Rum finish

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.