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Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Whisky (Lot 1867F)

Review: Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Whisky (Lot 1867F)   87/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published September 1, 2016

In 2010 Forty Creek Whisky introduced Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Whisky. What made this whisky unique was that it had 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 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 impart a different flavour characteristic to the whisky. The vanillans are more pronounced, and the wood tannins seem to be slightly stronger.

It has been 6 years since Confederation Oak Reserve Whisky was first released over that time the spirit has become one of the staple whiskies in the Forty Creek Whisky family. Each year a new batch is produced, and when I recently received a bottle from the newest batch (Lot 1867F), I decided to revisit the spirit to see how it has changed.

SAM_2635In the Bottle 5/5

Forty Creek has uses the same style of bottle for each of their special releases. I love the look of this bottle and the attractive/professional graphics and labeling which are employed on both the bottle and the protective box. Happily Forty Creek has maintained the look of the special bottle even though the Confederation Oak is no longer a special release whisky. I also appreciate that the batch number has maintained its reference to the year of Canadian Confederation, in the case of the sixth batch, it is Lot 1867F.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When I pour the whisky into the glass I see the whisky displays a nice golden amber colour which has started its journey towards copper. A slow tilt and twirl of my glass shows stubborn droplets on the crest which disappear over time without forming legs that run into the whisky.

My tasting notes form the very first batch (lot 1867) indicate strong oak spices rising into the breezes. Lot 1867F however seems more subdued with less oak spice and woody vanillans at the forefront of the whisky. This time the breezes bring me more obvious scents butterscotch and maple syrup. Rye notes (and the tempered wood spices) are melded within this light sweetness. As the glass breathes, I notice a bit of a bourbon flair with indications of corn whisky, vanilla, almond, honeycomb and damp tobacco all apparent as well in the air above the glass.

There is one off-note in the breezes, a light wayward scent of something sour as if perhaps a touch of sulphur has invaded the whisky. At first it is barely noticeable, but once noticed it will not depart. That one off note is enough to bring my score down by half a point in this section of the review.

In the Mouth 52/60

I cannot escape the impression that this whisky has mellowed over time. It is still very good with flavours of maple and caramel toffee melding with oak and cedar spice. However both the oak and the cedar flavours which were so strong and luscious in the original bottling are now held in check. A swath of both vanilla and almond give me a strong impression of marzipan, and we have a nice dollop of marmalade in the flavour profile as well. Damp tobacco and hints of honeycomb and graham wafer add to the depth of flavour.

As it was on the nose however, I am again noticing a lightly sour component in the flavour profile. This time it is manifesting itself as a light flavour of fermented fruit. Surprisingly, I notice the lightly sour flavour the most when I mix the whisky with a splash of ginger-ale. The Confederation Oak is a fine whisky with nicely melded flavours, however it is a small step down from what it once was.

In the Throat 13/15

The exit of the Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Whisky features oak and cedar flavours melded into sweeter maple and corn flavours. There is a strong presence of vanilla in the finish as well as a light bitterness of rye kernel and tobacco. Wood spice and baking spices (cinnamon and bits of clove) linger upon the palate providing a final highlight to the sipping experience.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

My feeling is that as time has moved forward, something has been lost in the Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Whisky (Lot 1867 F); however, it is also true that something may have been gained. The whisky has lost some of its oaken punch, but perhaps now the spirit has a wider appeal with softer flavours that are melded together more completely than in the past. I prefer the original whisky, but would not criticize those who disagree. There is something to be said for a more approachable spirit.

My final score of 87/100 reveals a whisky which is a strong sipping spirit one which also will be suitable for high-end cocktails (See suggested recipe below).

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Asylum SAM_2727Based upon the classic Ward 8 Cocktail, this is a wonderful new serving which just might be the best Canadian Whisky Cocktail I have created so far.

The Asylum

2 oz Forty Creek Confederation Oak
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Fresh Orange Juice
1 tsp Brandied Cherry Juice
1 tsp Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Brandied Cherry (see recipe here)

Add the first five ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a Brandied Cherry

Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


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