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Forty Creek Founder's Reserve

Average score from 3 reviews and 4 ratings 85

Forty Creek Founder's Reserve

Product details

  • Brand: Forty Creek
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 45.0%

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Forty Creek Founder's Reserve

This whisky was released in 2016 to honour Forty Creek founder John K Hall. Through a series of odd, yet perfectly legal, events, this bottle came into my possession at very little cost. Hurray for me !! There are reports that this whisky has a higher proportion of barley whisky as opposed to the more traditional corn whisky. Early reviews suggested that there were some prominent ethanol/cheap vodka aromas present, but I didn't detect any of that. Maybe "bottle aging" isn't a myth after all. I've gone through about 1/4 of the bottle at the time of reviewing.

Neat from a Highland whisky glass

  • Nose: very shy and restrained at first, vanilla, almonds, caramel, raisins, plums. With a good rest in the glass, there are some cinnamon and apple cider notes coming through. Interesting.
  • Palate: gentle arrival, cinnamon, plums, chocolate, pecans, caramel,
  • Finish: medium length, more caramel, pecans, apples, chocolate, and cinnamon.

After about an hour in the glass (it often takes me an hour or more to get through any given dram) things start to fall apart a bit. The tail end finish becomes more like apple cider vinegar and it's a bit weird. I still enjoy this whisky, but I feel like FC could have put together a more fitting tribute to founder John K Hall (something like the Portwood Reserve, anyone?)

Good review. Our scores are only 2 points apart.

As I mentioned in my review, this expression from 2016 (if I am correct) was part of the downward trend for FC releases that peaked, in my opinion, at Heart of Gold. I didn’t think much of it, which is probably why it has languished in my cabinet, un-poured in over 3 years (last poured for @Victor and family).

If o could do it over again, I’d have tasted it from someone else and left it at that.

@Nozinan This seems to be one of those bottles that gets a bit worse with time. My first few drams were really good, but it feels as though it’s “flattening out” a bit with air exposure. It’s still enjoyable, but the lovely caramel-pecan-chocolate combo is less pronounced.


I’ve had a special spot for Forty Creek ever since I tasted their original Confederation Oak special release in 2010. Every year in the fall they put out something new, and I’ve gone out and bought bottles of them.

I have found though, that after some very strong presentations (Confederation Oak, John’s Private Cask Number 1, Portwood Reserve and one of my favourite Canadians, Heart of Gold), things have begun to slide. Evolution failed to develop into what it could have been, and the Harmony was disappointing. Maybe it’s the new owners, but the annual limited release that used to be 9000 bottles swelled to 12000 this year,

This year I let Whisky Weekend come and go and did not buy a bottle of the 2016 special edition until just before a tasting I had in November, in which it played the role of “Mystery Dram”. @TAlexander knew it to be a Forty Creek expression from the first sniff.

When I opened it for the tasting I poured about a third of it into an unmarked bottle that then went home with @Paddockjudge. It has stayed in my cabinet since that time, quietly gassed, waiting for a review.

This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes. As per my usual practice, I did not add water to this Canadian whisky, until the end…

Nose: First sniff off the pour is fruity and dusty. After some time in the glass, light honey syrup. A slight spiritiness, maybe some rye spice. I get a hint of rose perfume. For 45% it’s a little subdued. 21/25

Taste: First sip is quite rough, but softens in the development with some caramel and vanilla. It is quite sweet on the arrival, but the development is drier. Quite a bit of power but the alcohol just stays around. I think it tastes “young”. 20/25

Finish: Quite short, slightly bitter. 19/25

Balance: The nose and the palate are somewhat linked, but the nose is softer and the taste is quite harsh. 20/25

As an experiment, I added a few drops of water and it did not affect the nose, but made the arrival sweeter. I also get a hint of the wood ear or savoury mushroom flavour that I noticed in the Three Grain Harmony from last year. Definitely less harsh with the water.

Score - 80 /100

The water improves it, and after letting it sit for sometime it becomes more drinkable. A little effervescent, in fact, after an hour.

Adjusted Score based on patience and enjoyment: 83/100

I agree with @JasonHambrey in his review that leaving this a while does make it better. And sometimes that’s OK, but I don’t think I always want to wait an hour from the time I pour to the time I sip.

I do like to have a complete collection, but in the last year I’ve taken stock of my situation and there isn’t lot of room for stuff that I’ll never drink. So I doubt I’ll be buying another bottle, because this one does not add value to my cabinet.


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.

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.

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.

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