Forty Creek Barrel Select

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. 

Final Thoughts

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.  

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Just a Thought… The Canadian Glencairn

So here’s the deal… I’m Canadian and I drink whisky. Obviously It’s about time that I got myself a Canadian Glencairn glass!

Maybe it’s a little pretentious but I don’t think there are too many people left who consider themselves serious whisky drinkers and just use any old glass. Myself, I’ve been rather partial about the original Glencairn for quite some time now. My first was a gift, brought to me from the Glenfiddich distillery a few years back by a buddy. Shortly after, my lovely wife got me a box of six more as a Christmas present so I wouldn’t have to be “the only nerd at the table” when friends were over for a dram.  Ever since, I have appreciated that the glass allows me to control the temperature of my whisky by either holding the base or the bowl and I do find that he tulip-shape does a great job of concentrating the whisky’s aromas.

I’ve been aware of the Glencairn glass designed specifically for Canadian drammer’s for quite a while but I’ve been content enough with the original that it felt unnecessary to order some online. Last weekend, however, I added two glasses to my cupboard. My wife and I snuck away for a weekend getaway in Jasper National Park and, after spending a good chunk of one day hiking through the beautiful natural scenery, we spent a couple hours in the town of Jasper, perusing the many interesting shops. It was in a store called Bearfoot in the Park (Very punny, I know!), where I came across some Canadian whisky glasses. At about $14 bucks apiece, I had a hard time coming up with good reasons not to add a couple to my repertoire!

Jasper National Park… Yeah, we’re pretty lucky here in Alberta!

So, the Canadian version of the Glencairn looks a little like the love child of the original and a typical rocks glass…Kind of like a small fishbowl. It has a shape that is similar to the regular Glencairn but it has a larger bowl, is significantly wider and is minus the base.

 

My first Glencairn and one of the new additions.

I do like how it feels in my hand and I did think that the shape helped in nosing my drop of Forty Creek, compared to a rocks glass, and it did actually seem like I could take a sip without tipping my head back quite as far… Not sure if that’s all that advantageous, though! The box states that this glass “delivers whisky to the tip of the tongue for the fullest taste experience” and that the “larger size is versatile whether serving whisky neat or in mixed drinks.” The only advantage in this glass, then, would seem to be that it could accommodate some mix. However, since I rearely mix cocktails, I expect that I will usually stick with the traditional Glencairn, which is a terrific glass!

I should add that although I very  rarely mix cocktails, I did try something new in the bigger glass…


I had a bottle of the recently released Pepsi Ginger soft drink in my fridge and the first sip was interesting and surprisingly gingery. Since I used to enjoy rye and ginger ale, I figured What the hell, let’s give ‘er a go! Mixing my whisky about 1-to-1 with the Pepsi Ginger along with a splash of lime soda and a couple of ice cubes was actually pretty darn tasty!

Cheers!

Tomatin 12 Year Old

So, Tuesday was the final lecture for my current graduate course and Wednesday was the last day of school (I’m a teacher) so, naturally, I found myself in a bottle shop looking to reward myself for surviving another year a couple of jobs well-done! 

However, I find myself In a bit of a predicament these days, as a “self-financed” blogger… Lately I find myself torn between spending my money on bottles that I know I enjoyi versus something unfamiliar, which are getting fewer and farther between. So there I was, having almost grabbed a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask (How have I not reviewed this whisky yet?) before getting distracted by Bruichladdich Heavily Peated (Haven’t posted about this one either!) and, all the while I was considering leaving for a different liquor store where I knew I could find Four Roses Single Barrel

And that is exactly what I almost did, before my eye was drawn to a group of cartons that had previously gone unnoticed by me.  Sitting there, all black and red and white were the core range of Tomatin single malt. On one of the very good blogs that I follow (ocdwhisky.wordpress.com), I have recently read all kinds of positive things about Tomatin, so my mind was instantly made up – I decided to step on the first rung of this ladder and picked up a bottle of the Tomatin 12, which is 43% abv and cost me a very-reasonable $55 CDN. 


To the Eye

Crystal clear, pale straw in colour with flashes of deeper gold – moderate legs move quickly down the sides of my glass. 

In the Nose

The first impression is quite like a typical Speyside. Juicy green apples and pears come through very clearly, along with a mild earthy, herbaceous quality – the carton notes indicate that this is a peated malt, but it’s a more floral experience than I usually expect. Malt is another big player on this nose. It seems like there should be more distinct aromas to tease out. This was nose is rich and seems like it’s layered but it’s so well balanced that I find it hard to pinpoint too many individual characteristics but it’s a very enjoyable nose!

On the Tongue

My first impressions are of malty sweetness balanced with gently astringent oak tannins. Warming with hints of cinnamon and white pepper. There is a very nice balance of bourbony vanilla and sherry fruitiness toward the end. The finish is medium… maybe medium-long. It’s longer than I expected! Here is where the peat comes through for me, along with a trace of sherry juiciness which fades into a lingering floral sensation accompanied by almond milk. 

Final Thoughts

I like this whisky. It’s well-balanced, light and approachable – very appropriate as a summertime dram. It didn’t knock my socks off with complexity but, thankfully, not all whiskies aspire to be complicated and overly thought-provoking. Tomatin 12 year old seems quite content to settle into that respectable niche where almost any whisky drinker, from newbie to experienced, should be able to enjoy a dram or two.