Forty Creek Confederation Oak was built upon the foundation of John Hall’s flagship whisky, Forty Creek Barrel Select, and is basically a version of this whisky which has been finished in Canadian Oak Barrels. These oak barrels were made from oak trees (growing only 40 miles from the distillery) which began their growth in Canadian soil approximately 150 years ago at the time of Confederation (the birth of Canada as a nation), hence the name chosen for the whisky, Confederation Oak.
When I spoke to John Hall (Forty Creek founder and Whisky Maker) about this whisky, he mentioned that Canadian oak trees are heavier and more dense than American oak due to the harsher Canadian climate. As a result, the oak barrels made from these trees impart a different flavour characteristic to the whisky. The vanillans are more pronounced, and the wood tannins seem to be slightly stronger. In fact, John told me he almost scrapped this whisky altogether when after the first and the second years of ‘finishing’ in the Canadian oak barrels, the whisky was, to him, harsh and unappealing. But rather than scrapping the whisky, he allowed time to take its course. To his delight the whisky mellowed considerably after the third year of finishing, and the desired flavour profile for his whisky was achieved.
And what a flavour that was, John Hall’s Forty Creek Confederation Oak ranks Number 13 in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown. Here is a link to my review:
“… The aroma from the glass begins with typical Canadian Whisky notes of light rye and oak. Soon, however, I begin to notice caramel corn and light baking spices building, then a strong indication of the new oak barrels imparting their fresh tannin into the liquid as fresh scents of honeycomb, vanilla, cedar and toffee rise into the breezes above the glass. As the glass breathes, the oak becomes firmer and a certain smokiness from dried fruit develops. Fresh sap, raisins, dried apricots and spicy toffee are all apparent in the fully decanted glass …”
I am very happy that Forty Creek is a distillery that believes in patience. The extra time this whisky spent in the new oak barrels has paid handsome dividends. The result was not just a good whisky. Rather it is a whisky that is so good I shall be hoarding it, and I will dole out a dram here and a dram there just for special occasions and just special friends.
Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here: The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies