Hey, you. Yeah, you. Dere’s a FEW things we gotta discuss.
It was a dark and stormy night, despite the bright mid-afternoon sun.
I wuz wit my dame, see, and we’d heard about this little place making some really cool hootch. That was hot.
She pointed me to this little alley off of Chicago Avenue, in Evanston. Hip little neighborhood. Half block north of Main Street. Nice. But not where you’d expect to find a joint making fresh booze.
I said naw, dammit, there couldn’t be anything down there, except maybe a car chop shop … or maybe a blackjack upside the head.
She was insistent. Wit a strong-willed dame like that, you don’t argue much, at least if you know what’s good for you.
There was a sign. It said: “FEW Spirits.”
We found a door. It creaked open. (Nah, it really didn’t creak; they must have gotten some WD-40 from somewhere. I didn’t ask where. In these situations, you don’t ask much.)
Inside wuz a guy wit a big smile on his face. I been around long enough to be suspicious of any guy with a big smile on his face. But maybe he’d just been sampling his hooch.
Dis guy, Paul, had “Master Distiller” on his shirt. I’d heard from some guy in the joint he wuz a lawyer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate lawyers. Some of ‘em got me out of some, shall we say, incidents. But most of the lawyers I’ve known have only kept a flask or two in their desk. Dis has gotta be the only lawyer wit a high-falutin’ distillation still behind his desk.
But he used to work wit the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, so he knows his booze.
He got dis fancy schmancy still from the guys down at Koval Distillery, in Ravenswood, Chicago; they seems to know guys in Germany who make special stills. None of those Appalachian homemade still things going on here. Dis guy runs a quality operation. But he makes you pay for it. Even a coupla Jacksons won’t get you a bottle. At least, not legit.
I got a White Whiskey from the guy. Paid big. It’s smooth. He makes a gin, too, on the other side of the still. He claims it’s a genever-style gin, but since when does a gin include hops from Paul’s backyard? Dis guy’s over the top. We might need to deal with him. Especially when he puts out a brown whiskey (Evanston’s 400 miles from Bourbon County, KY, so it ain’t really bourbon) and maybe a “single malt” (it’s not Scotch, since even the Hebrides is almost 3,700 miles over dere).
He’s also put out a barrel-aged gin. Who ever heard of a brown gin? Yeah, we might need to give this guy a little visit, and “explain” what’s right.
Dere’s only a couple other guys making hootch legally in the state. One is those guys at Koval (dey include the guy named Lion — he helps distill, but dammit, I don’t think this guy is old enough to drink it yet. Maybe they put a bit of their stuff on his gums if he cries.) The other’s in Lake Bluff, North Shore.
Dis guy’s got a sense of humor, though. You think FEW stands for the FEW guys distilling in Illinois? Or the FEW guys who can afford his stuff? Take a hint from me, my friend. It’s a wink to Frances Elizabeth Willard, who ran the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1879 from her joint right up the street in Evanston. She hated booze. She and her girlfriends are prolly turning over in their graves. Hah!
Me and my boys still might pay a little visit to 918 Chicago Avenue in Evanston one of these Saturdays, maybe around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. We might need to get a little taste of what this guy Paul Hletko is doing, if you know what I mean.