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Forty Creek Evolution (2014 Release)

Review: Forty Creek Evolution (2014 Release)  80.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka the Rum Howler)
Published April 10, 2014

Forty Creek Whisky has for the last number of years produced a special limited release whisky and allowed the public to participate in the release by offering to let you choose your own numbered bottle. As well you can have your bottle signed by their own Master Distiller and Whisky Maker, John Hall, when you arrive to pick up your pre-ordered bottles. These special release whiskies are built upon the foundation of the company’s flagship whisky, Forty Creek Barrel Select, and are basically versions of this whisky which have spent additional time finishing in selected oak barrels.

Forty Creek Evolution is the eighth annual special Limited Edition Release from Forty Creek Whisky. Most of the whiskies in this blended Canadian Whisky began their journey 12 years ago. These whiskies were aged in American White Oak for 3 years, then selected barrels were re-distilled in Forty Creek’s copper pot still to further concentrate their flavour. The resulting whisky was then re-barreled in French Oak casks that had previously held Kittling Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, and then aged for an additional 9 years. As a final step John Hall selected some of his personally held barrels to blend into the final product.

Forty Creek EvolutionIn the Bottle 5/5

Forty Creek has used (for the past six years) the same style of bottle for each of their annual special releases. I have always loved the look of this bottle and the attractive/professional graphics and labeling which are employed. My growing collection of Forty Creek Special Release bottles are one of the major attractions which always please my guests when they see them on my Whisky shelf.

In the Glass 8/10

When I poured out a small sample of the Evolution into my glencairn, I began my review with a good look at the whisky before I began to nose it. It displayed itself as a nice amber/copper coloured liquid which looked enticing. When I tilted my glass and gave it a slow swirl I saw a light sheen of whisky left on the inside of the glass which held back for just a little while before releasing a nice set of medium-sized droplets down the inside of the glencairn which formed medium-sized legs.

When I brought the glass to my nose I received a mild indication of sweet caramel and butterscotch which were playing with rye spices and a touch of menthol. When I gave the glass a little time to develop I began to notice some dry scents of freshly baled straw and the chaff reminiscent of the scents and smells of a fresh fall harvest when the newly harvested grain has still left its imprint in the air above the straw windrows.

As nice as this was, unfortunately, I was detecting a bit of a sour note as well which resembled that lightly sour/ lightly fermented note I notice when my bottle of Vermouth has been open too long. This discordant vinegary note ambushes the other scents and smells within the whisky acting completely out of place almost like a renegade band member playing gangster rap music all by himself when the rest of the band is playing classic soft rock. (Either style of music has its merit, but the combination just doesn’t work.)

When my glass is empty I notice some nice notes of candy and cinnamon; but the memory of bad Vermouth has stuck in my head and has left me with a sense of disappointment.

In the Mouth 47.5/50

The flavour led out with pleasant impressions of corn, caramel toffee and wood spice, and I could clearly taste the 9 years of oak aging (remember the first 3 years of aging were distilled away). There were bits of cinnamon and vanilla as well firm impressions of rye spice in the initial flavour. As I sipped, bits of red licorice, cherry and menthol began to reveal themselves along with lightly sour pickle juice and soft raisins.

Again however; the pleasantness which I originally ascribed to the whisky was slowly being taken over by wayward flavour impressions of fermented wine which had been in my refrigerator too long. This oxidized wine flavour is sour and vinegary perhaps even tainted by sulphur. I am not saying that the whisky is terrible by any stretch, but I am saying that pleasure is being stolen from me, and I believe the culprit is that Cabernet Sauvignon wine enhancement which clashed with the whisky rather than melded with it.

In the Throat 12/15

The whisky has a medium length finish which features a nice heated explosion of wood spice and pockets of cinnamon and cherry like flavour. Unfortunately, the finish is also haunted by that light vinegary sourness which has failed to impress me.

The Afterburn 8/10

I was fortunate in that I was able to taste the Forty Creek Evolution in a blind format well before I received my sample bottle. I kept the notes from this blind tasting handy, and those notes seemed to match up very well with my current impressions. The wine notes are real not imaginings created by my mind because I know the whisky was aged in Sauvignon casks.

Now evolution is a complicated business. Some evolutionary paths lead to strength and adaption; however many more paths lead to blind alleys and result in extinction. Personally, (and this will seem harsh) I feel that this particular whisky has followed the latter path and not the former. And perhaps I should not be surprised as this particular whisky has taken some strange turns before it arrived in the bottle. For instance, when I read that a 3-year-old whisky is re-distilled to more fully concentrate its flavours, my suspicion is that this is just fancy terminology for trying to salvage a whisky batch gone wrong (re-distilling bad whisky is a common practice.) And when I read that after a whisky has spent nine years in ex Cabernet Sauvignon oak barrels, it is then blended one further time with selected stocks unrelated to that process, then my suspicion is that perhaps the nine years in the Cab barrels didn’t yield the expected result, and another salvage program was required. Those are only guesses, but those guesses have as their basis my tasting notes which seem to reveal a whisky gone wrong.

As my final score of 80.5/100 attests, as a premium priced whisky, I just did not feel this new Forty Creek Limited Edition made the grade.

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


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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