This is the ninth annual limited release from Forty Creek, and the second since the distillery was acquired by Campari last year. 2014's release, Evolution, was extremely disappointing, and I was very concerned that the quality of Forty Creek whiskies was going to decline. Even more worrisome is the now minor role that John Hall seems to be playing. He was once referred to in the marketing as "Whisky Maker", but now is referred to as just "Founder", implying (and confirmed by some of my sources) that he is no longer involved in distilling and blending the whiskies. This is, of course, extremely disappointing given he is a pioneer in the landscape of Canadian whisky.
Three Grain Harmony is a blend of corn whisky with rye and barley stocks that were distilled back when Forty Creek was started. These separate single grain whiskies were aged in toasted white oak barrels before blending. Only 9000 bottles were produced.
The colour is a deep copper. On the nose there is gentle honey, soft vanilla, chocolate orange, toasted oak and hints of rye spice. Sourdough. Furniture polish. Beeswax. Buttered croissants. Water does little but dampen the nose. Mild but not bland; complex but not bold. But very interesting.
On the palate there is much more vanilla and toffee; also more rye. The honey is very nice - we also have rum-raisin, buttercream and some sherry notes! Water ups the spice. Like the nose, the palate is played in a minor key but is still enjoyable - mouthwatering, even.
The finish is medium length and dry, with more spice, lemon zest and caramel. This is a pleasant surprise, especially considering many of my friends and fellow connoisseurs dislike this release. Although it is milder and smoother than more robust expressions like Port Wood and Copper Pot, it has genuine complexity and brings the positive qualities of the Canadian style front and centre. Interestingly, the flavour profile has much in common with the last whisky I just reviewed, Gooderham & Worts, in terms of smoothness and the honey/vanilla/toffee notes. But where G&W was bland and nondescript, Three Grain Harmony has ribbons of spice and oak running through it. Quite nice and worth seeking out.
@talexander, thank you for an informative and honest review.
I was initially disappointed by FC Harmony. I believe balance is lacking, notably the tumultuous discord between young corn whisky and long-aged rye and barley whiskies, too much barley, for my liking, in a Canadian blend.
I have transitioned from being disappointed to just being underwhelmed. I hope this transition continues. The whisky has opened up and I find it more palatable. I have yet to change my initial score of 79. This is not a good representation of John Hall's style. His signature may appear on the label, but his masterful craftsmanship has little influence on the contents of the bottle.
All is not lost. I have recently shared in the purchase of a case of the stunningly delicious 2013 release, Heart of Gold. Although it is not my favourite Forty Creek, I believe H of G is the quintessential expression of John Hall's signature style.
I look forward to sharing a flight of at least seven Forty Creek Reserve releases with you. That will be an epic tasting my friend.
Well, to each his own, I suppose. As I noted in my review, I seem to like Three Grain Harmony more than anyone else I know - even more than die hard Forty Creek supporters! But to me, nothing they've done is worse than Evolution...
I agree Heart of Gold is pretty great - and to your point of Three Grain Harmony not being part of John Hall's style, I would agree (which doesn't mean I don't like it). But perhaps John Hall had nothing to do with Three Grain Harmony at all?
@Nozinan, I agree it has no bright spicy notes - it is quiet, muted and perhaps too smooth for its own good. But there was still enough going on for it to work for me.