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Bourbon Whiskey

Whiskey Review: FEW Spirits Motor Oil Whiskey

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by FEW Spirits. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

FEW Motor Oil Whiskey is the result of the collaboration between American rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, aka B.R.M.C., and FEW Spirits Distillery of Evanston, Illinois. This limited-release whiskey was developed to honor the band’s 21st anniversary of their seminal debut album, B.R.M.C.

When the band went looking for a distillery to craft their inspired product, they found the perfect combination: an old mechanic’s shop and the quintessential rock n’ roll attitude they were looking for to help them create a whiskey “that evokes winding back roads, long stretches of highway, and pit stops at roadside barbecue joints in West Texas.” 

FEW Spirits Founder and Master Distiller Paul Hletko is a former entertainment law professor, professional guitar player, and record label owner. He was inspired to open his own distillery based on the fact that his grandfather’s family owned a brewery in the Czech Republic that was confiscated by the Nazis during World War II.

After the war, his grandfather spent the rest of his life trying unsuccessfully to get the brewery back. Hletko started FEW Spirits in order to revive his family’s legacy and to honor his grandfather’s memory. 

The distillery is named after the initials of Francis Elizabeth Willard. The founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and a staunch advocate for the abolition of alcohol, Willard supported Prohibition in Evanston, which is known historically as the birthplace of the 19th century temperance movement in the U.S. Despite the seeming jab at the historical teetotaler, Hletko has a healthy respect for Willard’s cause and believes that temperance is more about responsible drinking than abstaining altogether.

She was an amazing woman at an amazing time who had amazing ideas,” Hletko said in a prepared statement, “if you’re going to have one drink, make it a FEW.” Prior to the distillery’s opening in 2011, no alcohol had ever been legally produced in Evanston. True to the clandestine nature of those who profited in the face of Prohibition in the U.S. FEW Spirits is located in a former chop shop in a hidden back alley in the north of Chicago suburb of Evanston. 

In a recent Rolling Stone article, B.R.M.C. bassist Robert Levon Been said, “We’d always joke around about how someday we should make our own whiskey called ‘Motor Oil’ that’s so painful nobody would be able to actually drink it,” adding, “It would basically be jet fuel in a bottle, just pure pain. But then we met Paul Hletko and he said, ‘Yeah that’s cool, but that’s illegal.’

In the article, Hletko had this to say, “I’ve been a fan of Black Rebel since their debut album came out, so when we heard they were looking for a distillery to work with, you better believe we jumped at that chance.” 

At 101 proof (50.5% ABV), FEW Motor Oil Whiskey features a blend of bourbon finished in rum barrels, bourbon finished in vermouth barrels, and mesquite-smoked wheat whiskey. FEW Spirits is a completely grain-to-glass distillery; they mash, ferment, and distill their grains before placing them into specially selected barrels for aging and then bottling and shipping the finished product off to their customers globally. Along with whiskey, FEW Spirits also produces gin and bourbon. 

Only 1800 bottles of FEW Motor Oil Whiskey were produced and purchases will be handled exclusively through FEW Spirits website.

FEW Spirits Motor Oil Whiskey review

FEW Spirits Motor Oil Whiskey (image via Jennifer Williams/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: FEW Spirits Motor Oil

Vital Stats: 101 proof (50.5% ABV), bottled in Evanston, IL, 750 ml bottle MSRP $59.99.

Appearance: Dark mahogany.

Nose: It has as a medicinal cinnamon aroma with a hint of burnt orange peel. 

Palate: Woody, spicy black cherry and brown sugar dominate on the palate with hints of clove and sweet vermouth along with a crisp mesquite smokiness. 

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