Forty Creek Barrel Select

The Young Lion

Reviewed by
Connosr member:



5th Oct 2010

Reviewer rating:


About this score:

The average score for this whisky is 80.

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.


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.


Whisky details


Forty Creek







AboutChoice wrote:

@dbk, a very thorough and edifying review ! With a name like Barrel Select, I would have assumed it to be more of a sipper, rather than a mixer. Another curious thought that I have is regarding the sherry finish in an entry-level expression; I would think that you would have to carefully select more of a delicate mix so as not to loose what the sherry has added. It is good to see all of the Fourty Creek line-up in perspective.

Well, think I'll pour a dram of Fourty Creek ... alas, all I have is the Double Barrel Reserve ... yum !

05 October 2010 03:29
Rex Alban

Rex Alban wrote:

Sour, bitter and spicy? good mixer, sounds bad whiskey to me.

05 October 2010 12:15

dbk wrote:

@AboutChoice, it would be fine for sipping, but its strengths lie elsewhere. I would happily recommend it to any beginner for its sweetness and surprising complexity, but for the practiced whisky drinker, Forty Creek has better expressions to contemplate. The sherry finish is just a short stay in the barrel together, but I do think it's a noticeable one.

@Rex-Alban, the sour and bitter notes are all quite brief, and spicy is a right treat as far as I'm concerned! I wouldn't have given marks of 76-80 for a bad whisky ; )

05 October 2010 13:33
Rex Alban

Rex Alban wrote:

Yep, I have read other reviews and it looks like it's a good-un

05 October 2010 14:21

JeffC wrote:

This has me very intrigued. I tried to pick up a bottle at my local Virginia ABC store and they are sold out with the nearest stock being about 40 miles away so they are going to try to ship some to me.

15 December 2010 02:20

dbk wrote:

Let us know how it works out for you, @JeffC!

15 December 2010 03:30

JeffC wrote:

It is still on backorder in Virginia. While traveling in California recently, I tried to pick up a bottle but BevMo was sold out, clerk muttered something about not being able to keep it on the shelves. I went back to the same BevMo a few days later and they had some so I got a bottle for the person i was staying with. I had it a few times and was very impressed but need to try it a few more times before I do a review.

29 December 2010 00:31

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