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Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony

Average score from 3 reviews and 3 ratings 85

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony

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@talexander
Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony

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.

@JasonHambrey

@paddockjudge and I recently made a trip to Forty Creek to visit the distillery and see the release of the new limited edition whisky. We both tried it, and weren't very impressed - the whisky has grown on me, though.

This whisky is the 9th annual release from Forty Creek, containing some of the original whisky produced by the distillery 22 years ago. In the Forty Creek style, there is corn, rye, and barley whisky in this - but some very old whiskies. For the first time, the barley whiskies in the first year of the distillery were put into a whisky - resulting in a 22 year old single malt in the blend. Moreover, there is some 27 year old rye in here - you might ask, how is the rye older than the distillery? In 1992, John Hall bought Rieder distillery, and with that came some rye stocks from their distillate which was 5 years old at the time - resulting in some 27 year old rye in this blend. So, this is a blend with some quite significantly aged whisky in it, and the oldest stocks yet to go into a Forty Creek release.

Nose: The age shows on the nose. Burnt pumpernickel toast, rye, sour corn (the corn whisky in here actually seems like it might be young), fresh baked bread, rye flour, vanilla, ceylon tea, leather, oak (not heavy), sherry, brown sugar, and some barnyard-like flavours. Oddly, it seems a mix of very old flavours and very young flavours, but overall, it seems to be quite an old and quirky style with the spicy leathery notes contrasting with some oily fresh corn. It's definitely blended, as we know - the complexity and diversity are there. 87%

Taste: Rich toffee, brown sugar, dark rye bread, followed by what appears to be some sharp sugary barley before fading in a flurry of spices and chocolate and more toffee. Slightly sweet, and slightly saccharin too. Ends on a slightly sour, bitter tinge. The spices here are interesting - they're more in line with caraway than anything else, though stale cinnamon comes through at the end. It certainly suits a fall day! The texture is nice too, and some of the unique characteristics are a bit addictive - the spiciness. A bottle that will likely grow on you. 88%

Finish: Caramel, orange, and plum, along with a slightly sour grainy note. Slightly bitter and tannic, with some nutmeg and clove and the lightest touch of a wine influence, along with some nuttiness. Don't let the fruit deceive you -it's quite grain driven in the finish, but doesn't quite come together. Still very much with that toasted oak characteristic. 17.5/20 88%

Intrigue: A bit quirky. There are some dusty notes and unique old flavours in the mix, but overall it's not fabulous though still deep in some dimensions. Unique, as often with the Forty Creek releases, but this time it is missing the usual mark of really high quality. However, I will say this - if you have a bottle spend some time with it. There is a fair bit beneath the surface that you don't see with a cursory taste, and I found my appreciation for the whisky has grown as I've spent more time with it - take small sips and let them sit in your mouth to sift through them, and you'll discover a thing or two. 85%

Weighting the nose 25%, the taste 35%, the finish 15%, and intrigue 35%, the overall score is 87.

I was right! This has some 4 year old corn whisky in there too. I don't like the influence - it is too oily and raw, and takes away from the nose...

@dbk

Recently, the Forty Creek distillery of Grimsby, Ontario, released their latest expression, Canadian Oak Reserve. Over the launch weekend, I toured the facility and returned home with bottles to complete my stock of the current Forty Creek lineup: Barrel Select, Three Grain, Double Barrel Reserve, and Canadian Oak Reserve. Following in the footsteps of several distinguished members of the Connosr community, I will review each of these expressions over the coming days. Below is a lengthy preamble of Forty Creek’s method; feel free to skip it in order to get to the review that follows.

All Forty Creek whiskies are some blend of maize, rye, and barley, though the ages and proportions are somewhat variable. There are no age statements on any Forty Creek release; the consistency of an expression (particularly Barrel Select) is maintained by tasting. They use two copper pot stills—the larger of the pair modified by a short, stainless steel column that keeps alcohol concentrations high (at about 65%)—and they use only the first distillate. Their rye barrels are lightly charred, barley barrels are medium-charred, and maize barrels are heavily charred (also known as an “alligator” char).

Forty Creek’s owner and master distiller is John Hall, a winemaker by trade. In the making of Forty Creek whisky, Hall has taken advantage of his vintner’s background in several ways. He founded Kittling Ridge, a winery, to provide funds while his Forty Creek spirits began to mature, and he makes use of the winery’s Kingsgate Reserve sherry casks to finish Barrel Select, Forty Creek’s basic expression.

Most importantly, however, Hall’s training led to a simple, but revolutionary, method of whiskymaking. In the production of whisky (from multiple grains), the different grain spirits tend to be combined prior to maturation—a mashbill, for instance, of some proportion of maize, rye, and barley fermented, distilled, and aged together. The grain profiles are thus confounded with one another, such that the moment at which one spirit (such as the maize) achieves its desired profile may not correspond to that of the others (such as the rye and barley). Hall gets around this problem by employing a winemaker’s method, in the Bordeaux and meritage traditions, for each of his Forty Creek releases: maturing each spirit in barrels separately before blending. Once a barrel has achieved its desired profile, the spirit is transferred to stainless steel tanks for holding until the other spirits are ready for blending. Once blended, the final spirit is re-barreled from a period of several months to several years, to finish the whisky and round the final product out.

FORTY CREEK THREE GRAIN

Three Grain uses some malted barley. It is a step up from Barrel Select in quality, but for only a small increment in price (~$30 Canadian for 750 ml). Unfortunately, it is a bit harder to find; it was originally available in several markets, but has disappeared from the shelves, possibly to reduce competition with Barrel Select. It is still available from the distillery, however; any visitors to the Niagara region of Canada and the US ought to consider stopping in for a taste.

The nose is buttery—extraordinarily so—seemingly being warmed and slowly caramelized. There is vanilla, but also a fruit basket of cherries and chocolate-covered raisins.

The chocoloate-covered raisins show themselves on the palate, alongside some menthol. There is a distinct, round maltiness, and more butter. The finish is a little hot, but it is sweet; raisins linger for quite some time.

In colour, it is ever so slightly darker than Barrel Select, though the body is again light in mouthfeel and coats the glass with wee whisky tears.

With its malty notes and smoother finish, Three Grain is a solid step up from Barrel Select, moving into sipping whisky territory. Though it is perhaps not quite as complex or refined as Double Barrel Reserve and Confederation Oak Reserve, it is a hard whisky to beat in its price range.

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