 70% corn, 20% wheat and 10% two row malt. Although this can be drunk neat it works excellently as a base spirit in many a cocktail.
Nose: The corn is very prevalent but the malted barley comes through with a certain elegance about it.
Palate: The flavour is reminiscent of cherry jam with a little ground pepper followed by a herbaceous quality.
Finish: The finish is surprisingly long for an un-aged spirit and holds sweet notes of vanilla and glacé cherries.
FEW American Gin - £32.95
Unlike any other gin, this offering from FEW Spirits is made using white whiskey (un-aged Bourbon) instead of more conventional neutral spirit which gives it a completely unique character!
Nose: The aroma is vibrant with lemon zest and a blast of juniper but the overarching aroma is that cereal new-make smell with the agave sweetness of Tequila.
Palate: The flavour has a vanilla sweetness with chewy juniper and top notes of lemon followed by big new-make spirit notes.
Finish: A refreshing gin that works handsomely in many a cocktail.
FEW Standard Issue Gin - £37.95
This is a limited-edition navy-strength gin from FEW Spirits and makes for a cracking G'n'T or Martini.
Nose: Juniper blossom makes itself present first followed by mulling spice and a fantastic grainy new-make spirit quality.
Palate: The body has a little weight behind it with massive notes of liquorish followed by herbaceous tones off-set with candied orange peel and fragrant juniper.
Finish: The finish is warm and anise-forward with a little spice on the tail-end.