Here is a rarity – an aged white whisky. Highwood Distillers in High River, Alberta crafted this one for the premium cocktail market, to compete with premium vodkas and mixing drinks. It is made from wheat and rye whiskies, aged for as long as 12 years, with a particularly high rye content. After the whisky is aged, it is filtered through beds of charcoal, stripping it of colour, and removing a lot of flavours – lightening up the spirit and changing it. A lot of rye is used in the whisky because much of the flavour gets stripped out, and the blenders want some of the rye to come through.
This comes from a Canadian company, Proof Brands, which makes a whisky, vodka, and a white rum. Proof brands is based out of Toronto, but this whisky was produced (distilled, aged, and blended) in Alberta (though I don’t know where). It is targeted to the cocktail community. The whisky is made from rye and wheat (no barley), and aged in charred oak barrels, and bottled at 42%. Centenniel 10 Year Old is also made from rye and wheat, but it is altogether different.
Whisky is a fascinating process, packed with flavour, partially because of the amount of time it takes to make whisky. Not only does whisky spend years in a barrel, the flavour for whisky really starts with the wood – which takes years upon years to form before being put into a barrel. This whisky pays homage to that fact in name as the trees from which the barrels come were around 150 years old – meaning that they started to grow in the 1860s – sometime around the time of the Canadian Confederation, which was the process by which Canada was formed into an independent nation in 1867. Hence, it is called “Confederation Oak”, and the the batches are labeled 1867.
This whisky was originally a special release of Forty Creek, but is now a part of their regular line. Every year John Hall, the whisky maker, drives down to Kentucky to hand-pick the bourbon barrels that go into this whisky – and he doesn’t accept just any old cask – it must match the profile he wants. In the style of forty creek whiskies, the barley, rye, and corn are distilled and aged separately in different casks, and then married together and combined into a bourbon barrel. My sample is from lot no. 240.
This whisky came out in 2012, and since then has become one of my favourites and my pick of choice in general for my staple Canadian whisky – largely because of the incredible flavour and price. Forty Creek Barrel Select, though also a wonderful whisky, sits $2.50 less than Copper Pot….and I think it is worth paying every cent of that extra $2.50 for this version.
Forty Creek is one of my favourite lines of Canadian Whisky, and at last I am getting around to providing some reviews. There really isn’t any member of the line not worth drinking, even the sister whisky Canada Gold. They’re complex, fruity, and oaky – and for me they all have a very signature toasted oak flavour to them.
This whisky is made at Forty Creek Distillery, under the supervision of John K. Hall like other Forty Creek whiskies. When I was there a year ago, John Hall said that it was their “budget whisky”, which he deemed important for a whisky brand – likely because barrels can be re-used beyond their normal life. However, it is 24.95 vs. 26.95 for barrel select, in Ontario, so the difference is not that large. It can be difficult to find, and is getting harder and harder to find in Ontario – so we’ll see what happens with this one.