About FEW Straight Rye Whiskey
Hidden down a dark alley in a former chop shop, skilled men are quietly violating one of Evanston's founding principles: Prohibition. In the 19th century, Frances Elizabeth Willard was elected President of the Chicago Woman's Christian Temperance Union and embarked on a decade-long crusade to prohibit alcohol in the United States. Willard worked tirelessly; as President of the WCTU, she traveled roughly 30,000 miles and gave an average of 400 lectures each year for an entire decade.
As a result, Evanston remained a dry town for over 100 years. It wasn't until Paul Hletko, owner and master distiller at FEW Spirits, began lobbying the town that the antiquated laws were lifted. "I'm the vice president of the PTA at my kids' school and I coach their soccer and T-ball teams," Hletko says. "People around town know me and what I'm about, which is handy when you're looking to change 100 years of laws." Today, Hletko and his team of master distillers produce FEW Rye Whiskey in the heart of Evanston, Illinois.
FEW Rye is made from a mash of 70% rye, 20% corn and 10% malted barley. "The corn comes from a farmers co-op in Indiana and my barley and rye from farmers in Wisconsin," notes Hletko. After milling, mashing and fermenting the grains, Hletko distills the wash through his 1,500-liter Kothe copper-pot still imported from Germany.
Following distillation, the rye whiskey is aged in custom-made oak barrels from Minnesota. "The cooper I eventually chose to make our barrels won 24 out of 25 categories at a spirits competition I visited," Hletko says. "I'm no math major, but that's the cooper I want to make our barrels." The #3 char on the barrels gives FEW Rye hints of allspice and peppercorn, which are followed by notes of dark caramel, coffee, mellow vanilla and cinnamon. These flavors earned FEW Rye Whiskey the title of Craft Whiskey of the Year from Whisky Advocate
. As one of the leading figures of the Temperance movement, it's unlikely that Frances Elizabeth Willard would approve of Hletko's success or the name he chose for his distillery, which is sometimes written as F.E.W. Spirits.
"People say she's rolling over in her grave," Hletko says with a coy smile. "I wouldn't know about that — the name is just a coincidence."
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Founded as a dry community, Evanston, Illinois was the birthplace of the Women's Temperance Movement and home to Frances Elizabeth Willard, an influential protagonist in the story of Prohibition. As the Temperance Movement approached a boiling point, abstinence slowly began to creep across the country and Willard and her league of temperance supporters turned Evanston into a stronghold.
For over 100 years, Evanston remained a dry town. It wasn't until Paul Hletko, owner and master distiller at FEW Spirits, began lobbying the town that the antiquated laws were lifted. "I'm the vice president of the PTA at my kids' school and I coach their soccer and T-ball teams," Hletko says. "People around town know me and what I'm about, which is handy when you're looking to change 100 years of laws."
As American as the bald eagle, rye whiskey was first brewed in the American Northeast in the 1600s. Even George Washington distilled it after leaving the Oval Office, so there’s no way of denying its origin.
It’s distinguished from bourbon for its original and unique spicy notes.
By law, rye whiskey must be made from at least 51% rye grain, aged in new and charred oak barrels for at least two years, and bottled at no more than 62,5% ABV.
Check out our impressive selection of rye whiskeys, find your new favorites in The best-reviewed rye whiskeys, and explore our treasury of Best rye bottles under $100.