Do you remember, several years back, when John Hall burst onto the Canadian whisky scene with his Forty Creek products? Obviously, the lengthy aging period required to produce whisky means that brand new distilleries don’t pop up every day, so I remember some anticipation to find out what this new whisky, produced by a former winemaker, would be like.
Distilled in Grimsby, Ontario, Forty Creek’s “gimmick” is/was the use of a meritage – 3 different grains (rye, corn and barley) are distilled and aged separately and eventually blended for finishing. I’m not sure if this process remains in use for all of of Forty Creek’s whiskies but it was a technique that set it apart early on. Forty Creek also differs from most other Canadian whisky makers in its use of copper pot stills, rather than stainless steel column stills.
This review is for the flagship Barrel Select, which is bottled at 40% abv and costs about $25 here in Alberta.
To the Eye
Copper with flashes of bright gold. There is something a rather beguiling about the look of this whisky for me. The clear, bright orangey-copper tones are extremely attractive… It looks a little more like bourbon than the usual Canadian offerings.
In the Nose
The nose on this one is mild but with healthy doses of vanilla and caramel so, again, something rather bourbon-like about it. With time, biscuits and a malty sweetness emerge, along with a sweet-sour fruity characteristic that reminders me of underripe mango or stone fruits. I get very little rye spiciness on the nose of this whisky.
On the Tongue
Exceedingly smooth… Dangerously so! Kettle corn at first, which gives way to that classic Canadian rye spiciness and am I ever glad the rye chooses this moment to assert itself. It’s not the usual dustiness I often equate with rye. Instead, it’s all of the earthy, fruity, spicy goodness I want from a rye but somewhat elevated through the sweet corn delivery. There is more body than most high-rye whiskies and I really like the full, rounded mouthfeel. Peppercorns, an almost heather-like perfume quality and a slight nuttiness. In case you can’t tell, I find this whisky to be delicious!
The finish is medium, with caramel making a return, along with oak and a mild walnut-like bitterness.
There is far more going on with this dram than a $25-bottle deserves and more than is usually found on the lowest rung of a core range! This is terrific whisky and a mainstay in my cupboard. It’s interesting and complex enough for serious sippers but also inexpensive enough that there are no hard feelings when one of my buddies inevitably add cola or ginger ale. Forty Creek is a tremendous example of the quality available in the Canadian whisky scene.