I love Canadian whisky. The better ones, anyway. Sometimes I feel like somewhat of a leper, or a Canadian, because almost no one on Connosr.com but Canadians (including Canadian ex-pats) and I ever talk about Canadian whisky. I think that a wider world exposure to Canadian whisky and conversation about it would be a very good thing. It doesn't help that the majority of the best Canadian whiskies are only sold in Canada
The short four years during which I have been actively exploring Canadian whisky coincides with a period of blossoming of new high quality special releases coming from Canada, and also of the establishment of new Canadian microdistilleries
Prominent among the producers of new premium Canadian designer-whiskies is John Hall, master distiller/master blender at Forty Creek distillery, now owned by Gruppo Compari. John Hall was first, and still is, a wine-maker, before becoming a whisky-maker. John's wine-love makes it not too surprising that he loves to wine-up the whiskies which he makes. The Canadian blended whisky style frequently entertains wine and wine finishes in the whisky, which is something which the US style, using similar grains, has been until very recently quite reluctant to do
I've spoken with John myself, and consider him to be a very nice man. He told me in response to my question that 70% of Forty Creek's whisky volume goes to Barrel Select, which is their basic mass market bottling. Forty Creek also makes quite a few other expressions, including a special annual limited release whisky. The 2014 limited release is named Evolution
The reviewed sample of Forty Creek Evolution from bottle # 5829 was provided to me thanks to @paddockjudge, who has the best collection of Canadian Whisky of which I am aware. (Davin de Kergommeaux has not yet invited me to see his collection.) The reviewed bottle had been open for several months, and this sample is from late in the bottle. I am doing this review in both time-sequential and non-time-sequential format, largely because, in this particular case, the results of using the two review formats contrast significantly
Nose: heavy complex wine overlay with high, medium, and low pitches. The many wine flavours are quite lovely. There is not much to smell but wine here, but if you look hard you will also observe spiciness from rye grain in the background. Score 23/25 points
Taste: this is where it gets weird. Heavy wine flavours overlay strong spices from both rye grain and from oak. This is a classic John Hall Forty Creek Distillery house style on exhibit: lots of wine, lots of rye, and a good bit of new oak (the new oak until recently unusual in Canadian whisky). So how well does it work? For me, more often than not, wine clashes with rye grain flavours, and does so here. I love the intensity of flavour of almost everything produced at Forty Creek, and I would say that on average John Hall gets more flavour out of 40% abv whisk(e)y than any other distiller with whom I am familiar, worldwide. But are the wine and grain flavours of Evolution harmonious when combined? No. To me they are not. Score: 21/25 points
Finish: long, and stays mostly wine-dominated, with significant maple flavour developing by the death. Score: 20/25 points
Balance: No, this is not a balance I can praise. Forty Creek Evolution is certainly interesting and has delicious wine flavours, but it just doesn't come together as a coherent whisky. Score 18/25 points
Total Sequential Score: 82 out of 100 points
Non-Sequential Format Review (SQVH)
Strength: very strong, very vibrant flavours. Score 24/25 points
Quality: the quality of all of the flavours, taken separately, is quite high. Score 23/25 points
Variety: Given the large number of different wine flavours present, there is a very ample degree of variety/complexity. Score 22/25 points
Harmony: these are just not harmonious flavours, taken together. Score 17/25 points
Total Non-Sequential Score: 86 out of 100 points
Comment: I am averaging these two scores out for an overall review score of 84 points. I attribute the difference in the two methods' scores to be to the fact that in a sequential format great inbalance in the whisky will throw off each of the facets of nosing and tasting. In conclusion, tasting this whisky makes for quite an interesting experience, and when I sat down to re-sample Evolution for the review I found myself enjoying it more than I had recently on a trip to Ontario. This was probably because it now retained my undivided attention for a signficant period of time. Thank you, @paddockjudge, for giving Mary Anne a bottle of Evolution. I have come to greatly enjoy its rich flavours, even though I consider it to be poorly balanced. I know damned well that I am writing this review mostly for my many Canadian friends, and hopefully even more Canadian-friends-to-be, because just about no one else pays much attention to Canadian whisky. Not yet, anyway. But the future always holds promise of things not yet seen
@victor, I too seem to like this one more each time I try it. Though I have to say I preferred the 2013 special release Heart of Gold. The two are very different beasts indeed.
Thank you for promoting the stuff we produce up here.
I am eager to try forty creek sometime soon, too much bland blended Canadian whiskies here outside of Canada. Would love to see more exhuberant small-scale producers soon, heres to the micro-distillers! Very well composed review, it reminded me of a Distillers edition Glenkinchie (96) i tasted last summer, it had great flavour and complexity but it was completely unbalanced between sweet wine flavours and malt.