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Forty Creek Founder's Reserve

Hall's Last Bottle (or is it?)

0 689

@JasonHambreyReview by @JasonHambrey

19th Oct 2016


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

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.

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Victor commented

@JasonHambrey, good to see you posting again and thanks for the excellent detail included in this review.

You liked the whisky,...or did you? You scored the whisky at 89 points, but you think the 'evolution' of the brand is going to the dogs? Sounds like you and others will be executing a multi-stage ongoing re-appraisal of the quality of Forty Creek over the next couple of years.

6 years ago 0

JasonHambrey commented

Thanks @Victor. My involvement on connosr tends to correlate heavily with how busy my life is...

Yes, I did like it. It was complex, and interesting. It's something I quite enjoy a single dram of, but it's not one where I consistently want a second pour. It's better for me as a whisky to analyse than just a casual whisky. Perhaps that description gives you a bit better of a sense of my (mixed) opinion on the whisky.

Yes, multi-stage re-appraisal...indeed. At this price (75$), this whisky is too expensive compared to better and cheaper Canadians in the category. Copper Pot, thus far, has stayed high quality and Confederation Oak hasn't been bad (good, but not as good as it used to be). Double Barrel has sharply declined in my opinion. So we'll see. Two years of sub-par special releases isn't enough to make a judgment on the distillery.

6 years ago 0

Nozinan commented

The score makes me want to get some, but the description makes me glad I didn't pre-order half a dozen bottles.

I will have to classify this one as "try before I buy", or buy only one and try it before forging ahead. I still have enough on my gift card to cover one bottle.. It might taste better if it's free.

6 years ago 0

JasonHambrey commented

The other thing to note, on scoring - I prize complexity and flavour integration over "smooth-ness" (whatever that means to you, I use it in the most generic of senses). If a whisky is interesting, I generally score it high. It isn't quite my enjoyment score. Hence why the score is quite good. Keeps my reviews somewhat consistent - figuring out precisely how one whisky is better than another requires a lot of splitting hairs (in my book, at least).

6 years ago 0

Nozinan commented

Just "evaluated" this (review pending) and I wanted to address your comment on scoring, and interesting vs smooth.

I don't mind a whisky that isn't smooth. But this one is HARSH.

You can have complex whiskies that are "smooth" like an Amrut single cask, and you can have some that are rougher ("challenging") like Springbank CS, and both can be delicious.

Harsh, however, means that there is something in the spirit that shouldn't be there. Be it young inactive casks, or something else, this one just is too harsh.

5 years ago 0

JasonHambrey commented

yes. This is complex and interesting- rating schemes I have used often prize complexity. I sort of had to force down the end of the bottle. I found it pairs decently with cigars so I blended it together with some other stuff for a cigar dram that turned out quite nicely.

I have thought about knocking my score way down. Yes, it's complex - but frankly, I don't want to buy it. Too young and raw/harsh - I agree. I would actually re-rate this one perhaps a 79 or so. Yes, way down. I have been thinking to do a re-post about this on my blog with an apology - a bit of past Forty Creek excellence bias. Complexity doesn't matter if it's not easy to drink.

5 years ago 1Who liked this?

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