Review: Forty Creek Founders Reserve Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

4-9 Years
Blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

Here we have the tenth limited edition release from Forty Creek, which also marks the end of John Hall's time at Forty Creek. Sadly, he has retired, passing on the reins to his long-time friend Bill Ashburn. This whisky is a mix of 4(why?...)-9 year old whiskies, with a particular focus on the barley whiskies in the mix. 12,000 bottles were produced.

John Hall has brought us some of the best Canadian whiskies ever, including some of my all-time favorites in Evolution and Confederation Oak. He applied his winemaking experience, applying it to whisky, crafting a special process tailored to each grain used at the distillery, for both distillation and aging, before blending all together. He pioneered the use of Canadian oak in a terrific Confederation Oak release, and provided hugely diverse and complex special releases for the last ten years. What is more, though, is that through taking Forty Creek distillery, which he founded in 1992, to its place of prestige now, he started a huge movement in Canadian whisky towards the tailoring of craft whiskies which have boomed now with a number of new and special releases from Crown Royal, Wiser's, and Corby's. So, pick up a bottle, and toast John Hall.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 4G/EF282S4 13:20:36

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Fresh doughnuts, caramel, orange, anise – but I can’t get over the immaturity, though this lifts off as the glass sits – leave it 20 minutes if you find this. There’s so much complexity in the mix, but the last two years the special releases and the double barrel whiskies have just had some components that are just too immature. I suppose it's done for body, but it brings in some harsh oily notes. Anyway, to the complexity – stone oven baked bread, cigarette butts, brilliant spice – nutmeg, clove, white pepper – and some soft, creamy oak eases in as well. As it opens up, it does get better. Apple butter, maple butter, and touches of menthol. Hay. Terrific nose.

The palate has lots of orange, oak, brown sugar, with some light rye notes feeding in wonderfully in the background. The finish has lots of oak and spice, along with some orange peel, custard, black pepper, rich toffee (much like last year), wafts of bourbon, and a touch of tannin. Great complexity, and, actually, 90% of it is very nicely balanced. But there are just a few bits of unpleasantness – it makes me think that I would have withheld a few of those casks.

I actually had a hard time making up my mind up about this whisky. There is a lot of complexity but there is some harshness and bitterness – yet it opens up so beautifully. It probably will get better as it gets a bit of air and some of that harshness wares off. If the special releases continue in this vein, I will be less inclined toward them (they have comprised some of the best Canadian whisky I have ever tasted in the past) - the immature components are not too much to my liking. But don't get me wrong - this is still a nice whisky. More in the profile of last year than any other special release - a bit broader and complex – but a bit less unique. The ABV helps, for sure. If you’re just finding it harsh, drink it a bit slower – as typical with these forty creek releases. But, buy a bottle, toast John Hall, and admire the complexity. It is worthwhile celebrating his legacy.

Value: Low. I didn’t like it much, so I wouldn’t give it a high value score for a $75 whisky.