Cocktails with… FEW American gin from Illinois, USA

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There are a lot of Gins made in the US and there are lot of Gins made in the UK, but, sadly, there are relatively few US gins available in the UK; most come through the lovely folks at Eaux de Vie, but there is a new US spirits importer intown: Ginuine Spirits, headed up by Michael Vachon.

Ginuine Spirits have just brought five excellent products over to the UK: a Bourbon, a Rye Whiskey, a White Whiskey, a Gin and a  Navy-Strength Gin. Given its imminent landing on British soil, FEW American Gin seemed to be the perfect choice for the Illinois Gin in our United States of Gin Tasting.

FEW Distillery is based in Evanston, Illinois and the Master Distiller is Paul Hletko. As mentioned above, they make a variety of products and, additionally, produce limited editions of a rather tasty yellow/cask/aged Gin, which we tasted [here].

FEWGinBottle

FEW American Gin is rather unusual in that the spirit base is the same as their high corn white whiskey. 70% corn, 20% wheat, 10% 2 row malt. It is bottled at 40%ABV.

The Taste

1) On its own
Nose: Wheat, grain and bread (the base of the gin really comes through), followed by some pine, citrus and a touch of coriander.
Taste: Very soft and smooth initially and also quite sweet, with some liquorice. This is followed by pine and some floral notes, chocolate and coriander towards the end. This Gin has a very long finish, full of anise and liquorice. It’s something very different, but very tasty, too.

2) Gin & Tonic
A juicy and citrusy Gin & Tonic, with a fair hint of White Whiskey and corn coming through, but less juniper than many. It has a touch of sweetness, too, alongside some more liquorice. It’s definitely different, but well-liked by Mrs. B.

3) Martini
Crisp and powerful (given only 40%ABV), this is grainy, with just a hint of vanilla and a dry juniper finish. This is very different; unlike any Martini that I’ve had before, but excellent.

4) Negroni
The FEW American Gin made quite a sweet Negroni, with a long, lingering herbal bitterness, liquorice, anise and a touch of the bitterness of treacle. It’s something different, with the whole flavour of the drink lasting for a long time. The base spirit of the Gin also comes through, adding grainy notes. A different breed of Negroni, but very good, nonetheless.

5) Old Fashioned
The sweet creamy vanilla notes of the gin really comes through and the base really lends itself to the drink (the FEW white whiskey makes an exception Old Fashioned). Flavourful with those familiar gin characteristics of juniper and coriander alongside some floral elements. Pleasantly the drink is well balanced and a chord is struck between the various tastes. Very good indeed.

In Conclusion
FEW American Gin is rather different to most other gins; a lot of this is down to the unique use of White Whisky as its base. This adds a light, grainy maltiness that adds a different dimension to the gin. In fairness, it may not be for everyone, but I think many will love it and it is certainly worth trying. My favourite drink (which was very difficult to choose) was the Old Fashioned and Mrs. B liked the Gin & Tonic.

FEW American Gin is available for around £32 for 750ml from The Whisky Exchange.

Cocktails with… FEW White Whiskey

As someone who is hugely fond of cask-aged spirits, I have to admit that I have, at points, been somewhat suspicious of white whiskey (also known as “white dog”). However, as more seem to be becoming available in the UK, I decided that now would be a good time to explore the potential of this “genre” of spirit.

The logical first choice for exploration was FEW White Whiskey, which is produced in Evanston, Illinois and is currently being imported by Ginuine Spirits. Bottled at 40%ABV, this spirit is produced from a mash of corn, wheat and malt.

1) On its own (chilled)
Nose: A rich, creamy nose of cornbread: kind of like a mixture of sweetcorn and sponge cake for those of us in the UK who have never tasted it.
Taste: Rich, sweet corn notes are at the fore, which made me expect the spirit to be creamy and viscous. In reality, it is remarkably crisp and refreshing, despite still being very rich in flavour. Notes of cornbread and yeast are still present, but the chill also emphasises a spiciness. The finish is more familiar; a creamy corn note lasts for a good few minutes. Although this is pleasant neat, I think it might be a bit rich in large volumes, but in a small, chilled glass straight from the freezer, it was delicious.

2) White Manhattan (Dry  Martini)
The nose is – predictably – of corn and a hint of malt, but the taste wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The Whiskey added a light sweetness to this “Dry” Martini, as well as bringing out the spiciness in the vermouth. The spiciness continues into your stomach, with herbal notes, cinnamon and something warmer – closer to chilli – that makes me think that this could be the perfect Martini for the upcoming winter months.

3) Old Fashioned
This cocktail starts with a little vanilla and what seems like light oak, which are followed by a short, but strong note of corn and then longer, more dominant notes of wood. What I really liked about this drink was that – unlike many Old Fashioneds – it was never overly sweet, but still smooth. The finish reminded me strongly of good quality bourbon, being rich in dark, more complex, and sappy-sweet wood notes. Masterful.

4) with Tonic Water
Just what you’d expect – light cornbread notes are lifted by the freshness of the tonic water. This is definitely the most refreshing way of drinking this whiskey; the dry finish of the tonic stops the creaminess from making the drink at all heavy.

5) with Ginger Ale
Beautiful – the same delicious lengthening of the cornbread notes as seen with tonic water, but the drink as a whole is ever-so-slightly sweeter and has a perfectly measured burst of fiery ginger in the middle. In my experience, some whiskies are so overly complex themselves that the ginger in ginger ale is completely lost; here, the White Whiskey seems to work with it and does so to great effect.

6) Manhattan
Intriguingly, this drink started out as a cloudy, vibrant yellow cocktail (like orange juice), but then gradually settled until it was the golden amber of a Scotch whisky. To taste, it was absolutely packed full of flavour and personality: the rich, corn notes of the whiskey take centre stage and are unapologetic. These vibrant notes are then cushioned by an extra woody sweetness, which fades to a spicy and herbal finish courtesy of the red vermouth. This was an absolutely perfect blend of strong, complex flavours and a lot of them at that!

In Conclusion
Few spirits (no pun intended) have surprised and impressed be as much as FEW White Whiskey. Other white whiskies that I have tried have seemed slightly sickly and overpowering, but, whilst nobody could say that this lacks flavour, it also works exceptionally well in a whole array of cocktails, not only adding new flavours to familiar drinks, but combining with the other ingredients in such a way as to show you new sides to them, too. For one thing, given that this whiskey hasn’t ever touched a cask, I was amazed at the complexity of some of the wood notes in these cocktails.

I honestly can’t choose one cocktail as a favourite (and I’m pretty fussy when it comes to cocktails; I think this is the only spirit that I’ve tried and enjoyed every drink), but the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Martini were all superb.

Very highly recommended.

– Mrs. B.

FEW White Whiskey is available for around £33 for 70cl from Master of Malt