Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky
by Darcy O'Neil on February 2011
There are very few independent Canadian whisky distillers left, but Forty Creek is one of them, and a good one at that. The Forty Creek distillery is located between Toronto and Niagara Falls, Ontario. It is operated by John Hall who has been a wine producer for over 20 years, and to scratch an itch, he began making whisky in the early 1990's. When he started to think about making a whisky, he looked at it from the knowledge he already had and that was making wine. Mr. Hall likes to state that he follows tradition, but is not bound to it, which is great because it makes for a quality product.
Forty Creek Barrel Select whisky is unique because of the way it is produced. First, there is no mash bill for the grains. The whisky is made by fermenting and distilling each grain (rye, barley and corn) individually. So basically there are three single grain whiskies that are barrelled and aged. The distillation step takes place in copper pot stills, which retains more flavour than the common column still. This is very unique in the Canadian whisky world since the column still pretty much domiantes. After distillation, the spirit is placed in oak barrels to age. John Hall best describes his method for aging the distinct distillates:
"For the rye, I use a light toasted American White oak barrel in order to preserve the fruitiness and spiciness of the rye. For the barley, a slightly more aggressive spirit, I use a medium toasted barrel to provide smoothness and to bring out the nuttiness of the spirit. Lastly, the corn, although it is an aggressive spirit, can bring a great deal of weight to a whisky. Corn needs to be aged in a heavy charred barrel to smooth the whisky (that's why all vodka is charcoal filtered to smooth the vodka out)."
After aging, each individual whisky barrel is tasted and noted. The whiskies are then blended to create the proper taste profile and then the blended whisky is aged another six months in used sherry casks.
Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky Tasting Notes:
Nose: Quiet to start with subtle floral hints and a slight sweetness. After a few minutes this whisky really opens up. Nose of dark fruits like plums and a sweetness that's hard to place. Very nice though. Very smooth.
Palette: Smooth start, with a fruitiness and a subtle attack from the wood and spice. Nice clean finish with a slight bite. Great balance between sweetness.
With Water: A splash of water opens up the nose and showcases the Canadian vanilla and toffee nose. The floral hints are still present, but only in the background. The addition of water makes for an exceptionally smooth drink. The attack from the wood and spicy notes disappears, but the finish is still present and lingers gently for a few minutes.
Compared to Crown Royal:
Forty Creek is sweeter than Crown Royal, and that is probably from the aging of some of the whiskies in used Port / Sherry barrels. Barrel Select is very smooth and easily competes with Crown Royal on the flavour side of things, and in some cases surpasses Crown Royal.
At the new restaurant / bar, Mint, I have selected Forty Creek Barrel Select as our house Canadian whisky. The reason for this is that when you think how a whisky should be made Mr. Hall gets it right. He takes the time to do it properly, he doesn't use the cheapest methods or the fastest to market methods. These little things impress me, but most of all this is a great whisky. If you get an opportunity to pick up a bottle I highly recommend you do, you won't be disappointed.
I look forward to the time when new products are released by Forty Creek. In the rumor mill the is word that a whisky aged in used Port barrels is in the works, and I've also heard that there is a possibility of a 100% rye whisky being released. The rye rumor is the least reliable, so take it with a grain of salt.
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