Forty Creek

Review: Forty Creek Foxheart Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
40%
Aging
N/A; Finished in American virgin toasted oak
Recipe
Blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

This whisky is made using a blend of aged Canadian whisky with aged Caribbean rum. It can still be labelled Canadian whisky because of the regulation in Canada permitting the addition of up to 9.09% of aged spirits (at least 2 years) or wine. Chemically, this isn’t doing anything different than a finishing barrel (unless you are aging in the finishing barrel a long time).

Master blender Bill Ashburn is fond of rum, and, as such, wanted to release an expression that married both whisky and rum well. The base whisky is a custom-designed whisky blend that is corn-heavy, to which 12 year old Caribbean rum is added. Ashburn says that the amount of rum added “doesn’t come close to 9.09"%”, becuase “a delicate touch is needed when adding any spirit to Canadian whisky”. Indeed.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N.A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

This is very dominated by rum – molasses, berry notes, loads of spices – it’s all over the nose much more than the grain character of whisky. But, when you taste, you get both of them – spicy, orange-y rum combined with the classic toasted oak character and baking spices of Forty Creek. The finish has a nice toasted oak finish with a blast of rum (or a “howl”, as Blair Phillips says). The spices are terrific on the finish.

I’d look at this much more as a mixer, especially for a deeper take on a lot of rum cocktails. It’s close enough, but very different and with a lot of depth. But, try it in a Between the Sheets (to replace both the cognac and rum - I like 2 oz foxheart, 0.75 oz cointreau, and 0.75 oz lemon juice), tiki cocktails, an old fashioned, or even a boulevardier (my favourite of the bunch). And if rye and/or rum and coke are your thing, this does great there too.

Highly Recommended as a cocktail mixer. If you like rum, this will provide some good intrigue as a sipper, but it’s probably closer to a rum-sipper than a whisky-sipper. I recommend as a whisky, but I think it really shines as a mixer (and that’s no downgrade!).


Review: Forty Creek Master's Cut Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Forty Creek.

Image courtesy of Forty Creek.

ABV
48.5%
Aging
5 years; ex-bourbon and refill casks
Recipe
Blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

This is quite the whisky. It is Forty Creek’s first cask strength whisky, but, about the lowest non-aged Scottish cask strength you might see, at only 48.5%!

The whisky is legally 5 years old, since it was distilled 5 years ago….but not for the first time. The story started with a number of old barrels that had gotten too woody, some from as early as 1996. As master distiller Bill Ashburn chuckles, “we all have skeletons in our closet”. These whiskies aren’t good for drinking, but they are good for distilling! The whisky was redistilled, slowly, over the course of 4 batches of single distillations to extract the flavour profile desired to an ABV of just 44.5%. It was put in the cask at this ABV, and, over the course of 5 years in ex-bourbon and “experienced” Canadian whisky barrels, the ABV rose to the final strength of 48.5%.

Most whiskies are put into the barrel at around the 60% mark. So, why put it in so low? First, one of Forty Creek’s hesitation with cask strength whiskies in the past is that you lose a lot of the subtlety and complexity of Forty Creek at high ABV (I agree with this. I think flavours on the heavy end of the spectrum work well at cask strength, but lighter and subtle whiskies don’t work as well - also why I don’t like lighter single malts at cask strength). Second, higher ABV often means that you aren’t taking as many congener (flavours) up the still. Usually, fermentation creates all sorts of undesirable flavours so you don’t necessarily want to take all of those up the still. But on a distillation of an aged whisky? You can take a lot more.

It’s very unique. I’ve been told the spirit coming off the still five years ago tasted nothing like your typical new make.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Special Release 15

  • Bottling Code: BC/JH114008:29:48

  • Bottling Date: 2021

The nose has a good edge of spicy oak, with stone fruit alongside – peaches, apricot – and some orange. The oak character is quite nice – it isn’t dominant in the way that a bourbon would be, but it is more reminiscent of the character of barrels in a whisky warehouse. Awesome spices! But, there is lots more - dried herbs, pencil shavings (in a good way), vanilla, wood shavings,

The palate shows the grains very well, with a nice corn and barley character coming right through. The spices from the oak remain at the fore, alongside a touch of tannin.  We have toasted oak, prunes, white pepper, orange peel, and an appealing nuttiness. The finish is long, tannic, and spicy. After a number of sips, the finish leans more towards orange, vanilla, and toffee.

It is very much an expression of the base brands of Forty Creek, but amped up a level, more refined, and more elegant.

My favourite special release since 2014 (Evolution, one of my all time favourite whiskies). It’s not even close. It’s not only big and flavourful, but also just a refreshing reminder of the complexity coming out of the warehouses of Forty Creek. It’s also really nice to see a Forty creek release where the spirit really shines - no new oak or wine turning your attention to other things. It feels like a real return to the upper echelons of Canadian whisky for me - awesome stuff!

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). One of the best whiskies I’ve had this year.

Value: Very high, even at $80 against the market. You don’t find stuff this good at this price point very often.


Review: Forty Creek Nanaimo Bar Cream by Jason Hambrey

Forty Creek Nanaimo Bar 1.jpg
ABV
15%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Fresh dairy cream, sugar, alcohol, canadian whisky, milk proteins, natural and artificial flavour, caramel.
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

I realize I’ve never formally reviewed Forty Creek Cream, which is the most complex cream whisky I’ve tasted, as I discussed in a post on the best Canadian cream whiskies.

Forty Creek has now added to their repertoire with this, a nanaimo bar inspired cream whisky. Nanaimo bars, deliciously rich bars with a chocolate nutty base, a creamy custard middle, and a dark chocolate top are one of the signature desserts of Canada and one of the signature desserts of all time for those who have tried or made a good one. My childhood memories of Christmas certainly were not complete without nanaimo bars.

I have always thought that whisky creams deserved more exploration, and it’s great to see some more varieties being released.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

A rich cream liquor (aren’t they always?), full of notes of chocolate, caramel, coconut, and biscuits. The finish is sweet, smooth, boozy and full of caramel and a touch of spice. A nice addition to the cream whisky world - this one, as with Forty Creek’s standard cream whisky, is packed full of a wide range of flavours compared to other cream whiskies.

For those who like coffee or hot chocolate with their cream whiskies, this works well in both. I wasn’t sure if this would overpower the other components - definitely not.

Better than Bailey’s, as with Forty Creek’s other cream liqueur.


Review: Forty Creek Three Grain Canadian Whisky 20th Anniversary by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of rye, corn, and barley whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

This whisky is made according to the original recipe of Forty Creek Three Grain, a whisky which was released as part of the initial core range of Forty Creek but then discontinued in favour of marketing barrel select. This, now a 20th anniversary release, includes some of the original liquid which went into those original blends. It has been re-released as a tribute to the original bottle.

Lots of fans have clamoured over the old Three Grain release - I even recall an unopened bottle selling for $1000 second-hand between two Forty Creek enthusiasts in the parking lot of Forty Creek during a whisky festival. I respect the enthusiasm… I’ve always preferred barrel select which remains one of the best Canadian whiskies for the price.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: 20th anniversary

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The nose actually has a decent influence of corn, nutty grain, and light floral and spicy character – three grain, indeed! It has a different feel than the recent special releases, with a much softer and subtle character. It does hearken back!

It is classically Canadian – the nose has corn husks, lilac, orange peel, vanilla, baking spices, sugar caramel. The palate starts sweet with orange, baking spices, vanilla, toffee, caramel, and slowly leads to a dry spicy finish full of dried fruit.  It is a bit less fruity, and a bit more grainy.

It is very similar to the old three grain whisky – but is different in a few respects. While similar in profile, this one has a sharper character, more depth, and vibrancy.  I like it more than the old bottle, and it is quite a bit less brash than many of the latest special releases.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average at $60. Higher if you are a Forty Creek fan….perhaps significantly. It’s one of the few releases that has really hearkened towards the initial style of the distillery.


Review: Forty Creek Resolve Limited Edition Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Forty Creek Resolve 1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

The last few releases of Forty Creek have been similar - finishing for a flourish of oak and starboard wine. This whisky uses high-spice wood staves as part of the barrel maturation, combined with the addition of old starboard wine to give a rich fruitiness to the whisky. This, now, is the third installment of wood staves and wine - Unity had mocha staves, Victory had vanilla staves, and now Resolve has high-spice staves.

Forty Creek certainly deserves credit for consistently delivering annual releases that abound in complexity and continue to be very diverse.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Lot 014

  • Bottling Code: BG/IG29344

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The nose is very nutty, tannic, and fruity with lots of the usual complexity – hazelnut oil, caramel, toffee, clove, white pepper, grapefruit, pencil lead and orange juice. Quite a busy nose. The palate has a lot of wine character, light acidity, oak, and more nuttiness.  The texture is thick, but spicy. The finish is nutty, winey, and oaky. And, a reasonable kick of cinnamon.

A relatively big special release from Forty Creek, and probably my favourite special release since Heritage (is that the second year in a row?). But, it shoots for boldness of personality over some of the subtlety and complexity of some of the other releases. The bigger wine and oak character cover up some underlying complexity, but they also tame a brash spirit – very modern. Lots of charred oak in the empty glass.

It’s one of the better examples of “new Forty Creek” as opposed to the older character of the special releases.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $80.