Forty Creek Deconstruction Tasting & Reviews

This post is a throwback to Forty Creek’s Whisky Weekend in 2014. I had long enjoyed Forty Creek as the better alternative to the Canadian whisky standards of Crown and CC. I’d bought a bunch of the limited editions in the past and figured why not check out the distillery and get one of the limited edition bottlings in person plus a signature? So I  pre-ordered a bottle of the new limited release, Evolution, and reserved the bottle with my number as a birth year. I picked up my bottle, had it personalized and signed by John Hall, went on a tour and then attended John’s deconstruction seminar, where he gave us samples of the composite parts of his whisky, talked about each of them, and then gave his descriptions of each of the new releases that came out this weekend. I learned a ton of cool things while there… here are some of my favourite factoids:

  • John Hall always wanted to be a whisky maker but after getting the training, didn’t get hired by Hiram Walker in his hometown of Windsor.
  • He became a renowned wine maker for decades until he fulfilled his dream and put his learned skills to work in his whisky blending.
  • John started making sherry specifically to create barrels he could use for sherry finishing later on when he would be making Whisky.
  • The distillery where Kittling Ridge and now Forty Creek were located was originally a Swiss Eau de Vie maker that went out of business
  • All of Forty Creek’s whisky are made in small batch copper pot stills and they use the continuous stills on site for their vodka production
  • Forty Creek has been bottling Appleton Rum for years, and is actually the largest bottler of their rum in North America. It was Campari’s purchase of Appleton a few years ago that led to them exploring and eventually purchasing Forty Creek from John Hall.
  • Forty Creek is named after Forty Mile Creek in the region, which was used for grain mills and transportation many years ago.

Hope you enjoy these short reviews of all the whiskies we tried at the seminar. Here’s an album of pictures from the tour as well; sorry for the potato quality. 

Forty Creek Barrel Sample: Canadian Rye ~40% abv

Rye sample from the barrel, diluted to about 40%. Aged separately in low char oak barrels.

  • Appearance: a urine-esque yellow colour. Decent legs.
  • Nose: very spicy, peppery, a bit one-dimensional
  • Palate : very very spicy. Incredibly light mouthfeel. Pretty hot despite being diluted down to about 40%
  • Finish: very warm, spice lingers for a long time on the lips and tongue.
  • rating: 79/100

tasty but one-dimensional. Very distinctly Forty Creek though and I could really pick out the characteristic spiciness of the rye so familiar from their commercial offerings.

Forty Creek Barrel Sample: Malted Barley ~40% abv

Single malted barley whisky, aged in medium char barrels. about 40%

  • Appearance: very very pale yellow. similar to Ardbeg 10. Gorgeous thick legs.
  • Nose: wow! Smells like a glenlivet 12. tons of fruit, sugars, some oak, apples, pears, nuts, chocolate. Really really good.
  • Palate: light and fruity, some spiciness but not much. Pretty nutty. Very malty earthy… delicious. Incredible how Scotch-y it tastes!
  • Finish: sweet finish, moderate body.
  • rating: 87/100

I was very impressed by this single malt. If John released this as-is (preferably higher ABV) I’d pay a decent amount of money for it! I asked him in the seminar if he would consider it, but he likes the artisanal aspect of blending. Mentioned he could consider finishing the whiskies to add his ‘fingerprint’ to it and he said it’s a good suggestion… one can hope!

Forty Creek Barrel Sample: Indian Corn ~40% abv

Indian corn whisky aged in heavy charred barrels. Served at about 40%. About 3-4 years old right now.

  • Appearance: gold-orange. Good body, thick legs.
  • Nose: sweeter than a typical bouron. Lots of caramel, heavy oak, sweet corn, banana.
  • Palate: lots of banana flavour! Very sweet, creamy mouthfeel. Some more oak, corn, vanilla. Very smooth.
  • Finish: lots of corn flavour in the finish and lingers for a long time. Sweetness.
  • rating: 84/100

I was impressed by this whisky and it would also be a great single-grain release, but would need a higher ABV to really wow me. I felt the composite parts of his whisky are actually greater than the sum with respect to the barrel select. Let’s see how some other blends fare…

Forty Creek Copper Pot – 43% abv

reviewed this quite a while ago, much earlier in my whisky journey. Let’s see if after tasting its inputs, if my impression has changed at all:

  • Appearance: deep amber, thick legs.
  • Nose: heavy rye influence, not much of the corn whisky influence, despite it being a large part of the blend-bill.
  • Palate: very spicy, toffee, some fruit but hard to define. Lots of rye
  • Finish: warm, long, spicy
  • rating: 84/100

no change from my previous assessment and tasting notes were similar. I do like it better than the entry-level offering

Forty Creek Spike: Spiced Honey Whisky – 40% abv

tasted this after the Evolution, but posting it before. Campari has apparently pushed john to cater to the flavoured whisky trend that’s been growing recently. I didn’t have very high expectations coming into this one

  • Appearance: dark caramel. Probably coloured.
  • Nose: the spiciness of the copper pot is replaced with sweet notes. Lots of sugar, honey.
  • Palate: very sugary, honey, caramel. Better than I expected but still not amazing. I do like that the whisky flavour is still stronger than the additives. Very smooth and easy drinking.
  • Finish: very sweet. Creamy, viscous
  • rating: 73/100

I hesitate to score it because I’m not sure which scale to use… but oh well. I wouldn’t buy this for myself but might consider picking it up to serve to friends.

Forty Creek Evolution 2014 – 43% abv

The Forty Creek Evolution is a mostly 12-yr old whisky, of which 9 years was spent in French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon barrels after he re-distilled some of his standard blended whisky. John mentioned he basically forgot about them for a few years and then decided to use them for this limited release. It’s supposed to still change a bit in the bottle according to John, though I’m skeptical. It probably does benefit from sitting out in the glass for a bit though.

  • Appearance: deep amber, great, thick legs
  • Nose: brown fruit, figs, oak, smoke, cinnamon, nutme, spices, berries, chocolate
  • Palate: Rye spice, raspberry, oak, peaches, smoke, nutty, cinnamon, some more fruit, cocoa, very bold!
  • Finish: pipe tobacco was mentioned on his notes, and I may not have placed it if it weren’t prompted but I really do taste it in the end. Oaky notes linger and become sweet and sugary in the long run.
  • rating: 90/100

first time giving a world whisky a 90. It really is a step up from his other offerings with a much richer palate and more complexity. Big fan and excited to see what else he tries in the next few years!

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