Wine cask-finished whiskies are nothing new. Scotch whiskies are often finished in fortified wine barrels and, increasingly, more American whiskey producers are also using a variety of wine casks to finish their own products (High West does it for their blended straight rye whiskey, Yippee Ki-Yay, and Slaughterhouse Whiskey is finished in Napa Valley Bordeaux varietal red wine casks). One of the latest additions to this growing portfolio of whiskies is FEW Spirits Italia Bourbon, a collaboration between FEW, Eataly, and Folio Fine Wine Partners.
On the origin of the collaboration, FEW founder Paul Hletko said, “Friends responsibly consuming alcoholic beverages in moderation with friends. No good story ever begins with a salad. A group of friends were enjoying a wine-finished whiskey and decided to try and do it, but do it a little different. And those are the places that FEW thrives — doing things a little bit different, and all our own way.”
Italia is made from two barrels of FEW’s standard bourbon, finished in casks from Sicilian winery Donnafugata. According to Hletko, they tried several different wines before landing on the one they ended up using, working to ensure that the flavors derived from the finish were exactly what they wanted in their spirit.
Appearance: FEW Italia Bourbon is honeyed gold in color.
Nose: Baking spice and sweet corn can be found up front, followed by notes of oak, fresh apple, and what could be described as a general fruitiness on the end.
Palate: This bourbon has a fairly light body, with a bit of dry spice character to it, which fades into a citrusy, bright mid-palate. The sweetness of the corn base is balanced out by notes of bitter orange peel.
Finish: A medium finish with some oak and vanilla flavors coming through. The wine finish is most prevalent here, with a sweet roundness to end on.
Final Thoughts: While it still tastes like a young bourbon, I like what the wine casks have done here to the liquid. They contribute a nice, round, slightly fruity and sweet flavor without overpowering the whiskey. Maybe it was because I had whiskey and wine on my mind, but I’d love to see this bourbon used in a New York Sour with the wine that was used to finish it.
Italia is 46.5 percent ABV, retails for $50, and is available at all U.S. Eataly locations (Chicago, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles) and at the distillery.