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Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve (Lot 240)

Review: Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve Canadian Whisky (lot 240)    87.5/100
a review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on September 11, 2011

John Hall opened the Kittling Ridge Winery & Distillery in 1992. The whisky he developed, named Forty Creek, is like none other on the landscape of Canadian Whisky. For starters, John has chosen three grains as the base of his Whisky. He distilled a corn whisky and aged it in heavily charred white oak barrels; he distilled a rye grain whisky and chose to age it in a lightly charred white oak; and he distilled a barley grain whisky to age in medium charred white oak. Interestingly, Mr. Hall chose to distill each grain only once, as by distilling only once, he believes the distillation captures the best that each grain has to offer in terms of flavour. The blend is then married in John’s own sherry cask to create what he calls his meritage. This serves as the base for the family of Forty Creek  Whiskies. For the whisky which is the subject of this review, Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve, one more step is taken. The final blend is set down in first run bourbon barrels for a final period of aging.

This whisky was introduced in the fall of 2008. As a collector, I purchased and saved a few bottles from the first release, and now I have selected one of those first bottles to review.  This bottle is identified on the label as Bottle number 0043 from Lot 240.

In the Bottle: 4.5/5

A nice snapshot of the bottle presentation for the first batch of Forty Creek Double Barrel is pictured to the right. The bottle is unique and the labeling is professional. I am prevented from offering a perfect score because of two minor quibbles. The first is the plastic medallion on the front which is draped over the neck of the bottle. It looks cheap and takes away from, rather than adds to, the presentation. The second is the clear plastic box the whisky arrives in. In later batches this uninspiring plastic box has been replaced by a professional looking cardboard box. I hope the plastic medallion is gone next.

In the Glass 9/10

I poured out a small sample of the Double Barrel into my glencairn glass and began my review with a good look at the whisky before I began to nose it. It is a bright copper colour with a similar colour to rich maple syrup. I gave my glass a light tilt and a slow swirl and discovered a moderately heavy sheen of whisky left on the inside of the glass which held back for a little while and then released long slender slow moving legs.

When I brought the glass to my nose I received a light indication of rye spices gently being lifted out of the glass. This was quickly followed by an updraft of caramel corn and honeycomb. The whisky also brings forward strong dry woody notes (oak and cedar) and a touch of sweet maple which is probably why I associated the colour of the whisky with maple syrup. As the glass decants, I sense a building of the caramel and honeycomb under the cedar and corn, but there is an odd astringency as well. I think that if this glass was placed in a flight of bourbon samples, I would have difficulty picking it out as a Canadian Whisky. It has a very apparent bourbon character on the nose.

In the Mouth 53/60

The whisky is quite sweet at first with strong caramel corn accents in the flavour profile. Very quickly however, I receive spicy sharp orange peel zest which wraps itself around the sweeter flavours. Woody accents of cedar oak build adding a dryness to the whisky which was probably there all along but which I only recently noticed. As the whisky breathes the corn becomes somewhat dank and a few rye flavours slip in somewhere behind. As I sip I begin to notice a new welcome undercurrent of sweetness developing with light maple and vanilla flavours playing somewhere in the currents. Cedar logs continue to roll in although they have picked up a bit of honeycomb and more vanilla for the ride.

The whisky is very complex; but perhaps the complexity has come at a price. The flavours seem to compete for my attention rather than to harmonize on the palate. I also seem to taste this whisky just a little differently every time I try it; on some days the oak tannins leap out at me, and on other days it is the corn or the rye.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The whisky finishes with a dry spicy burst of orange peel and woody tannin. Hints of hazelnut and tea leaves leave dabs of bitterness in the throat; however, the addition of a simple ice-cube tempers the bitterness and makes the exit quite enjoyable. My final impression is of a light dankness of corn having the last word.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I always find the whiskies of Forty Creek difficult to review. They are like chameleons in the mouth, picking up left over flavour impressions from the palate and bringing out new flavours each time you taste them. Just when you think you have the whisky figured out, it throws a new curve at you. In my review of the Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky, I made the inference that perhaps the whisky was a bit too confusing and complicated, I sense some of that sentiment with the Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve as well. But, I also sense that John Hall is getting much closer to the brilliance that I believe he is capable of.

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


Suggested Recipe

The Godfather cocktail is usually made with scotch. However, I have found that in this modified version it is great with Forty Creek Whisky.

The (modified) Godfather

2 oz Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky
3/4 oz Amaretto
Lemon Garnish

Build on ice in a rocks glass
Twist a little lemon over the glass and stir
Garnish with a thin lemon slice

Note: You may vary the amount of Amaretto to suit your own taste. I have seen some constructions where the ratio of Amaretto to whisky is as high as 1:1. My version at a rough ratio of 1:3 makes for a less sweet cocktail which highlights the flavour of the Forty Creek Whisky.


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)


2 Responses to “Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve (Lot 240)”

  1. Mike said

    NIce review. I enjoyed this whisky but what really impressed me was the Confederation Oak Reserve. I hope the Private Cask No. 1 is as good.

    • Hi Mike:

      The Confederation Oak review will be next, I sampled it at a friend’s house recently, side by side with Crown Royal Black, and the CR Black just seemed to wither in comparison. I am hopeful of being able to review the Private Cask early next month.


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