A couple of weeks ago Norbert, of Whisky4All, hosted a whisky tasting with several drams from FEW distillery and Widow Jane distillery.
Of course, when it comes to tastings of American Whiskey, or Whisky, as he puts it, you are best off with him, since his knowledge of the stuff is almost encyclopedic, and he knows how to present it too!
I’ve tried whiskies of both these places before, and with FEW I even did a bottle-share several years ago, with their bourbon, rye, some gins and a single malt. Of course, with product being still young things should be different by now.
Of Widow Jane I only tried one whisky earlier, and while the whisky itself was pretty good, there were so much nonsense claims and statements on their website, it was pretty hard to wade through to get some information on what I was tasting.
Let’s just recalibrate and see what these fledgling distilleries are up to now, abour 7 years later than my last encounter.
FEW Bourbon, 46.5%
Crafty bourbon with a bit of coppery harshness, fresh oak and less sweetness than ‘regular’ bourbon. Some pine resin, a bit of paint stripper. After a few minutes vanilla gets added to the mix, with some fruit syrup.
The palate is very dry, with that hint of resin again, quite sharp and peppery. A hint of copper, iron, crisp apples.
The finish is very gentle, compared to the palate. It goes very smoothly. Slightly less dry, some sweetness but not a lot.
I think it is quite a bit more mature than it was years ago. Not that the whiskey is older, but it seems they’ve evened out some rough edges. All in all, a very good and easy drinking bourbon.
Few ‘Cold Cut’, 46.5%
I intentionally don’t say this is a bourbon, since it isn’t. What they’ve done here is take their cask strength bourbon and use cold-brew coffee to bring it down to 46.5%. Generally, I’m very much not enamored by ‘weird things done to whiskey’, but in this case…
This one is a bit more chocolatey on the nose. The cold brew coffee is noticeable, even though it’s a very gentle note. A whiff of vanilla and a soft note of oak.
The palate has that cold brew sweetness before the dry oak and grain kicks in. A slight bitterness of chocolate and coffee.
The finish does show the coffee again, but it’s definitely not ‘just any cup added’. ‘Haagse Hopjes’, a bit mocha like.
I am actually surprised by how this works. As in, the coffee is definitely noticeable, but not overpowering the whisky. Even though there are quite some cups in every bottle, if I’m not mistaken. This is one of the most innovative things I’ve seen in years and I actually love it!
Few Rye, 46.5%
Not overly spicy, but does get some more crispness with a little bit of time. Some orange waxiness, a hint of pith, some menthol too.
The palate is a bit waxy too, but has some more dry spiciness. Tobacco, orange zest and pith, some cherry stones. Some pear, menthol.
The finish removes some of the sweetness and focuses more on the mint and spiciness. A whiff of licorice, mint, orange.
A very decent rye whiskey, although the dryness and spiciness aren’t as pronounced as with some other recent releases. It’s a rather low-rye whisky, I think. Having said that, it’s still tasty enough with lots of interesting stuff going on. And as always, the mint and orange bit is present which I like a lot anyway!
Few ‘Immortal Rye’, 46.5%
As with their bourbon, they decided something needed to be tried with the rye as well. In this case FEW brought their rye to drinking strength with ‘Eight Immortals Tea’, an Oolong tea from China.
A bit darker than the regular rye, more autumnal with some dry leaves. Slightly dusty, a bit more citrus than before. Lime, lemon.
Quite dry, leafy, dusty. Tannins with a bit of bite. Fallen leaves, a bitter note even. Lime zest, some mint (but not that menthol note). Keeps building and does remind me a bit of these tea IPAs.
The finish has a lot more oomph than I expected. There’s a lot of spices, rye, oak, orange, but also the lime, mint, tannins. Very ‘drye’.
Once again, subtle changes to an already very decent whisky, and these changes work very well. In this case the whisky gets a bit drier than it already was, which is an interesting twist to get the added dryness without the added spiciness that comes from higher rye mashbills.
Widow Jane Rye Mash, 45.5%
Again, something that is not technically a Straight Rye Whisky, but a ‘rye mash’. In this case because the spirit wasn’t matured in new oak casks, but in reused casks. A minor technicality, but one that defines a category.
Lots of dry rye bread and rye spices. Dry oak with some red fruits, some cherry stone bitterness. Quite some leafy spices. Dark, crusty bread, roasted pumpkin seeds. It gets more flowery, heather and lavender.
The palate has the same spiciness, with burnt sugar and mashed red fruits. Dry oak, a whiff of bitterness.
A hint of coffee and some red fruits, dry crusty bread, roasted pumpkin seeds.
A pretty good drink but, as with the FEW rye, not overly spectacular. Still I’d happily go through a bottle and wouldn’t regret getting one. As in, it’s a good rye.
Widow Jane 10yo, 45.5%
This bourbon is the sweetest whiskey of the night, Some notes of sweet tea, cornbread, plums, oak.
The palate is dry and has quite a bit of pepper, both black and red. Sweet tea, corn, plums, oak. Rather quintessential bourbon with not too much sweetness.
The finish is slightly fiery, with dry oak and some pepper.
This one was a bit too sweet for me. Especially after six less sweet whiskies, even though it might not even stand out as a sweet whisky on it’s own. I expected it to be drier and more woody because of the rather long aging.
After these six whiskies it was time to call it a night, it being a school night and all. It was a good tasting, as expected, although I can now state once again that I don’t care too much about Widow Jane, and I still love what FEW is doing!
Check out Whisky4All’s event schedule for more upcoming tastings!