Forty Creek Barrel Select
The Young Lion
5th Oct 2010
Best price to buy online:
Tasting Notes by dbk
Recently, the Forty Creek distillery of Grimsby, Ontario, released their latest expression, Canadian Oak Reserve. Over the launch weekend, I toured the facility and returned home with bottles to complete my stock of the current Forty Creek lineup: Barrel Select, Three Grain, Double Barrel Reserve, and Canadian Oak Reserve. Following in the footsteps of several distinguished members of the Connosr community, I will review each of these expressions over the coming days. Below is a lengthy preamble of Forty Creek’s method; feel free to skip it in order to get to the review that follows.
All Forty Creek whiskies are some blend of maize, rye, and barley, though the ages and proportions are somewhat variable. There are no age statements on any Forty Creek release; the consistency of an expression (particularly Barrel Select) is maintained by tasting. They use two copper pot stills—the larger of the pair modified by a short, stainless steel column that keeps alcohol concentrations high (at about 65%)—and they use only the first distillate. Their rye barrels are lightly charred, barley barrels are medium-charred, and maize barrels are heavily charred (also known as an “alligator” char).
Forty Creek’s owner and master distiller is John Hall, a winemaker by trade. In the making of Forty Creek whisky, Hall has taken advantage of his vintner’s background in several ways. He founded Kittling Ridge, a winery, to provide funds while his Forty Creek spirits began to mature, and he makes use of the winery’s Kingsgate Reserve sherry casks to finish Barrel Select, Forty Creek’s basic expression.
Most importantly, however, Hall’s training led to a simple, but revolutionary, method of whiskymaking. In the production of whisky (from multiple grains), the different grain spirits tend to be combined prior to maturation—a mashbill, for instance, of some proportion of maize, rye, and barley fermented, distilled, and aged together. The grain profiles are thus confounded with one another, such that the moment at which one spirit (such as the maize) achieves its desired profile may not correspond to that of the others (such as the rye and barley). Hall gets around this problem by employing a winemaker’s method, in the Bordeaux and meritage traditions, for each of his Forty Creek releases: maturing each spirit in barrels separately before blending. Once a barrel has achieved its desired profile, the spirit is transferred to stainless steel tanks for holding until the other spirits are ready for blending. Once blended, the final spirit is re-barreled from a period of several months to several years, to finish the whisky and round the final product out.
FORTY CREEK BARREL SELECT
Barrel Select is Forty Creek’s entry-level whisky. It is inexpensive (~$25 Canadian for 750 ml), widely available in most Canadian (and several US) markets, and is more of a mixing whisky than a sipper. As noted above, it is finished in sherry casks.
The nose is sweet vanilla and butterscotch pudding; butter slathered over hot, fresh, whole wheat rolls; grape juice, white chocolate, and orange marmalade.
The palate begins with slightly sour grapes, turning to sweet vanilla, bitter orange, vanilla again, and milk chocolate. The finish is slightly hot and edgy: fine for sipping, even better for mixing.
The body has a light mouthfeel, coating the glass with a healthy splash of wee whisky tears.
Barrel Select is a superb entry-level whisky, and for the price, an unbelievable bargain. It should have the Canadian whisky giants (Crown Royal, Canadian Club) running scared.