Founder & Distiller
Making fine adult beverages is a family tradition for FEW Spirits founder and distiller Paul Hletko. Prior to World War II, Hletko’s grandfather Alfred Dube owned a large brewery in what is now the Czech Republic. After losing the brewery to the Nazi invasion, and the rest of his family in concentration camps, Dube fought the remainder of his life to get the brewery back. When Dube died, Hletko decided to start a distillery of his own. “I don’t want to spend my life raising my fist to the sky,” he says. “I’d rather create something new to honor family history.”
“All my life, I’ve tried to be a creative person,” Hletko says. “At the end of the day, I like to have created something that didn’t exist at the start of the day.” For him, that meant tossing aside a degree in engineering from the University of Michigan, and a career as an attorney, to start a rock-n-roll band, a record label, and a company focused on designing and building custom guitar effects pedals, prior to FEW.
Although the band was showcased at CMJ and received several spins on legendary rock radio stations WXRT and Q101 in Chicago, it never quite ‘made it’. And the record label was a “particularly distastrous experience, but it was fun at the time.” Thankfully, Hletko’s next creative endeavor was a liquid one, and resulted in FEW.
After receiving a distilling permit in 2011, Hletko made FEW a reality. “Grain distillates are my primary interest,” he says. “I love the nuances and flavors of whiskey, and the patience required. I also love making gin, as the rules allow for a great degree of creativity and differentiation.”