Whiskey Name: F.E.W 2yo (That Boutique-y Bourbon Company)
Whiskey Type: Smoked bourbon
Release Date: 2016
Price: £59 (For 50cl)
Age: 2 years. (As an aside, and I know this is said all over the place, hats off to TBWC for stating this)
Mashbill: Not stated...but there seems to be a clue on the label! Have to guess 70% corn, 20% wheat, 10% barley
Introduction/Background: We’re huge fans of what Paul Hletko is doing at FEW. And not just because they’re the source of the first ever BBS bottling.
I’m also very keen on That Boutique-y Whisky Company (in this instance That Boutique-y Bourbon Company). They’re definitely the most idiosyncratic independent bottler out there, and I love that they bottle whiskies from all around the world, rather than just malts from Scotland. In recent years their quality has sky-rocketed too, to the point that I’ve remarked more than once that theirs tends to be the best table at any given Whisky Festival they attend.
However. There is no such thing as an infallible independent bottler. Nor an infallible craft distillery. F.E.W rightly pride themselves on innovation and risk-taking, and therein lies the inherent danger that not every risk will pay off. Their naturally wider spirit cut is just such a risk; when selecting the BBS barrel we saw the huge spectrum of flavours in their young juice, and no two batches of their house bourbon are ever the same.
This particular bottling has also been “smoked”, though I couldn’t tell you whether it was the grain that was smoked, or whether they did a Balcones Brimstone-style smoking of the spirit itself. Also not sure what sort of smoke it was. Cherrywood seems very trendy in US craft distillery circles right now...
Appearance: Dark for the age. (I am running out of synonyms for brown...)
Nose: Bananabread! That’s what jumps out first. Rich, fulsome bananabread. Also some vanilla sponge. It’s a rounded, comforting, dessert-y nose this. Not aggressive at all. Smoke curls in the background, adding depth to the aroma.
Mouth: Still rounded on the palate, and deep for the age. Smoke becomes a little more prominent, but don’t think scotch-style peat; this is more campfire-esque. The pudding theme continues; dark chocolate and sticky toffee pudding. A touch of raisin too. It’s thick, stick-to-your-teeth stuff, this. Alcohol perfectly wrapped up by flavour.
Finish: Maintains sweetness throughout.
Value for Money: Close one to call. Personally I’d buy a bottle (if it was payday), but then I really, really got on with this stuff. Best to buy a Drinks by the Dram sample first perhaps.
Summary: All craft distilleries – heck, all distilleries – all independent bottlers and all young whiskies involve their hits and misses. I was a little worried that this one might be the latter.
Well now I feel like one of those supporters who expects their team to lose, only to watch them knock it out of the park. I bloody loved this bottling; to the point that I very nearly overlooked the price. Deep, voluptuous, comforting and complex. Everything I have come not to expect a young wheater to be, and an absolute treat.
No, it isn’t cheap. And the smokiness may mean that it isn’t for you; though for my money the smoke contributes to other flavours more than it stands out on its own. But I am very, very close to buying a bottle of this. It’s more than I can generally spend, but I know that if I did buy one I’d think it worth every penny. Yummers.
Overall Verdict: From a subjective point of view, I’ll never love a F.E.W more than the one I helped to pick. But this one couldn’t have come much closer. 100% my sort of thing. Hats off to all involved. Whoever is in charge of the Boutique-y bottlings at the moment is an absolute magician.
Words by WhiskyPilgrim