FEW Spirits is not he vanguard of a couple trends in the American Whiskey world. The Chicagoland distillery is producing terrific whiskeys far from Kentucky and experimenting with unorthodox distillation methods. Neat Pour checked out their latest offering, Immortal, a rye proofed with a cult favorite tea.
The Distillery Backstory
FEW Spirits boasts a pretty elaborate backstory. For starters, the distillery is based out of Evanston, Illinois. Many know the Chicago exurb as the home of Northwestern University, but spirits buffs associate Evanston with the temperance movement. Not only did the town provide an incubator for prohibition, but the anti-booze sentiment was so strong that the area remained dry (by law) until 1972.
FEW Founder Paul Hletko took an ironic inspiration from the location’s nickname, “the Seat of Prohibition.” However, the grain-to-glass distiller preferred to focus on a more upbeat piece of history, the 1893 World’s Fair. Better known as the Columbian Exposition, the event is regarded as the dawn of the Electric Era. FEW’s official reading materials declare an intent to follow in the footsteps of the Fair’s storied inventors—and, indeed Hletko’s team is creating some really innovative spirits.
FEW’s Immortal is inspired by the Taoist legend of the Xian, eight immortal beings that live on islands in the Bohai Sea. The name is also shared by FEW’s secret ingredient, 8 Immortal tea Denver’s The Tea Spot. (More on that in a sec.)
FEW Straight Rye Whiskey, a (70%rye, 20% corn, 10% malted barley) mash bill, forms the base of the spirit. However, the distiller proofs the barrel-strength rye whiskey down to bottling strength using 8 Immortals tea instead of water. Grown at an altitude of 2000 feet, in the southeastern corner of Guangdong Province, China, the Dancong oolong leaves are a real prize among tea nerds.)
The initial run of 6000 750ml bottles clocks in with a 46.5% ABV. MSRP is $44.99.
Here, at Neat Pour HQ, we’re pretty skeptical of mashups like rye-tea, but FEW does it right. The rye flavor is by no means overwhelmed; there’s still some spiciness to the juice with a just bit of vanilla. Yet, it’s the tea that really shines in this medium bodied spirit. Fused with the distillate, the Dancong oolong delivers notes of stone fruits and honey. The addition of a cuppa or two also serves to impart a gentle sweetness to the product, making almost more like a bourbon than a rye. A medium finish allows the flavors to linger for a minute or so.
FEW Immortal goes down quickly. We prefer to sip it on a rock, but it also works well in a highball format. The unique flavor profile is rounded and mellow; so, don’t plan to deploy the rye as a base for a traditional, super booze-forward cocktail. Instead focus on herbal and botanical modifiers.