For #WorldWhiskyDay, I’m doing a trio of Forty Creek limited edition releases. Hard to believe I last reviewed a forty creek whisky back in my 20th review here, and now I’m at over 100. my opinions on Forty Creek have definitely changed over the years, going from hardcore fanboy to disappointment in the similarity of many releases, to now being a skeptic of their future with Campari and John Hall out of the picture. Will have to wait and see what happens in the future, but today we look to the past:
The first is a sample I got from tomodera nearly 2 years ago in 2015, Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve. The 2009 version of this has been long hailed as the best John Hall ever made, and this is the 2012 edition. Let’s see if it lives up to the hype.
Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve – 45% ABV
- Appearance: hey now, a forty creek release that doesn’t look like e150! Hooray for port casks.
- Nose: red fruit, tobacco, dried leather, raspberry, cherry cordial, nuts, rye spice, cinnamon, cocoa and chocolate, dried fruit, raisins, mulling spice. Damn, that’s a lot going on and very different from most FC releases.
- Palate: chocolate, leather, light fruitiness, rye spice and pepper, tobacco, sugar, oak. The port doesn’t overpower it but definitely complements it well. Overall the palate isn’t as good as the nose.
- Finish: medium, sweet, spicy, tobacco.
- Score: 87
it’s less sweet than Evolution and the port cask gives some great chocolate, leather and tobacco notes. The body is quite nice too. I’m scoring it below my historical Evolution rating, even though I like it slightly better, as today I’d put Evolution lower as well. . Definitely the best Forty Creek I’ve had.
Three Grain Harmony was released in Fall 2015 and is the 2nd last Ltd edition from John Hall. Having gone to whisky weekend a few times previously, with mixed results on the whiskies, I decided to give them one last shot. This happened to be the year of my wedding as well, so when it came time to reserve bottle numbers, I went with #0808, as our wedding date is August 8th. When we went to the distillery to pick it up, John was signing bottles as well, and when I told him the significance of the bottle number, he put a congrats on the bottle and back-dated it to August 8th as well, which was a very nice gesture! I’ll be keeping the bottle for sure, and am curious how the juice inside performs. The name refers to the three grains in this blend (as in all FC whiskies) corn, barley and rye. The difference in this one is the barley and rye stocks date back to when they first started the distillery. This is blended with some younger corn whisky, which many assume is standard double distilled base corn whisky from Hiram Walker.
Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony – 43% ABV
- Appearance: typical coloured Cdn whisky. Likely e150
- Nose: toffee, caramel, rye spice, nutty, some acetone, citrus, paprika,
- Palate: nutty, typical forty creek rye spice but less than the heart of gold or copper pot, vegetal malt, caramel, some oak, fairly sweet corn, cinnamon, buttery.
- Finish: short, buttery, some malt and spice.
- Score: 82
scoring it relative to previous forty creek whiskies, it would fall Slightly below heart of gold and just above copper pot. Not in the same league as portwood or evolution. The score doesn’t reflect this (wish I could go back and re-calibrate all the scoring of FC releases, as i regret some of the scores ive given them now), as my scoring standards have been made more strict over time.
After some of the disappointments of recent years, I decided not to buy the Founder’s Reserve this year. Turns out, given John Hall’s recent retirement, this is his last Ltd Edition release from Forty Creek, so I figured I should at least try it and round out a trio of ltd editions. I dropped in to the distillery on my way to Buffalo and had a taste at the sample bar. The folks there wouldn’t tell me much about it, other than saying the barley is the main element in it, rather than the usual corn. This was explained using an interesting analogy of corn on the cob where normally the corn whisky is the corn cob and rye and barley are added like salt and pepper… but with this whisky the barley is the corn and the corn is added to the cob and then…… yeah I got where they were going with it too, but said maybe they should come up with a new analogy. oh well. When I asked about proportions or more detail I got a stern answer about it being a secret and proprietary… frankly I don’t see what the big deal is, but didn’t put up a fuss, At least it was nice that they tried something different than the usual.
Forty Creek Founder’s Reserve – 45% ABV
- Appearance: typical colour, e150
- Nose: Acetone, nutty, sharp, corn, typical FC rye smell
- Palate: Less sharp than others they’ve put out. Tastes young still, the young rye is still there. Nutty again. Cant really get the barley influence
- Finish: Warm, medium length.
- Score: 73
overall kind of disappointing. I’ve tasted their straight barley whisky before and it was fantastic, but it didn’t shine through very well here, despite the high proportion. This whisky didn’t have the same sharp rye flavour that most of their expressions have, but it tasted very much like a typical Cdn whisky still. the nose in particular was quite harsh and not enjoyable, though it’s likely the poor choice of sample glasses they use could have impacted it negatively. sad result for the last John Hall release. Here’s hoping they start to experiment more now with a new master blender, and ideally get back to some wine cask aging, as their spirit seems to shine in that environment.