Remarkably flavorful, with linen, oilcloth, dragon fruit, hints of cereal, dark fruits, warm peppers, creamy rye spices, vague chocolate, and coffee. Not overly sweet and just slightly floral. Viscous and creamy, yet massive, muscular, and so beautifully complex, balanced, and integrated. (102 bottles; Canada exclusive) $225 CAD
Perhaps the finest Canadian whisky I have ever tasted. Creamy and seamless from beginning to end. Gently sweet, with orange creamsicle, marzipan, sultana, praline, maple syrup, and a hint of coconut macaroon. Forty Creek whiskies have always been very good, but none have ever had the right stuff to reach classic status. Until now, that is. An outstanding, very distinctive whisky!
Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve (Lot 1867D), 40%
Canadian | $50
If you worried what would happen when Forty Creek ran out of Canadian oak barrels, you will be pleased to know John Hall found more local oak trees and had new barrels made; this time in Canada. This tightly integrated dram is rich in woody maple syrup, with raisins, almonds, and vanilla ice cream that softens a peppery glow. Silkier than the original, slightly restrained, and ever so quaffable. A longish, pithy finish begs another sip. Still a classic. Editor's Choice.
Each fall, whisky lovers in Canada and Texas anticipate John Hall’s new limited edition whisky. This year’s sits squarely in the golden heart of classic Canadian rye. Tingling gingery pepper is bathed in ultra-creamy butterscotch, woody maple syrup, black tea, and barley sugar. Prune juice and ripe dark fruits dissolve into dried apricots and zesty hints of citrus. Then floral rye notes turn dusty, with gentle wisps of willow smoke. Complex, full-bodied, and slowly evolving, so let it breathe. C$70
Fifteen years ago, Forty Creek used starboard (port-style wine) barrels to finish their legendary Portwood Reserve. The wine was emptied into fresh Forty Creek whisky barrels. Now, master blender Bill Ashburn has added back some of that original starboard to Forty Creek Unity. This lush, mouth-filling, butterscotch-sweet whisky bursts with red fruits, raisin tarts, hints of burnt toffee, and a restrained peppery glow.
A fan favorite now in its 11th year, the 2017 edition, Heritage, maintains the grain-forward, fruity Forty Creek house style, adding a buttery slipperiness, honeycomb, citrus peels, kumquats, marzipan, and blazing rye spices. Nutty and oily, but clean and spicy, with a never-ending finish. (under 16,500 bottles)
Master blender Bill Ashburn invited five Forty Creek fans to help him create this year’s special release. It is one of the tastiest new whiskies in recent years from Forty Creek. Rich, luscious caramels, grape jelly, sultanas, sweet red wine, and hot rye spices, with a round and velvety mouthfeel. Forty Creek’s annual releases are collectors’ favorites in Canada and the U.S. Some editions sell in the thousands of dollars, and Unity seems poised to become one of these classics. Number 12 in the 2018 Top 20
Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Small Batch (Lot 1867 L), 40%
Canadian | $65
A complex nose with citrus fruits, hints of sultanas, barrel tones, mild vanilla, butterscotch, and manuka honey. The sweetish palate is rich in stone fruits—peaches and apricots that merge into a vaguely pithy nuttiness, then dried Mediterranean fruits: dates and figs. Classic slippery corn sweetness complements hot, sweet rye spices. Ends in a medium, vaguely oaky, smoky finish.
Corn and rye whiskies blended with a tad of Villard Noir Starboard wine commemorate Canada’s victory in a battle fought in the War of 1812 where Forty Creek now distills whisky. Toasted oak staves were inserted into half of the fully matured whisky for 2 months. A strong maple nose dissolves into hints of fruitiness, while a sweet palate balances and restrains drying tannins. Fruity, creamy, and mouth-filling with peppery spices. (600 bottles for U.S.)
Finished in wet, freshly dumped bourbon barrels, Double Barrel shows strong bourbonesque vanilla and a slippery, almost syrupy lushness. This latest batch is even creamier than the early ones made by John Hall himself. After a deceptively simple start, a mouth-filling toffee sweetness broadens into ripe tropical fruits with fleeting under-notes reminiscent of earthy dragonfruit. Hot, peppery flares punctuate the soft fruitiness as it moves to the fore and the creamy mouthfeel subsides.
Three Grain Harmony marries rye and barley whiskies from 1992-94 to 4 year old corn whisky. The corn lends voluptuous body to a complex assortment of carefully integrated grains, dark fruits, prune juice, and butterscotch. Dried herbs, potpourri, and orange peel follow as the palate begins to broaden. When the big notes fade, look for delicate subtleties. Hot spices and pepper build from sip to sip and linger long into the sandalwood finish.
Vague fruitiness, barrel notes, and corncobs on the nose turn to lush caramels, with a plush mouthfeel punctuated by hints of rye spices that become more assertive as notes of cloves meld into candy cane on a long, spicy, then pithy finish. There is more fruit in this special Canada 150 edition of Confederation Oak—sweet ripe apples and tart gooseberries. A masterful example of blending.
Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve (Lot 1867-F), 40%
Canadian | $50
Each batch is a little bit different, this one leaning to sweet orchard fruits, nutty barley, and hot spicy rye. Butterscotch and vanilla on the nose translate well onto the palate. Brisk peppery spice underlies developing layers, adding another dimension of complexity to an already broad range of flavors. Hints of oak tannins on the finish remind us this was finished in Canadian wood.
Opinion is seriously divided on whether this or an earlier Port Wood edition is the best thing ever to come from John K. Hall’s Forty Creek distillery in Grimsby, Ontario. A winemaker, Hall used his own port barrels to finish a mature blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies. Stewed prunes, butterscotch, and licorice rule the nose, while the palate broadens into savory herbs, spiced fruit, sweet pipe tobacco, and hints of, yes, gunpowder. C$70
Similar to the standard Forty Creek Barrel Select, whiskymaker John Hall produces three different whiskies (rye, corn, and malted barley), ages them separately, and then marries them for a period before bottling. Unlike the Barrel Select, with Double Barrel Reserve, the resultant whisky is married in first-fill bourbon barrels rather than sherry casks. The result is a rich vanilla creaminess that coats the palate. Mixed in, you’ll find coconut, marshmallow, citrus, and pineapple, with emerging toasted pecan, dried spice, and dusty corn on the finish. Quite soothing and dangerously drinkable. My favorite so far from the various Forty Creek releases.
Created by distiller John Hall to celebrate his fifteen years of making whisky. It really is a whisky that defies categorizing. More body than most Canadian whiskies; softer and less aggressive than bourbon. When compared to Forty Creek Barrel Select (John’s standard whisky), it’s richer, more velvety, and sweeter on the nose and palate. Notes of toffee, silky caramel, mixed nuts, exotic spice, and a hint of marmalade. A soothing, almost rummy, very drinkable whisky.
A new direction for Forty Creek’s 8th annual release, which was aged 3 years, redistilled, then aged another 9 years. Quintessentially Canadian, it begins with Caramac candy bar, finishing in white pepper and bitter grapefruit pith. Not as lush as past releases, although the flavors remain a tightly woven panoply of fruit, spices, vegetal notes, and citrus zest. Gooseberries and lime on the nose become black currants on the palate as increasing hints of red wine come to dominate.
Consisting of whiskies aged between 6 to 10 years, with a similar grain component as a bourbon (but distilled differently) and finished in sherry casks for six months. Barrel Select is a soft, silky, somewhat feminine whiskey when compared to bourbon, with gently sweet notes of creamy vanilla, honeyed apricot, toasted nuts, and gentle background tropical fruit and spice. A whisky that really transcends category and definition.
John Hall’s tenth annual release blends 4 to 9 year old single grain barley, corn, and rye whiskies from a mix of barrels. Sweet and sour fruits, prunes, and grassy green grapes, all inside a barrel warehouse, yield a complex nose. Pears, violets, barley sugar, vanilla fudge, and hot pepper fade slowly into barrel tones and gentle bitter pith. A slightly slippery palate grows hot and spicy in the middle. Not as lush as past releases, but equally as complex. $75 CAD
This “amped-up” version of John K. Hall’s signature Barrel Select is not so much better as it is bigger and bolder. Cloves, ginger, and cinnamon burst over creamy rich butterscotch and searing red pepper, restrained only by dry rye grain and bitter orange. The initial fireworks complete, figgy dark fruit and nutty milk chocolate swirl capriciously over fragrant spring flowers, soft vanilla, and delicate herbal maple syrup. Dramatic and delightful.
Burnt sugar, wet raisins, oakspice, and a deep, underlying grain character. Flavors are wonderfully integrated: corn, malt, mellow syrup, hints of ripe plum and grape, wrapped in a light confection. Finish is light, warm, and lingering. Forty Creek releases a limited edition whisky every fall; this one focuses on grains rather than wood, according to distiller John Hall. Canadian distribution only.
Quite a bit darker than most other whisky creams. Chocolate and caramel—on the burnt side, an interesting difference—in the nose, with a sly hint of whisky behind it. Sweet and creamy, a bit clingy, with just a sting of whisky. Somewhat generic, though, because that interesting dark caramel is in the nose only, and I’d like this to be a bit more distinctive; more Forty Creek. Still pleasant enough for booze candy! C$29
Whisky maker John Hall says value whiskies save used barrels from being wasted. Study the label and you’ll find this lush mixer hails from Hall’s Forty Creek distillery. Sweet voluptuous butterscotch and corn syrup slather peppery heat and the mildest tannins. The pepper turns ticklish on the roof of your mouth until charred wood, burned toffee, and vanilla custard flow over it. Simple but very sippable, it’s a bit luxurious for a mixing whisky. (Canada only) C$24