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Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve (Lot 247)

Review: Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve Canadian Whisky (lot 247)    89.5/100
a review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on December 09, 2013

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 casks 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. His Double Barrel Reserve was introduced in the fall of 2008. As a collector, I purchased and saved a few bottles from the first release, and eventually selected one of those (Bottle number 0043 from Lot 240) to review. It is a few years later now, and my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown has given me a good excuse to review a more current bottling from Lot 247 (Bottle Number 05089).

(Note: The sample bottle for this review was provided by Llifford Wine and Spirits who distribute Forty Creek Whisky products in my locale.)

double-barrel-heroIn the Bottle: 5/5

Forty Creek has used the same style of bottle for each of their last five special releases. I love the look of the bottle and the attractive/professional graphics and labeling which are employed. In my original review of the Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve (Lot 240), I expressed discontent with the cheap looking clear plastic box the whisky arrived in, and the cheap plastic medallion which was draped around the bottles neck. I am happy to say that in the later releases the plastic box has been replaced by an attractive cardboard box with nice graphics. (The plastic medallion is still a part of the presentation.)

In the Glass 9/10

As I did a few years ago when I reviewed the first batch of the Double Barrel Reserve, I poured out a small sample of the whisky into my glencairn glass and began my review with a good look at the whisky before I began to nose it. I also poured out a sample of some of the whisky from the very first batch to compare the two side by side. Both batches display the same bright coppery colour,  and each leaves a moderately thick sheen of whisky left on the inside of the glass which  releases long slender slow-moving legs.

The aroma is very similar as well as my nose detects the scent of maple syrup and rye spices with a nice rich oak and cedar woodiness from both glasses. This is a very bourbon-like nose complete with light indications of corn and almond as well as a honeycomb and vanillans. It is hard to tell, but my feeling is that the later bottling (Lot Number 247) is perhaps a little more restrained, with the oak and wood spices tempered just a little allowing more fruity rye and vanilla sweetness to come forward. This gives me the sense that the newer batch is perhaps a touch more approachable than the original whisky was.

In the Mouth 53.5/60

When I bring both whiskies to my mouth, it is again the second whisky (Lot 247) which seems just a little smoother and a touch sweeter. The flavour descriptors are the same, maple and caramel corn followed by strong oak tannins, tobacco and wood spices which dry the mouth. Honeycomb, orange peel spice, and marzipan also seem to bobble within the oakiness adding complexity to each spirit. However, as indicated above, the whisky from Lot 247 is just a tad sweeter and that added sweetness seems to add a nice counter-balance to the spicy dryness. In my review of the original whisky from Lot 240, I commented upon how the complex flavours of the whisky seemed to compete  for my attention. In the newest release I sense more harmony and a more integrated spirit. (This difference is very minor in nature and I suspect it is more a result of batch variation than it is of any directed change in the whisky.)

In the Throat 13/15

In the finish, the whisky is perhaps just a little spicier and rougher than I would personally prefer. Many persons will relish the spicy swat the whisky delivers, but a hint of bitterness is also apparent.

The Afterburn 9/10

The Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve (Lot 247) is a step towards a new style of Canadian Whisky. It is a step taken by others before, most notably Wiser’s with their Small Batch and Legacy branded whiskies which also use younger oak barrels during a phase of the whisky maturation process. This use of young barrels brings more fresh oak flavour forward creating a more complex (although perhaps also a slightly rougher) final spirit. I see this as a step forward in the evolution of Canadian Whisky, and the recent influx of new brands like Masterson’s which relish a stronger oak flavour profile seems to indicate that at least some other Canadian Whisky producers see it that way as well.

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)


3 Responses to “Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve (Lot 247)”

  1. CBrown said

    Thanks for this Chip. Nice of you to do a comparative as I always wonder what kind of batch/bottle variation occurs. It’s bringing new light to some overlooked selections.
    I’m also really happy that you are doing this countdown before Christmas (or almost). It’s a big help in my personal and gift purchases.
    Keep up the good work. This site is evolving very nicely!


    • Thanks Chris

      I like going back to see how whiskies (and rums for that matter) change over time. I have never been a believer of the notion that whisky can be blended to match a specific flavour profile especially whiskies produced from a limited number of barrels. I think the overall character and style can be matched, but minor variations in taste will always occur. I guess I am hopeful as well that as whisky makers learn their craft, a whisky brand can slowly evolve over time into something better than what it was.

  2. Greg said

    Nice to see this one made the list. This is easily one of my top five favourite whiskies (not just Canadian, but overall)

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