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.
John K. Hall, the whisky maker at Forty Creek Distillery (named so because it is located by Forty Mile Creek, a creek originally thought to be located forty miles from Niagara Falls), uses a unique process for his whiskies, inspired by his past as a winemaker. Each grain (barley, rye, and malted barley) is distilled, and aged separately. They are only distilled once, in one of two copper old eau-de-vie pot stills. The larger of these John Hall modified so that there is more reflux (alcohol that recondenses along the inside of the still, resulting in more copper contact and a lighter spirit) and so that the new make spirit comes off the still at 60 to 72%. Last fall I took some pictures of the two stills:
After each grain has been distilled, it is aged separetly in different barrels according to the grain type. The rye is aged in lightly toasted barrels, the barley in medium toasted barrels, and the corn in heavily charred barrels. This is, as Hall says, to bring out the fruitiness and spiciness of the rye, the nuttiness of the barley, and the heartiness of the corn. Having tasted each of these individually, the barley whisky does stand up well as a single malt, and the corn whisky tastes like a decent bourbon too – but the rye is surprising because it is light and floral. In the absence of heavy wood influence, rye can be surprisingly light and delicate – often you would assume it would be big and spicy, but not necessarily – the spice may come from the rye, but the “size” of the spirit, often, is not.
Once the single grain whiskies have been aged in a temperature and humidity controlled warehouse, they are then blended and re-barrelled according to the whisky being produced. “Barrel select”, the flagship rye of Forty Creek, is so named because no two barrels of whisky taste the same – each are hand selected. Some young barrels taste “older”, and some older barrels taste “younger”, depending on the barrel, even in a climate controlled warehouse. Barrel select is formed from single grain whiskies typically 6-10 years old, after which time they are blended and further aged in a sherry cask.
Nose: Quite the nose! Spicy rye, vanilla, marmelade, and a very distinctive toasted oak smell. A bit of lighter tropical fruit, almost like guavas. Oak also comes through, with heavy vanilla notes and caramel. The spiciness in the rye is very inviting. Additionally, it’s quite creamy, with scents of buttercream. The vanilla, the rye, the toasted oak are all quite prominent and well balanced. Black currants, plums, and orange peel are also to be found lift the nose to be fresh and light – in some ways, the fruitiness is reminiscent of port wine. Cinnamon is present in the nose too, which builds as it sits…26.5/30 (88%)
Taste: Slightly viscous, with a dry rye spice build up, which dies down and subsides to vanilla and a reasonably complex grain taste and toasted wood. In the middle, malt seems to come a tiny bit forward with a bit of a grassy note, and creaminess from corn also comes in. Fruity, with a bit of a sherry note, and a few dried berries seem to emerge at the end with some of that marmelade from the nose. The spices tingle slightly at the end, with touches of clove and ginger. The toasted oak plays center stage, with the rye vying heavily for it. The sweetness is at a great level, I think too, for this whisky – just enough, but not too much for the profile. 25/30 (83%)
Finish: A bit dry…light with a bit of rye and the oak, but it’s not very complex or engaging. I find that as I drink more the spices come out a bit more, which I certainly don’t mind, with come cinnamon and ginger and white pepper. A bit of the creaminess comes through as well, as well as a bit of black currant after some time…I did hope for a bit more than this after the nose and taste. 15/20 (75%)
Conclusion: Great for the value; with a beautiful nose, enjoyable and complex taste, a bit of a lacking finish. Very enjoyable, and incredible value – good to sip and also good to mix. Additionally, I have to say, the flavour profile of Barrel Select is just about perfect for a rye and coke, and is my rye of choice for the drink as the flavour does not get lost or forgotten, but still wonderfully complements the coke. 16/20 (80%)
Overall Score: 82.5/100