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Reviews: Few Spirits and Ranger Creek .36 Bourbon

It’s been a while since I’ve examined some new Micro-Distillery offerings. Here are two that have caught my eye of late, and warrant some discussion.

The first is Few Spirits Bourbon. Few Spirits is an upstart of the last 18 months out of Chicago, IL. Chicago’s a city that has seen more local distilleries popping up, which is a great thing. I have paid attention to Few Spirit’s growth, and was surprised to see their bourbon already in the Nashville, TN market. Few makes an aged rye, white whiskey, and gin as well.

The second whiskey, Ranger Creek .36 Texas Bourbon, comes from the Ranger Creek brewery in San Antonio, TX. The operation calls itself a “brewstillery” of sorts. Texas’ Balcones and Garrison Brothers distilleries have received some press nationwide for their products, and Ranger Creek is poised to do so as well. The distillery focuses only on a bourbon whiskey for now.

Few Spirits Bourbon Whiskey, 46.5% abv (93 Proof), $45.00/bottle
Color: Golden/Light Amber
Nose: Brash, youthful whiskey notes give way to vanilla, golden raisin, demerara sugar, clove, and corn.
Palate: Spicy and dry. Caramel and maple syrup dries quickly with clove and allspice. Some astringent bitterness overpowers the sip leading to the finish.
Finish: A tad on the bitter side with sweet corn and cinnamon.
Overall: Few Spirits Bourbon Whiskey is certainly drinkable, but there’s just way too much youth and rough edges to recommend it in any way. The label says “Aged in charred new oak barrels less than four years.” I’d guess no more than 6-9 months tops. Age is not the be all end all, but a whiskey is ready when it’s ready, and this one clearly needs more time to tie up the loose ends.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 6.7 (Decent)

Ranger Creek .36 Texas Bourbon Whiskey, 48% abv (96 Proof)
Color: Deep Amber
Nose: Rich chocolate caramels, vanilla, nougat, banana, cinnamon, flint, dry corn and hints of rye spice.
Palate: Big and bold attitude – bitter caramel, cinnamon, maple candy, and a touch of chili heat. One quick note – avoid water. It’s 96 proof, and tended to go a little lopsided with the addition of too much. Add with caution.
Finish: Long – a balance of sweet caramel and barrel spices.
Overall: Ranger Creek .36 Texas Bourbon has been aged for 9 months. I would have guessed it to be far older. Some traces of the typical young whiskey notes are present, but overpowered by a deep, dark, rich aroma and flavor profile that belies it’s age. Easily one of the best whiskeys under 2 years of age that I’ve tried. Ranger Creek claims it has a lot to do with the aggressive Texas heat, which they believe ages the whiskey quicker and more aggressively. I certainly believe the well developed flavor profile demonstrates the later well. As a result I’m looking forward to seeing more from this distillery. If this bourbon is any indication they are doing something right in San Antonio.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.3 (Very Good/Excellent)

10 Comments

  1. sku says:

    Great post Jason! I’ve never tried either of these. Do you know whether the Ranger Creek is aged in small or regular sized barrels?

  2. DeanE says:

    Jason,

    Thanks for the new reviews! Your notes about Few remind me of my experience with Arizona Rock Town Distillery’s Arkansas Young Bourbon Whiskey.

    Sku,
    Ranger Creek’s web site says their small caliber series is aged in small barrels, but they have full-sized barrel product forthcoming.

  3. Florin says:

    I visited Few Spirits back in March. They have a great operation, and they make a delicious Rye as well. There is also a very nice story about the name of the distillery: F.E.W. may stand for Frances E. Willard, the president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and long-term Evanston (Chicago) resident.

  4. theBitterFig says:

    I dunno. Seems pretty insulting to name a distillery after someone opposed to alcohol (and the drug trade). Frances E. Willard seems pretty cool, serious crusader for women’s rights. Just seems rude to her. I’m super happy prohibition was repealed, and no doubt would have disagreed with her on the temperance issue, this really just rubs me the wrong way.

    To cite wikipedia: “She developed the slogan “Do everything” for the women of the WCTU to incite lobbying, petitioning, preaching, publication, and education. Her vision progressed to include federal aid to education, free school lunches, unions for workers, the eight-hour work day, work relief for the poor, municipal sanitation and boards of health, national transportation, strong anti-rape laws, and protections against child abuse.”

    Give her props for the good things she did in other areas, call her out for being wrong on liquor, rightly criticise her for courting the support of racists to advance temperance in the deep south. Naming spirits after her makes her the butt of a joke – look how silly this prohibitionist was, etc.

  5. Florin, agreed – FEW has a first class outfit. I look forward to a point in time when their bourbon is more in line with what I call “ready”. It will come.

  6. Sku, small barrels as I understand. Cheers!

  7. TJ Miller says:

    Jason / Sku,

    I am the Head Distiller at Ranger Creek in San Antonio and can give you more detail. The .36 Texas Bourbon is aged in small barrels sourced from three (3) different cooperages, each imparting a unique character. The sizes are 5,6, and 7 gallon mostly in #3 char. The age statement on the label is nine (9) months since we have to display the youngest barrel. However, the .36 contains barrels as old as 16 months. With the Texas heat and since we don’t temperature control, we experience about a 30% angel share loss during the course of aging.

    I am experimenting with larger barrels of all sizes (25, 30, 53, 63 gallon) for our straight bourbon. It could take until 2014 for a release…if the angels don’t get it all first!

  8. Jon says:

    Thanks for the info TJ Miller. Really a pleasure to have the Head Distiller chime in. When I travel out of Alabama I will keep an eye out for your product

  9. Jamie says:

    FEW websites says they air dry the cask for there RYE version.

  10. Oz says:

    It’s been almost 2 years since your review of Few bourbon and I wonder if anything is different.

    I found Few to be wonderfully thick, sweet and smooth. I didn’t taste anything that suggests that it’s too young. After tasting it in a bar for the first time, I knew it was a bottle that I needed to have at home.