Warning: I apparently have some kind of genetic mutation that makes certain specific whiskies (or perhaps certain individual bottles) smell overwhelmingly of rotting banana. So much so that I can’t taste or smell much of anything else in the whisky. Given that these bottles are actually selling to people on a regular basis, I have to assume that this experience is not universal. When this happens, I always do a second tasting a day or more later to confirm that yes, indeed, this is awful. You may not have my genetic abnormality and may enjoy this rye, so read this review with a grain of salt.
One of the darlings of the craft whiskey renaissance in the US, FEW Spirits makes an array of distilled drinks, including gin, rye, bourbon, grappa, white dog (unaged whiskey), and American single malt. Located outside of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois and named ironically after Frances Elizabeth Willard, the hero of the Temperance movement who also hailed from Evanston, FEW has garnered many awards and accolades for its “grain to glass” ethos and top-notch products. Their rye is made on a copper still from a mashbill of 70% rye, 20% corn, and 10% malted barley all from mid-western US growers, and is aged around three years. Note that FEW’s gin is made on a second still, to avoid “cross-contamination” of the gin botanicals into the whiskies.
This particular sample, collected from bottle in April 2015, was included in my Flaviar “Ryevolution” tasting box. Ironically, that means it was distilled and aged in Illinois, shipped to Europe, poured into a glass vial, sealed, and shipped back to me in California. That’s bad news for my carbon footprint!
Nose: Overwhelming notes of banana custard, verging on rotting banana. Even after a rest in the glass, I get nothing except nose-numbing waves of banana. At last, I can tease out a note of dusted cinnamon. But really, this smells exactly like banana schnapps.
Palate: A few oaky notes up front, some birch beer and maple syrup. Then, it’s back to the All-Banana All-Day Show, with Bananas Foster, caramelized banana, etc.
Finish: Short. What do you think? Bananas. Damn bananas. There’s also some hazelnut butter and dusty stale cinnamon.
With Water: Water has no appreciable effect on this, that I can tell. Feel free to skip it.
Overall: This is the weirdest rye I’ve ever tasted. It’s very soft and has no bitter or off flavors, but all of the flavors it does have are smothered in puréed banana. If I were tasting blind, there’s no way I’d be able to tell you that this was rye. In fact, I’m not certain I’d be able to tell you it was whiskey. If you do like banana flavors in whiskey, you will LOVE this, and I’d bet it would make a fascinating banana manhattan or banana old fashioned. If I liked banana.
For me, this is a resounding “Not Recommended”, but in deference to my abnormal taste buds, I’ll mark it “Try before Buy”. Please let me know if anyone else tastes way too much banana in this!