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.
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!
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