Grimsby

Review: Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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

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.

John Hall, the whisky maker at Forty Creek, always wanted to see what whisky would taste like which is aged in Canadian Oak, as most whisky is aged in either American or European oak – different species which yield different flavours. Canadian oak is still the same species as American oak, but, because of the harsher winters it tends to be more dense resulting in a slightly different chemical composition interacting with the whisky. At present, this is the only whisky aged in Canadian oak.

Sourcing Canadian oak was not easy, and it happened nearly by accident – John Hall noticed some trees being cut down near the distillery, and went over and ended up buying the three trees. 90 barrels were made out of the trees, and, if my memory serves me correctly, the staves made from the oak were air-dried for 2 full years before being dry enough to make into a barrel. The trees were taken down to the US and made into barrels by the same supplier which makes most of the barrels used to make Kentucky Bourbon. John Hall says they are perhaps the most expensive barrels ever produced with all the work he had to put into them.

This whisky is made in line with the Forty Creek process, with aged, single grain barley, rye, and corn whiskies being blended together before being finished in the Canadian oak barrels for two years.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 1867

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2010

Here is a legend of a Canadian whisky, near impossible to find now- the first batch of Forty Creek Confederation Oak. It was the first whisky to be matured in Canadian oak in the modern era, and was originally a limited release from Forty Creek before it was put into regular production. This sample was graciously sent to me by a friend, who gave me the last half oz of his bottle (#548) which had been open more than 4 years, so oxygen has done some work on this, but here is the review of the sample.

Nose: Caramel, toasted oak, vanilla, woody earthiness, dried corn maple, and some fruity elements as well. It evolves to show more nuttiness, maple, and lots of dried fruits with a sherry-influenced feel.

Taste: So syrupy - maple syrup dominates the palate, and the feel is very syrupy and mouthcoating - as if you are drinking oil which coats the mouth and lingers a bit. Toasted oak, candied orange, cinnamon, milk chocolate, nutmeg, clove, and a lingering sweet, dry, vanilla-tinged spiciness at the end. Fabulous creamy mouthfeel - magnificent. Being open so long certainly can't have brought too much disintegration to this whisky. On the palate, one of the best I have ever tasted from the feel to the complex layering of flavour.

Finish: Fabulous mouthcoating feel. Largely vanilla, spices, and oak, though there is more subtlety bringing in other elements - it lingers very nicely. Elegant.

There aren't too many canadian whiskies that I would describe as "elegant", a sublime whisky put together well and with a great mouthfeel, integration, and subtlety - but this is definitely one. Fabulous stuff from Forty Creek. This is a bottle I would have loved to have in reserve. The confederation oak series has changed batch to batch, but this one is pretty magnificent. This, along with batch B, are both stuff of legend.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Very High. For a whisky this good, 70$ makes this a terrific value in terms of typical whisky prices for exceptional whisky.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: 1867-B

  • Bottling Code: 31A12 13:01:15

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: The nose is complex, and multifaceted – there appears to be a grain, cream, fruit, sweet, wood, and spice component all in this one nose, brilliantly integrated together. On the grain side, rye shines through brilliantly, with a fresh bread element – like fresh and hot rye bread. The rye is slighly grassy, reminding me a bit of a an irish pot still type grassiness. On the cream side, there’s wonderful creamy butterscotch and brilliant sweetness in the nose. The creaminess is fascinating – there’s butterscotch, whipped cream, caramel, and vanilla all shining through. On the sweet side, there’s honey, with some floral hints of lavender, and maple, which takes its place ahead of the oak that is present in the nose as well. In terms of spice, there is slight, subtle cinnamon spice and some pepper. I also get some stewed, slightly sour fruit like apricots or plums along with a bit of tartness as with blackberries.The nose evolves, with a bit more smokiness and fruitiness coming out as it sits and I incredibly enjoy appreciating all that is going on. It’s wonderful too, that it changes as you continue to sip through the bottle. On this, my third evaluative tasting, navel orange peel is rising like mad out of the glass. An absolute pleasure.

Taste: Silky smooth, with sweet citrus entry with some orange, as rising rye spice is balanced with beautiful vanilla sweetness which gives way to more vanilla and some nuts. A bit oaky as well, not too much, but just enough. it’s fruity, sometimes even showing some brandy character, as well as some raisins – a touch of a fruitcake comes in at times. A touch smoky, with the signature forty creek toasted oak present in the middle. The sweet/spice dynamic is brilliant, and the fruitiness is just about perfect to compliment the two. And even with that, there’s some intriguing tartness.

Finish: Long, slow, tingly, warming, slightly dry, and sweet. Very pleasant – you can chew on the flavour for some time. A bit earthy, with good depth and some maple syrup, nuts, vanilla, and some grassy rye. The tingly spice is also brilliant, with a touch of clove, and it is one of my favourite mouth experiences. Also, the tartness is also ever so slightly present just asking you to take another sip. As I sip, I find the finish has a bit more and more oak.

Hugely enjoyable with a fantastic (and approachable) flavour profile and brilliant balance. The soft, sweet flavours sit beside the spicy and bolder flavours, and a remarkable amount is going on. This is one of my absolute favourite Canadians.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Very High. For a whisky this good, 70$ makes this a terrific value in terms of typical whisky prices for exceptional whisky.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 1867-C

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Showing some bourbon-like creamy vanilla notes, some different profiles of oak - musty, toasted, and charred - light rancio, and some fatty corn. Complex, and well integrated, but lacking some of the multi-dimensionality of the best Confederation Oak releases. A bit of light fruit (like grape) emerge as it sits, too.

Taste: Classic smooth delivery, with good viscosity in the mouth and a balance of sweet and spice. Toasted oak, citrus, and a spicy underbelly to this one, and light acidity once again doing some good work to hold everything together. The spice, in fact, I like in this - but it makes it less elegant than some of the releases. As might be expected, the palate finishes off with a touch of nuttiness.

Finish: Vanilla and oak come through at first, with some tingling spice (clove and dried ginger) and citrus and a very light bitterness, but not one that detracts much - perhaps more like a strong tea than a bitter coffee. Lightly creamy as well.

Conclusion: Interesting - this release seems a bit more driven by the grain than any of the other Confederation Oak releases that I have tasted - Batch D seemed more cask driven, and Batch B and F had a better balance between them (the better releases, in my opinion).

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A nice price (70$) for a nice whisky.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 1867-D

  • Bottling Code: 21D14 09:42:33

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Sweet, with light corn and some rich, buttery maple notes too which continue to grow with time. Vanilla, also, emerges with time. It still holds the signature toasted oak, baked bread, and lightly earthy characteristics which are prevalent in Forty Creek. There is a touch of stale bitterness here, unfortunately. Still quite a complex offering but it doesn’t fit together as it should.

Taste: Rich and sweet, with grape and vanilla – but not that spicy or sharp. Toasted oak notes and tannins are felt, and some of that oakiness is quite rich. The light acidity also keeps it nicely in check. Delivery is quite nice, but here the balance is such that the sweetness is a tad too high, I think. Still controlled, and long though – it draws out the flavours nicely.

Finish: There is lots going on – vanilla, oak, currants, dried fruit, coconut some tingly spices…a bit dry with touches of tannin too and a bit of bitterness. The bitterness doesn’t help, and it’s not singing in harmony, though the feel is good.

Frankly, I’ve been quite surprised at this. It’s still quite nice – but it shows flashes of brilliance with some awkward bits rather than just being brilliant, as I’ve seen from this bottling before.

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

Value: Average. A nice price (70$) for a nice whisky.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: 1867-F

  • Bottling Code: 4G/DF29226

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: Fresh oak, vanilla, and creamed corn along with some underlying nuttiness. The nose is quite sweet, and evolves to more maple. The nose has more oak than some of the previous confed oak releases - batch D at the least. Slight acidity too - there is a good amount of complexity for those who are willing to take time with this.

Taste: A nice, rounded mouthfeel. On top, maple with some underpinning toasted oak, caramel, spices, and dried fruit. It's more oaky and less fruity than some of the previous confed oak releases.  The texture is very intriguing - both syrupy on top and dry and spicy underneath, and ever so lightly creamy, along with a very light tannic structure. It still has a berry fruitiness to it - like raspberries. caramel. Quite elegant, but at times a touch simple - yet excellent, overall.

Finish: An evolving dry and spicy finish, with some orange rind, clove, raw almond, butterscotch, vanilla, and a decent amount of body and weight.  There's some berry-like fruitiness in here, with soft raspberry influences which lifts the finish up pretty well. Lightly creamy too, with the raspberry it is a bit like a campino candy.

The nose, unfortunately, is a bit restrained, but the palate does make up for that. Good to see quality coming out of the new casks at Forty Creek. Having been slightly dissapointed with batch D, it's good to see that the quality is not simply declining.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A nice price (70$) for a nice whisky.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: I

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Baking potato (i.e. earthiness), pencil shavings, vanilla, light oak, vanilla, and lots of classic dry Canadian spices – nutmeg, clove – and a light oily character too. Develops really nicely – older oxidation notes come through. Well worth pondering – I quite enjoy it, the most of the past 3 years of confederation oaks that I’ve tried. The palate brings forth floral notes, a dry spicy character, and a light bitterness on the end. A nice finish with waves of spices and vanilla. Really nice dried fruit, too. I do like the toasted oak house style, as I’ve said many times before…

It’s hard to put a finger on this one. The last few years haven’t given us what the first few years have supplied.

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

Value: Average. A nice price (70$) for a nice whisky.


Review: Forty Creek Double Barrel Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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

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. The bourbon barrels are sourced from a number of different distilleries in Kentucky (not Wild Turkey, as many assume - they are both owned by Campari).


Review (2013)

  • Batch: Lot 240

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: It’s forty creek with a bourbon edge! there is the Forty Creek signature toasted oak, alongside bourbon aromas of earthy corn, dried apricot, and caramel. Honey and rye comes through very nicely, as well. A nice graininess comes through as well, reminding me of white flour and oats, and, interestingly, hot green pepper.

Taste: The bourbon flavours make up the base to this one, upon which sit rye, toasted oak, vanilla, a slight sweetness, and cinnamon, a touch of clove, and warm spiciness. There are some dried fruits as well – raisins, prunes, and dried apricots. The toasted oak and wonderful subtle sweetness and spiciness is still present, and is wonderful. There are some strawberry notes too.

Finish: Dried fruits slowly fade to a slightly dry spiciness and oakiness. Nice mouthfeel as well, with the whisky coating the inside of the mouth and slowly breaking down as well.

The bourbon cask wonderfully complements the forty creek style, and the style is still very much present – the cask does not overwhelm it at all. However, it’s not as deep or as rich as some of the other releases (and I find the price point a little difficult when it’s so much cheaper to go with copper pot or barrel select, which are both fabulous whiskies).

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

Value: Average. About par for the course for a whisky like this, in terms of value ($60).


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: Lot 258

  • Bottling Code: 4G\DII5313 09:38:29

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is interesting and complex with vanilla, caramel, milk chocolate, vanilla, almonds and fresh oak with a bit of a chemical solvent-like backdrop. Some beautiful bourbon casks here. On the palate, the oily youth of the spirit comes through, though the backdrop is quite good. The grains, the spices, the wood, are all nicely balanced but just need a bit more time together - the whisky is brimming with potential but for a bit more time in the barrel.

Value: Average. This batch is sub-par, but it isn’t terribly expensive either in whisky terms (60$) and competes with a lot of Scotch whiskies at this price level (granted, Scotch is the worst bang for your buck in whisky).


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Lot 256

  • Bottling Code: 27J14 13:10:16

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

A dominant, clear, first impression of toffee - also creamy and lightly earthy, with nutty notes, the classic Forty Creek toasted oak, maple, cacao - complex and full on the palate but still showing too much youth on the corn whisky in this batch for me. Otherwise, well integrated and very delicious, with some fabulous spice in the mix too. The finish is creamy, and full – very nice.

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

Value: Average. About par for the course for a whisky like this, in terms of value. ($60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Dry and spicy, with coconut, clove, prune, toasted oak, and a rich underlying grain character. The palate has a rich, oily base which carries lots of toffee, dried apples, and a variety of classic baking spices and brown sugar. Nicely distillate driven, but still too raw and young. I do like the classic Forty Creek characteristic which comes through – the toasted oak, yet it is different than the other expressions (nicely so).

Value: Average. This batch is sub-par, but it isn’t terribly expensive either in whisky terms (60$) and competes with a lot of Scotch whiskies at this price level (granted, Scotch is the worst bang for your buck in whisky).


Review: Forty Creek Barrel Select Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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

“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.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

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…

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.

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.

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.

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

Value: Average. A pretty good sub-$30 whisky.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Oakleads the way - slightly musty and earthy, with some clove and almond and some vanilla, coffee cake, butter icing playing about subtly in the background. The grain and spice balances out the oak quite well. Cacao on the palate, with a bit of saccharin sweetness, and some maple in the mix too. A bit of rising spice at the end, which adds nicely to everything.

Value: Average. A pretty good sub-$30 whisky.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: AEG297279 09:58

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

It’s been too long since I’ve reviewed a nice portion of this - this was from a 200 ml bottle. I had a batch that tasted quite young last year, so I was curious to see how this one fared since that might have been a botched taste (I had a cold at the time).

Toffee, toasted oak, nice corn husks, and some rich malted barley come off the nose along with some green grassy spices. The palate leads with toffee, old oak, vanilla, and some tingling clove and cinnamon on the finish. Though I’ve had my issues with the more expensive bottling of Forty Creek the last few years (special releases and double barrel) – this is still terrific whisky. The full finish develops with tannins and spices.

Not as complex, but I’d still take a bottling of this over the past two special releases at Forty Creek. Did this get better or change? No…I just don’t think I got it right the last few years.

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

Value: High. I liked this batch more than usual (only slightly, one or two percentage points) but that’s enough to propel a sub $30 whisky into a high value category.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Toasted oak, prune, green pear, maple, and clove on the nose. The palate reveals oily grain, prunes, dried apricot, and some lettuce. Light tanginess on the finish makes it quite intriguing. The whisky has medium body, but a nice middle of dried fruits and spice which bring things together nicely.

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

Value: Average. A pretty good sub-$30 whisky.


Review: Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
A blend of 100% rye, corn, and malted barley whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

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 a few dollars below Copper Pot….and I think it is worth paying every cent of that extra for this version.

Copper Pot is created with a blend of single grain rye, malt, and corn whiskies which are then blended together and re-barreled before bottling. Copper Pot comes in at 43%, higher than the nearly ubiquitous 40% for Canadian whiskies – which much better suits this whisky.


Review (2012)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: Much bolder than the barrel select; the signature forty creek toasted oak comes forth, alongside port, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, raisins. It’s fairly complex – even with a touch of mint and a sense of some sweetness! Caramel develops as the glass airs. I find I also get traces of chocolate and a bit of earthiness, and even a few wisps of smoke.

Taste: Fairly smooth citrus entry with some good nice oakiness (lots of toasted oak!). Spicy rye builds up followed by a vanilla fade followed by warming dry rye once again. The whole whisky has a bit of a port wine feel to it also. The whisky also can seem to change as you drink it, as if you are drinking a different one every time. Toasted oak, cloves, honey, and a bit of nuttiness also feature. There’s some good underlying sweetness throughout as well, and pretty nice mouthfeel as well…quite brilliant.

Finish: A long dry lingering spicy rye finish, with some nuttiness and a touch of grape juice. Eventually the spice dies down to vanilla, particularly if one drinks some water after. After some time there is even some black olive coming through…which to me is a manifestation and development of some of the earthiness found in the nose.

Very good (especially for the price!). Complex and interesting, with good spice and flavor balance. The finish is great and leaves a spicy and dry aftertaste. The finish even seems to nicely affect the water that is drank after the whisky.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very High. An awesome whisky for the price (sub 30$)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

It should be noted that this outperformed Forty Creek Confederation Oak Batch F, Barrel Select, and Double Barrel not only in my own blind tastings in 2015 but also overall at the Canadian Whisky Awards in 2015. Tasting notes:

Musty and a bit earthy, with some good orange peel, apple seeds, maple, aged balsamic vinegar, toasted oak, leather, and a very intriguing wisp of smoke here and there. Also, an array of spices with clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice - and some really nice cinnamon on the end, too.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very High. An awesome whisky for the price (sub 30$)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

I wanted to see how one of my favorite bottles continued to fare.

Lots of toffee. Caramel, toffee, toasted oak, orange peel, oak, candied nuts, and maple sugar. The oaky and spicy cereal notes breed complexity in the background. The palate is big and broad, with lots of oil and spice notes, orange, toasted oak, milk chocolate and a corn-driven, sweet vanilla finish abounding with Ferrero Rocher. Terrific.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very High. An awesome whisky for the price (sub 30$)


Review: Niagara Bench VSOP Canadian Brandy by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
>4 yrs
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

I can't resist putting up Forty Creek's brandy contender amidst some of the Armagnacs that I posted last week. Let's see how it does...


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Very fruity, and slightly raw – lots of dried apricot, fig, white raisin, mulled red wine, and anise. Not bad, certainly, on the nose. Caramel, candied orange peel. The palate is spicy, with lots of pepper, cinnamon, clove, licorise, and anise candies. It also retains lots of orange peel. Some bready notes too. Nice, but not incredibly complex. Some nice old world qualities to it, though.

Value: Average to High. It’s not expensive, and I like it, but there are still better jewels to be found on the lower level shelves.


Review: Forty Creek Heart of Gold Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
Around 10 Years
Recipe
Blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

The 2013 special release from John Hall at Forty Creek is certainly fabulous. This is a little different than what is typically done with rye whisky and some may not appreciate it as much as expected - but John Hall spent 10 years developing this whisky, trying to let the rye shine through especially well. It is a whisky worth spending quite a bit of time with, especially as it gets much better as it airs (I recommend, along with many others, to let it sit half an hour and see how it improves!)


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 11G13 11:25:51

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: Sharp, grassy rye in a way that is not usually presented and one which I have mainly found in new makes. there are also aromas of sourdough, leather, and quite peppery grain. The creamy and floral nature of the whisky, I suppose, lend itself to such an aroma. Lots of prunes. It certainly is full of complexity and intrigue, actually similar in the leathery and peppery notes to the 2015 release. Prunes and raisins too.

Taste: Not as sweet as many of the other forty creek whiskies. Again, the sharp, grassy, and spicy rye shines through and it is smooth in the middle of the palate, along with raisins and marmalade. It is floral too, in a sweet nectar sort of way. Maple, too. Some nice toasted grain, too. A bit raw in places – but this is precisely to give the effect which is being sought out. Nice vision for this whisky.

Finish: It is long and lingering, and also unique - not generic. After I had tasted all of the other 8 whiskies in the lineup at Forty Creek, the heart of gold was the finish which remained, and I could tell it was from the heart of gold because of the quality of rye flavour left in the mouth.

I love the uniqeness of this whisky, and certainly it is different from any presentation of forty creek beforehand. I love it for its complexity and uniqueness, but it certainly might be a bit different for many.

My third favorite release, I think, from Forty Creek after Evolution and the original Confederation Oak. Very delicious.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very High. For a whisky this good at $70, it’s very good value in the whisky realm.


Review: Forty Creek Evolution Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Forty Creek Evolution.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
3 years; blended & redistilled; cabernet sauvignon casks for 9 years
Recipe
Blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

This year, the limited release from Forty Creek is called “Evolution”.  Evolution is the 8th limited release from John Hall, whisky maker at Forty Creek. John Hall was originally a wine maker, and made his own Cabernet Sauvignon at Kittling Ridge, and, thus, in theory, had easy access to wine barrels. This release is roughly 12 years old, though it has a bit of a journey – 100% corn, 100% barley, and 100% rye whiskies, in the Forty Creek style, were aged in white oak for three years and then these aged whiskies were re-distilled to concentrate flavours, as John Hall often does at some stage with his premium releases. They were then re-barreled into French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon casks where they were aged for an additional 9 years. A few other of John’s “favourite barrels” were also added to balance the flavours. The name, evolution, is to signify the whisky’s capacity to change over time. A fitting name, perhaps, too, because John Hall used a wine cask now to house whisky not wine, a sort of evolution in itself. And, on another level, Forty Creek was bought out by Campari last year which may allow a lot more opportunity for growth in the brand and production as well.

On a side note, after leading a few tastings with this one – you need to sip it slowly. Otherwise you are just tasting cinnamon hearts and you miss the whole thing if it is gulped down. Also, as with other whiskies – if it is coming off bitter try refreshing your palate with black coffee and give it another go…


Review (2014)

  • Batch: Lot 2014

  • Bottling Code: 15G14 09:41:10

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Nutty, with some fruit chocolate aromas – raisins, dried currants, milk chocolate, toasted oak, olive oil, green bell pepper (as in the wine!), and some ruby port-type rich fruitiness and the oxidized notes of tawny port or sherry. It does have quite a bit of a wine edge to it – the tannic edge of red wine is in this one, and there is indeed some earthiness in the mix – like rooty, dark, damp soil . The olive oil is interestingly present and quite a significant portion of the nose, and they seem to develop into slightly earthy black olives. I find dates start to emerge, and I am just full of images of brandied fruitcake and fig and date bars. Light vanilla is present in the background, which is nice because it would be out of place otherwise. Terrific balance, and, indeed, it evolves – but, at least to my nose, not primarily in the earthy ways described by John Hall. However, one can think a bit of chocolate and nuts with port before getting distracted and chewing on some olives and then to dates and figs before finally settling down with some fruitcake. The spices seem to come, oddly, the most present at the end where we seem to get everything – some cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and gingerbread. A bit of a different egg coming out of Forty Creek this year. This is multi-dimensional, and quite a bit different, and very intriguing – the dried fruitiness has been elegantly balanced beside the interesting vegetal notes, nuttiness, and all the other flavours that stop along the way. I spend nearly an hour nosing this on my first sample, and kept discovering new things and “pairings”, indeed, that come in the nose. Upon successive nosings, I think this noses better in a glencairn glass than a wide-mouthed glass as it allows the development to happen a bit more slowly.  There is very little else I could ask for in a nose - this is one of the best I've ever come up against.

Taste: Surprisingly sweet, with lots of raisins, dates, and chocolate notes before some toasted oak, nuts (roasted cashews and peanuts), spice (cinnamon and nutmeg), and vanilla waves and a lightly tannic finish. Despite everything going on, it somehow works, and well, at that! The tannic edge on this just gives it a wonderful edge and shape that is little short of fascinating, and elevates the whole experience – and the toasted oak just works brilliantly with the rest. Absolutely wonderful!

Finish: Cinnamon, tannins in a bit of the mold of a tannic red wine (though they’re not, of course, that intense), dates, lovely tawny port oxidized notes, and a resilient browned butter note all of the sudden.

Liquid fruitcake? I love fruitcake, port, nuts, and just about all that this whisky is about. I absolutely love this stuff.  It is a brilliant whisky to analyze, but isn’t perhaps as approachable or as good of a casual sipper as, say, Forty Creek Confederation Oak, as you need to take some time to fully appreciate its brilliance, and you will probably enjoy this more if you like fruitcake and some of the tawny port notes.

To further state my enjoyment of this – my reviews usually consist of three reviews, each of which are usually 20-40 minutes. An ounce of this held me to nearly two hours on my first review! An absolute class act from Forty Creek, once again.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Very High. One of my all time favourite whiskies; I’d have no problem paying 70$ for it.


Review: Forty Creek Three Grain Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This was in the original range of Forty Creek, sitting slightly above Barrel Select in price when Forty Creek whiskies started to be released (the distillery was founded in 1992). However, it was retracted shortly after in order to reduce competition for Barrel Select, the flagship brand. Some years later (in 2012, if my memory serves correctly) Copper Pot was then put in place as a slightly more premium version of barrel select - so in a sense, it was in a similar category - though Copper Pot is much better than Three Grain. It is made in a similar way to Barrel Select - a blend of 100% rye, corn, and barley whiskies all aged separately before blending and being finished together in another cask.

Read More

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

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.

Read More