At most liquor tastings I go to, the number of options is overwhelming, easily in the triple digits, while the number of things I can comfortably taste in an evening tends to be in the low double digits. The Independent Spirits Expo last week was an extreme example: nearly 100 distilleries and distributors, most with a half-dozen offerings apiece, were packed into the Carmichael’s Warehouse in the West Loop.
In situations like this, focus is key. I identified a few booths I wanted to check out, including Few Spirits, the Evanston-based distillery that launched last year. Stopping by their table, I immediately noticed a barrel-aged gin, something I’d never heard of before—but according to the Atlantic, it’s a microtrend. The barrel imparts both color and flavor to the spirit, making it taste like a cross between whiskey and gin: it’s lighter than whiskey, with the botanical notes associated with gin, but it also has wood flavors and some sweetness. I liked it a lot, but even more intriguing to me was Few’s American gin. Admittedly, I haven’t tried a lot of gins, but I’ve never come across one that I’d want to drink neat before (though the barrel-aged gin would certainly work for that too). This one was vegetal, almost cucumbery, with subtle juniper flavors—mostly, it was incredibly smooth. With almost no alcoholic kick, it was light (but not lacking in flavor) and easy to sip.