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!
Have never tried this, so I can’t comment on it. I thought I would note that I have had a bottle of the new Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye — famous/notorious now because Jim Murray named it his “World Whisky of The Year” — and it also has a strong smell of bananas (at least that’s what I got on the nose). I didn’t note bananas on the palate, though. I would be interested to see you do a review of Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, but given what I said about the nose, maybe you won’t want to.:)
Thanks for the note – I do have a bottle that I haven’t opened yet. Worst case, it becomes cocktails. 🙂
Too many esters will give an overwhelming banana (or any fruit taste/scent) in whisky. Sounds like they are still hammering out some fermentation issues. See the always wonderful whiskyscience for a great explanation. http://whiskyscience.blogspot.com/2011/11/fermentation-flavours.html
What a buzzkill to put all your effort in to making a craft whisky only to produce a batch of aristinal banana schnapps. 😛
I’m going to trust your banana-sensors on this one Nathan, and personally avoid.
The only whisky where I detected an overwhelming banana aroma and flavour was the basic Amrut Single Malt. It was so off-putting that I couldn’t finish the 50ml sample bottle (a first for me). Just checked out your review of that one, and lo and behold, you had the same bananorama reaction. Thanks for the heads up!
On the subject of CR Northern Harvest Rye, I personally don’t get banana – but I do get overwhelming apple on the nose and initial palate (green apple, red delicious = pear, stewed apple, etc.). And then it soon turns grapefruity bitter (which I don’t care for). But still a decent overall rye for the price, with a lot of flavour in-between (I recently reviewed it on my whiskyanalysis.com site). Would be curious to get your take Nathan.
Yeah, I snagged a bottle of the Northern Harvest before the masses caught wind of the Jim Murray hype. I’ll open it soon and review it. I anticipate the rest will disappear into Manhattans, but we’ll see. 🙂
Northern Harvest is very flavorful, so it should make an outstanding Manhattan. 🙂
FYI, just tried CR Monarch (aka 75th Anniversary), and it is excellent. That may be because it doesn’t taste like Crown Royal 😉 … actually closer to Gibson’s 18yo in flavor profile. Hopefully you’ll get the chance to try it some day as well. I plan to review it soon.
I have sampled Few Rye on numerous occasions, once at the distillery, but never found it to be to my liking. Journeyman Distillery ryes in my opinion are far superior ryes provided you are seeking a young craft rye.
Hello Mr. Noob. I think we may have a similar genetic mutation. I tried this rye at a local bar here in Chicago called the Twisted Spoke (all their whiskies are half price on Wednesday too!!) a few years ago. I also got that overwhelming banana flavor, which I don’t really like. Although, at the time I was not sure what flavor it was that put me off from it until I read your review. There’s certain flavors that I just don’t really enjoy in whiskey. Banana, peach and apricot to name a few. I’d be interested in trying it again though, just to see if it is just me, just that rye or just that somethings are never meant to be together.
My first rye whisky coming off of a lifetime as a bourbon drinker. I would heartily recommend this rye – it has a real kick, a deep, warm taste, a bright taste with complex tones but without the aftertaste. If you like a challenging whisky with a taste that develop and improves with each mouthful, this is the rye for you.
Hi Mr. Noob. I have inspected Few Rye on various events, once at the refinery, however never observed it to be to my enjoying. Apprentice Distillery ryes as I would see it are far unrivaled ryes gave you are looking for a youthful specialty rye.