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This, the 10th special release from Forty Creek, also marks John Hall’s departure from Forty Creek (he is retiring). A sad day for Canadian whisky – what a legend. This whisky is a blend of 4-9 year old whisky, focused around the barley whisky – much of which is 8 years old. The maturation took place in a mix of lightly toasted and heavily charred American oak barrels, and bottled at 45%. 12,000 bottles.
I visited Forty Creek to pick up the bottle and was met by someone with lots of talking points - it has definitely become more commercial since Campari. However, it was interesting because she cited ages (5 years) for double barrel and confed oak before the finishing process (around 6 months for double barrel; 2 years for confed oak). This is a change from the 6-10 years that John Hall used to talk about - but you can taste that in the whisky anyway.
I am not sure how much John Hall was involved here, or how much is all marketing. The new master blender, Bill Ashburn, lead the tasting, not John Hall - so it makes me wonder if he did most of the work rather than Hall. But, this is just conjecture, and I wasn't at the tasting.
I really wish they would stop putting the 4 year old whisky in there. It has been the bane of the last two releases, in my opinion, and is also the bane of their double barrel now. Exceeding complexity, but it is met with immaturity. This release has a similar taste profile to last year, but it is a bit better.
Fresh doughnuts, caramel, orange, anise – but I can’t get over the immaturity, though this lifts off as the glass sits – leave it 20 minutes if you find this too. There’s so much complexity in the mix, but the last few years the special releases and the double barrel whiskies have just been too young. It brings in some harsh oily notes. Anyway, to the complexity – stone oven baked bread, cigarette butts, brilliant spice – nutmeg, clove, white pepper – and some soft, creamy oak eases in as well. As it opens up, it does get better. Apple butter, maple butter, and touches of menthol. Hay. Terrific nose.
The palate has lots of orange, oak, brown sugar, with some light rye notes feeding in wonderfully in the background. The finish has lots of oak and spice, along with some orange peel, custard, black pepper, rich toffee (much like last year), wafts of bourbon, and a touch of tannin. Great complexity, and, actually, 90% of it is very nicely balanced. But there are just a few bits of unpleasantries – it makes me think that I would have withheld a few of those casks.
I actually can’t make my mind up about this whisky. There is a lot of complexity, yet there is some harshness and bitterness – but it opens up so beautifully that I am changing my opinion. It probably will get better as it gets a bit of air and some of that harshness wares off. I don’t think people will rank it among the best – but it is good. If the releases continue in this vein, I might lose interest in them. More in the profile of last year than any other special release - a bit broader and complex – and a bit less unique.