Review: Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

4-27 Yrs
Blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

Every year, Forty Creek has a special release whisky which is fairly available in Canada though it always sells out every year after a few months. It is released in the fall, and is kicked off with Forty Creek’s whisky weekend which includes a tasting (this year a chocolate and whisky pairing), a distillery tour, and bottle signings. Last year’s Evolution was one of my favorite whiskies, and generally the special releases are of very high quality.

This whisky is the 9th annual release from Forty Creek, containing some of the original whisky produced by the distillery 22 years ago. In the Forty Creek style, there is corn, rye, and barley whisky in this – but some very old whiskies. For the first time, the single malt whiskies made in the first year of the distillery were put into a whisky – resulting in a 22 year old single malt in the blend. Moreover, there is some 27 year old rye whisky in here – you might ask, how is the rye older than the distillery? In 1992, John Hall bought Rieder distillery, and with that came some rye stocks from their distillate – resulting in some 27 year old rye in this blend. So, this is a blend with some quite significantly aged whisky in it, and the oldest stocks yet to go into a Forty Creek release.

Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 4G/DG07233 16:11:24

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: The age shows on the nose. Burnt pumpernickel toast, rye, sour corn, fresh baked bread, rye flour, vanilla, ceylon tea, leather, oak (not heavy), sherry, brown sugar, and some barnyard-like flavours. Oddly, it seems a mix of very old flavours and very young flavours, but, overall, it seems to be quite an old and quirky style with the spicy leathery notes contrasting with some oily fresh corn. It’s definitely blended, as we know – the complexity and diversity are there.

Taste: Rich toffee, brown sugar, dark rye bread, followed by what appears to be some sharp sugary barley before fading in a flurry of spices and chocolate and more toffee. Slightly sweet and slightly saccharin too. Ends on a slightly sour, bitter tinge. The spices here are interesting – they’re more in line with caraway than anything else, though stale cinnamon comes through at the end. It certainly suits a fall day! The texture is nice, and some of the unique characteristics are a bit addictive – the spiciness. A bottle that will likely grow on you.

Finish: Caramel, orange, and plum, along with a slightly sour grainy note. Slightly bitter and tannic, with some nutmeg and clove and the lightest touch of a wine influence, along with some nuttiness. Don’t let the fruit descriptions deceive you -it’s quite grain driven in the finish, but doesn’t quite come together. Still very much with that Forty Creek toasted oak characteristic.

A bit quirky. There are some dusty notes and unique old flavours in the mix - oily, leathery, multivitamin tablets, loads of spices, and white-wine influences. A well blended mix of buttery and oily raw spirit and deep and dark old whisky. In my books, the young corn whisky in this is too young and raw and makes the whisky worse. Unique, as often with the Forty Creek releases, but this time it is missing the usual mark of really high quality. There is a fair bit beneath the surface that you don’t see with a cursory taste, and I found my apappreciation for the whisky has grown as I’ve spent more time with it – take small sips and let them sit in your mouth to sift through them, and you may discover a thing or two.

I originally rated this one higher . However, as I spent much more work with it - it's just too much work to enjoy. Exceedingly complex, and despite the brilliant effect of age, the young components ruin it and it's not a dram I really enjoy unless I have a cigar. Great to nose, but not a great palate - so I docked this significantly as I did with the following release. Forty Creek makes such terrific whisky - I just wish they wouldn't dump in whisky that isn't ready yet.

Value: Low. I don’t love the whisky, so I can’t recommend spending $70 on it.