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Forty Creek Barrel Select

Average score from 14 reviews and 36 ratings 81

Forty Creek Barrel Select

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Forty Creek Barrel Select

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In an era where clear spirits were all the rage and most Canadian whisky companies were playing it safe, winemaker John K Hall took a chance and brought his unique experience and perspectives to the whisky industry. He laid down the first stocks of what would become Forty Creek whisky in 1992. Hall's innovation and commitment to quality reinvigorated the Canadian whisky industry. If you've ever seen a bottle of Forty Creek in your local grog shop, it's likely been this Barrel Select.

My history with this whisky is mostly positive, but in the past year, I've hit some particularly bad bottles. Luckily, this last one was a very good bottle.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose (undiluted): lots of sweet notes. Butterscotch, very much like Werther's Originals, caramel popcorn, rich and deep brown sugar notes, and light rye spice in the background. Take your time and let it breathe and you may notice some nuttiness in the background and a slight savoury note. Very full and inviting.
  • Palate (undiluted): Rich arrival, surprisingly rich for a 40% ABV whisky, more butterscotch/caramel, a bit of milk chocolate, very light rye and pepper notes in the background with a bit of a light citrus note throughout.
  • Finish: Medium length, buttery and sweet with hints of berries (blackberries, raspberries) making an appearance. This is a very friendly whisky.

Adding water or ice doesn't change much in the way of flavours. The sweetness is a bit muted, but that might be a function of dilution rather than temperature. Maybe it's a combination of both. Either way, this is a very easy drinking whisky. It makes for a great "background" whisky when you're having drinks with friends and you don't want to spend all of your time or attention on what you're drinking. But... sip it from a Glencairn glass and take your time, and there is some serious complexity here, albeit subtle. I can't help but feel this one would be improved at a higher proof, maybe around 46% ABV. But I'm biased towards (moderately) higher proof whiskies. I think (rightly or wrongly) that there might be a bit more balance or that the rye spice and cask notes would balance out the whisky a bit better at a higher proof. But maybe I'm wrong.

All in all, this is the best Forty Creek Barrel Select I've had in a very long time. I hope the batch number is correct, as the stamp was somewhat hard to read.


Since almost every review (some of my own included!) of Forty Creek seems to go into their unique "meritage" process, I will spare the reader this time. However, a few unique things about Forty Creek: they only distill their line of products once in a pot still, they use a climate controlled warehouse, and most of their grain they don't mill themselves.

Barrel select is composed of a mix of 6-10 year old single grain malted barley, corn, and rye whiskies. These whiskies are then blended together and set in sherry casks for further maturation.

Nose: Spicy rye, vanilla, and a very distinctive toasted oak smell as well which I don't find in places beyond Forty Creek. A bit of lighter tropical fruit, almost like guavas and perhaps marmelade. Oak also comes through, with heavy vanilla notes and caramel. The spiciness in the rye is very inviting. Additionally, it's quite creamy, even with scents of buttercream. The vanilla, the rye, the toasted oak are all quite prominent and well balanced. Black currants, plums, and orange peel are wonderfully present and seem to lift the nose to be fresh and light - in some ways, the fruitiness is reminiscent of port wine. Cinnamon is present in the nose too, which builds as it sits. 88%

Taste: Slightly viscous, with a dry rye spice build up, which dies down and subsides to vanilla and a reasonably complex grain taste and toasted wood. in the middle, malt seems to come a tiny bit forward with a bit of a grassy note, and creaminess from corn also comes in. Fruity, with a bit of a sherry note, and a few dried berries seem to emerge at the end with some of that marmelade from the nose. the spices tingle slightly at the end, with touches of clove and ginger. The toasted oak plays center stage, with the rye vying heavily for it. The sweetness is at a great level, I think too, for this whisky - just enough, but not too much for the profile. 83%

Finish: A bit dry...light with a bit of rye and the oak, but it's not very complex or engaging. I find that as I drink more the spices come out a bit more, which I certainly don't mind, with come cinnamon and ginger and white pepper. A bit of the creaminess comes through as well, as well as a bit of black currant after some time...I did hope for a bit more than this after the nose and taste. 73%

Intrigue: The value for this whisky is great, and it stands up well as a sipper and is one of my favourite mixers. It's not too bland, sweet, or light as can be the case with some Canadian whiskies - but it's still very approachable. 80%

Weighting the nose 25%, taste 35%, Finish 15%, and Intrigue 25% the overall grade is 81.

*I have also posted a separate format (with similar content) of this review at whiskywon.wordpress.com/2014/08/…


I have five very interesting Canadian whiskies to taste, leading up to Tuesday July 1st (I'll have a sixth the week after, so that will have to be extra). Let's start with a readily available standard offering from Forty Creek. I've reviewed some of their limited editions here (and the underrated Copper Pot) but this is my first examination of their most ubiquitous whisky. This particular bottle was a birthday gift from my brother.

I was surprised to learn that all the whiskies in Barrel Select are distilled in their copper pot still (given the high volume of this product, that distillation method seems quite laborious). The mash bill is a mix of rye, barley and corn, which are each matured separately in new white American oak barrels (at various char levels) for 6 to 10 years, then blended together and matured for another six months in sherry casks.

The colour is a reddish bronze. On the nose, black cherries, dates and walnuts. There are some raspberries and blackberries in there as well - quite fruity. Sharp rye in the background, with pencil shavings. Cloves and cinnamon. Earthy. Eucalyptus? And some sherry notes as well. Water adds more wet slate rye notes. Very complex for a standard Canadian release.

On the palate, the sherry notes are still present; also black currant, maple, honey and vanilla. Dark chocolate with some rich spices. Quite fruity as well, this time there are dates and plums. Water adds some citrus - very interesting. Not as complex as the nose but very enjoyable.

The finish is a little chalky with some Christmas cake and black liquorice to give it body. I hadn't tried this one is some years, and back then I thought it was so-so. But now I get much more complexity and richness than I remember. Less rye here than in most Canadian whiskies, but more fruit, nuts and chocolate. Very enjoyable and criminally easy to drink.

Great review, @talexander. From the one bottle of it I have owned, I consider Forty Creek Barrel Select to be very underrated. Barrel Select has ton(ne)s of flavour at 40% abv. Very big flavours for that puny abv. At 2014 Spirit of Toronto on May 3, I asked Forty Creek Master Distiller/Master Blender John Hall what percentage of the total Forty Creek whisky production went into Barrel Select. He told me that 70% of Forty Creek Whisky becomes Barrel Selct. John Hall at Forty Creek gets just about the most flavour out of 40% abv that I have ever seen. Using a lot of new oak has a lot to do with that.

Yep, lots of new oak for 6-10 years - tonight I tasted it next to some bourbon (Maker's Mark) and it is quite interesting comparing those oak notes. Interestingly, I didn't mention oak in my tasting notes, as there was much more going on with fruit and vanilla.


Warm steady fast arrival fruit/herbal middle develops a well balanced long slow powerful finish.

I first discovered forty creek before I discovered whisky connosr and this review was done with the sixth bottle in my cabinet. I strongly recommend this as a great whisky for anyone and anytime. :)

Forty Creek Barrel Select doesn't get a lot of respect, even from the Canadians. I like my bottle of it better than I like a lot of the more well-loved Canadian whiskies, such as (my sister's bottle of)Forty Creek Confederation Oak. There was some thick sulphur in Barrel Select a couple of years ago, but I guess that recent batches have gotten past that defect.

@Victor thanks for your thoughts. I agree Forty Creek is one of my favorite whiskeys. I remember that there was some sulphur in the past but it is really doing well these days. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this whiskey but never reviewed it until now. :)


Forty Creek Barrel Select is the basic mass market product of the Forty Creek Distillery. The reviewed bottle has been open about 13 months, and is 80% full. This review is in non-sequential format (SQVH)

Strength: the flavours of all of the component elements, grain, oak, and wine, are intensely powerful from nose to palate to finish. They are almost too strong, and this is at 40% abv. Score 23/25 all whiskies; 24/25 Canadian Category

Quality: for the first 5 months this manifest incredibly strong rye spicy flavours, very strong very sweet vanilla/caramel wood flavours (from new oak, I believe), and, this being Canadian blended whisky, strong wine flavours, as well. I liked the whisky during this time and would have rated it at 87 overall.

At about 5 months after the bottle was opened, sulphur drowned out everything else and made this bottle undrinkable...

...but, in the last couple of months, for reasons which I do not understand, the sulphur, which can still be tasted to a small degree, has receded in intensity and the whisky is once again drinkable, albeit softened, compared to the experience of the first 5 months.

Jim Murray reports in his 2013 Bible that Forty Creek has gotten the Sulphur out of Barrel Select with his more recently sampled batch. I am scoring this on the first 5 months, and on the supposition that Mr. Murray has it right for the more recent batches. Score 21/25 all; 23/25 Canadian

Variety: there is tons of variety in these flavours. The mouth pops with their intensity. Score 23/25 all; 24/25 Canadian

Harmony: the intense flavours together make a slightly strange brew. Not refined, not sophisticated, but highly entertaining and very robust. A bruiser. Score 20/25 all; 21/25 Canadian

Total Scores: 87 all; 92 Canadian

Comment: I like this whisky. I am enthusiastic at the prospect that my next bottle of Forty Creek Barrel Select will likely not have an issue with Sulphur flavours. Personally I prefer the Barrel Select over what I have sampled of the Forty Creek Confederation Oak, which is to me dull and washed-out by comparison

Now re-sampling Forty Creek Barrel Select, half a bottle and THREE YEARS LATER, obervations:

1) I still like Barrel Select, quite a lot

2) three years later, the flavours are still very intense, perhaps the strongest I have ever tasted from ANY NATIONALITY 40% ABV whisk(e)y. Three years of the bottle open, this nose is still HUGE, 90th percentile of intensity for any nose. The mouth flavours are still as strong as most whiskies at 55-60% ABV NEW.

3) this particular sulphur-tainted batch has evolved in a way which hides the residual sulphur behind the rye flavours pretty well. Right now, 3 years later and sulphur-tainted, this is still easily 85 pt whisky. More recent reports, e.g. from sulphur ghoul Jim Murray, are that the sulphur problem in Barrel Select has been eliminated.

4) I consider Forty Creek Barrel Select to be a very underrated whisky. Some Forty Creek premium expressions, especially the one bottle of Forty Creek Confederation Oak from which I have extensively sampled, I consider to be overrated. Could just be that one batch, though, I DO understand.

5) John Hall, Master Distiller and Master Blender at Forty Creek/Beam Suntory, knows what he is doing. He is making whisky in the Canadian Style, and THERE IS A CANADIAN STYLE. In general, I don't like wheat and rye together, and I don't think that wine casks (or wine additives) work well with either or both of wheat and rye. John puts them all together, and gets more flavour from 40% ABV whisky than just about anyone else on earth. John Hall knows that wheat, rye, and corn ALL work better with NEW OAK, and has revolutionaised Canadian whisky by using a lot of new oak. Barley-malt whiskies have to be very careful of the use of new oak, because barley has subtle flavours which are easily overwhelmed by new oak, IF THAT OAK HAS BEEN CHARRED. Glenmorangie Ealanta illustrates the potential of long-aged malt whisky using new oak which has been TOASTED, BUT NOT CHARRED.

6)Forty Creek Barrel Select is the primary ambassador of Forty Creek to the world. John Hall told me in March that Barrel Select constitutes approximately 70% of all of Forty Creek's whisky production, overall.

@Victor, FC keeps it all together in the bottle for a very long time.

I have a bottle of (no longer available) FC'Three Grains' that is now open 7 years. Sweet and nutty nose, whisps of dried tobacco leaf, orange, gingery-citrus and baking spices. The nose is huge!

Palate entry - creamy, dreamy rye spices, butterscotch.

Rye spices dominate the exit while ginger and citrus pith complete this one. I wish I had a case of this one.


I was throughly disappointed with this whisky. I'd heard others say that the barrel select bottling of Forty Creek was prone to sulfur contamination but I bought a bottle anyways hoping for the best. Damn the luck! All was looking good for the first few drams and then with a quarter of the whisky gone an overwhelming sulfur bomb went off inside the bottle and the other 3/4 became horridly tainted. I still give this dram a 60/100 due to first impressions but docked at least 25 points due to the unacceptable taint. Better without water when it isn't mired in sulfur.


Barrel Select is a blend of corn, rye, and malted barley, aged 6 to 10 years in oak casks of varying char levels, and then finished for some months in Canadian sherry casks.

On the nose it offers some toasty notes and marmalade. Rather restrained, but pleasant enough.

In the mouth you get immediate toasted flavours, especially coffee and toasted nuts, accompanied by honey sweetness. Light-bodied and smooth. Less sherry involvement than I recall. Very nice overall. It finishes with nice toasted oak flavours and the tartness of sherry.

Barrel Select is an excellent entry-level whisky, offering greater complexity and depth of flavour than most of its Canadian counterparts. Great value.


Drunk neat.

Nose: Vanilla and raisins.

Taste: Starts cool and is fairly liquid, not as syrupy as other Canadians I have tasted. Sweet at first (maple syrup-like) but becomes more fruity and slightly spicy as it warms.

Finish: Rye spiciness comes out at first, then gradually fades to leave a sweet aftertaste in the mouth.

Balance: Fairly sweet but well balanced with fruits and spices. It's rather subdued, nothing jumps out. It's a good introduction and it's just complex enough to be interesting.

Will I buy it again? No, not with the Copper Pot Reserve at nearly the same price point and so much more powerful.


A group of friends and I had our first Whiskey night this past weekend. We each bought a bottle (4 total) and did a blind tasting of each bottle. This bottle was one of the competitors, which makes this review based on a blind tasting.

Nose: Right off the bat, the Forty Creek Barrel Select offered a very pleasant vanilla. I also smelled a bit of medicine, but it wasn't bad. This was really nice!

Palate: Light oak taste, with some syrup and caramel. This was so disappointing because of the nose's promise. Still, it wasn't bad and was very drinkable.

Finish: The finish was on the shorter side, but not too short. Pretty smooth with a caramel coming through.

Overall not a bad whiskey for everyday drinking. When I found out what this was and that it costs on $20, I thought immediately that this is going to replace Crown Royal as my Canadian whiskey of choice.


Tawny amber pour. There is a significant peppery/spicy edge to the nose with a little bit of alcohol. It opens up with a touch of light vanilla and some butterscotch in addition to a little bit of rye character. The flavour is a little bit sweet with a kiss of bruleed sugar and a lightly oily texture. The flavour has a little bit of fruit but it's grain/spice dominated. There is almost a touch of vineousness on the back. Lingering vanilla on the finish. A fine whisky.

I really like this stuff. Very sweet almost candied. I tell people this is the whisky to give someone who has never really tried it neat. I consider this whisky the antithesis of those Islay single malts. I will say that I gave someone new to whisky a Laphroig 10 years once and the face that was made was pure entertainment!

I've enjoyed a nice maple syrup/sugar note to this one on the palate. Overall, I do not find this offering to be a typical Canadian 'mixer' whisky (none of the spirity type notes that the more common bottles (i.e. CC & CR) seem to have. A very nice "lower shelf" offering that punches above its' weight.


Last February, I did a little road trip to Van Kleek Hill to go see the Beau's brewery and by some of their great microbrewed beer. I killed two birds with one rock by going to the lcbo. There I picked up a bottle of Forty Creek Barrel Select. I did well.

The nose is very beautiful. Really. It's sweet and fruity and spicy and with vanilla. But nothing overwhelming, just very enticing.

It is quite full bodied and creamy. A dark gold, somewhat auburn colored.

In the mouth, it's very bread pudding like: raisins in sweet syrup with spices and vanilla. Great! And it gives the same cool initial hit.

And the finish is vanilla and spices that becomes dry. Woody.

All around a very drinkable, moorish dram. Sweet but not too much. Quite complex and interesting.

Keeps reminding me of the flor de caña 12 YO, but spicier, more complex and with a better finish. I should try blending them in a rhumsky... I'll post the result in the comments.

Ralfy from whiskyreview suggested trying that one out with a touch of ardbeg, calling it an Atlantic Bridge. I tried it with some laphroaig (we'll call it Iwerydd Bont which is the gaelic version of it) and it's to die for. The peat and the brine gives so much depth. Now, if I could put my hand on some Older peated scotches...


After reading some reviews of this, I finally scored a bottle. A well known whisky writer has complained that this expression of Forty Creek's whisky is sulphur tainted and unfortunately I have to agree with his assessment, at least with respect to my bottle. As I drank more of this the sulphur taint became stronger, perhaps because the sulphur settles to the bottom of the bottle. I emailed with Forty Creek and they were surprised that this could be sulphur tainted.

I have had some drinks of this from another person's bottle and initially my bottle tasted fine so my review is based upon my initial impressions of this and not the subsequent tastings where I noticed sulphur.

The nose on this is delicious with notes of carmel and butterscotch that leaves you lusting for more. Any person who does not like whisky will instantly want to try this based upon the nose alone.

The taste does not match the nose but is still quite nice with fruity and vanilla notes.

The finish is quite short and does not linger. While not dramatically complex, this is still a fine whisky and quite inexpensive for what it offers. Even though my bottle became unpleasant in the last half or so given the sulphur taint I noted, given the price (around $US 20), I would definitely recommend this.

I have to say I haven't noticed sulfur either. This is my favorite brand of Canadian whisky. This is the next in my review line then I'll give the forty creeks a rest for awhile. Good review! I'm glad you enjoyed it despite your findings of sulfur. Take care! Dream and dram!

mine is absolutely fine. it's an unbelievably easy to drink whisky. I should post a review soon, but when I pour myself a dram, i simply enjoy it and forget to take notes.


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.

@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 !

@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 ; )


great Canadian whisky, blended only after each grain mash aged seperately. Unique method.

People reject Canadian because it is relatively delicate. This is true. IF you blew all your tastebuds on smakes and french fries, it will be too light for you.

On the other hand, if you really like whisky you need to try this one. It may change your mind from "Scotch or nothing."

Yes, something different can provide a vacation away from scotch now and then. I sometimes enjoy a delicate Canadian Club Sherry Cask ... but don't compare it scotch ... different class all together. @drbooze, glad you reviewed the Forty Creek ... might try it.

Agree about the sherry cask. Also check out Cask 16 from Crown Royal... finished in Sauternes casks.

Canadian to Scotch is like white to red wine. much different, and maybe not comparable. If you're a red wine hound (and most people are) then white is declasse. But that's not true. it's just a matter of preference.

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