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Forty Creek Heart of Gold Canadian Whisky

Review: Forty Creek Heart of Gold (2013 Limited Release)  85.5/100
A Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published May 26, 2013
(Revisited October 5,2013)

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. The 2013 Special Limited Release Canadian Whisky, Heart of Gold, is a spirit with an emphasis on Canadian rye grain.

According to Whisky Maker, John Hall:

“This project started nearly a decade ago, focusing specifically on Canada’s noble rye grain. I have always brought out the spicy, fruity notes of rye in my whiskies, but this time, I wanted to perfect how to capture the underlying delicate floral notes of the rye that too often get lost in the process.“

Heart of Gold is not a 100 % rye grain whisky, as the whisky blend also includes a barley whisky, which adds some nutty flavours, and a corn whisky, which adds weight and body. But make no mistake about it, the intent of John Hall in creating this whisky is to showcase the spicy, fruity and floral notes of Canadian Rye.

I was given a pre-release media sample a few months ago and from that small sample I constructed a review of the spirit which roughly coincided with the numbered bottle offering upon the Forty Creek website. At that time the whisky was just being bottled, but as is John Hall’s way, these bottles are ‘rested’ for up to two months before the whisky is released to the public.  Now that the whisky has been released I have had an opportunity to sample the spirit from a full sealed bottle. I decided to revisit the review to see if this resting period had had any effect upon the spirit or my review.

Here is my newly revised review (which incidentally contains very few changes).

Heart_of_Gold_bottleIn the Bottle 5/5

Forty Creek has used the same basic presentation style for each of their last five special releases. I love the look of these special release bottles with the attractive (and professional) graphics which are employed on both the labels of the bottle as well as the display boxes.

The Forty Creek special release whiskies always look great on my bar shelf!

In the Glass 8.5/10

When I pour the newest special release, Heart of Gold, into my glencairn glass, I notice that it displays as a light to medium toned mahogany spirit with some obvious pink and red tones flashing in the light as well. The pink and red tones are unusual, and I wonder to myself whether a port or sherry cask was in the mix somewhere.   (Note: I received no information regarding the casking regimen of the whisky.)

The initial nose reminds me strongly of rye whisky as I remember it from my youth (seventies/early eighties). The breezes above the glass are full of wood spices (cardamom, ginger, sandalwood, sawdust and white pepper), and those breezes remind me of autumns past when the ripened grain in the fields was being combined. The air all around the farm would be full of the scents and smells of the harvest, complete with the straw left behind in windrows and the separated chaff and grain dust floating in the air above the fields and granaries.

As the glass breathes, I notice a growing indication of butterscotch and vanilla with bits of dry fruit and sour fruit thrown into the air. Rounding things out are impressions of tart green apples and hints of orange peel. I like the breezes above my glass, although perhaps the melody in the breezes carries a few too many notes which divert my attention, rather than capture it.

In the Mouth 50.5/60

Along with the obvious flavours of rye, the whisky leads out with sweet and sour fruit flavours which are very reminiscent of old style Canadian Club whisky. A bit of butterscotch and brown sugar follows along and is joined by canned apricots and peaches which each have a bit of a sour tinge to them. As you sip, the strength of the rye increases, penetrating the palate with wood spices, white pepper, and cardamom. There are some interesting flavours at the back of the palate which include grapefruit zest, dry fruit, hints of orange peel turning to marmalade, and a more obvious almond flavour turning to marzipan.

There is so much going on that I almost did not notice the obvious caramel and vanilla flavours which have been there all along. As wonderful as all this is, I sense a certain discordance within the whisky. The penetrating rye spices seem at odds with the sweet and sour fruitiness causing me to feel mildly distracted and preventing me from increasing the score.

In the Throat 13/15

The whisky finishes with a burst of white pepper and rye spice followed by lingering flavours of caramel, vanilla, and marzipan. After the sweetness ebbs we are left with a glow of white pepper, cloves, and cinnamon.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Forty Creek’s, Heart of Gold Canadian Whisky is an attempt at capturing the essence of the Canadian rye grain within the construct of John Hall’s Meritage of three whisky grains (rye, corn, and barley). However, I sense a little confusion within the palette of grains and barrels which have been chosen. I wonder if perhaps, Mr. Hall does not fully embrace the clean rye grain which I love; and as a result, he could not resist in an effort to bring something new forward.

When I examined the heart of this whisky I found clean penetrating rye spices trying to join in a somewhat strange matrimony with a sweet and sour fruitiness that lay alongside it. Instead of a harmonious co-mingling, the two aspects (the clean rye and the fruitiness) seemed to battle for my attention. The rye won; but in victory, the rye had lost some of its luster and was slightly diminished.

My score of 85.5/100  indicates that regardless of whether I felt the rye was diminished, this is a very good whisky bordering on excellence. It is only my opinion, but maybe that border (to excellence) would have been crossed if the rye had been allowed to run completely free.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Whisky Reviews.


For another point of view regarding the Forty Creek Heart of Gold Whisky, here is a link to Davin De Kergommeaux’s review published on his great website, Canadian Whisky:

Link to Canadian Whisky (Davin De Kergommeaux of Ottawa, Ontario)

Note: Davin is a noted Whisky Writer and Author of the award-winning, Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert.


Suggested Recipe

SAM_0777 Rye SplashThis cocktail works well with any good Canadian Rye Whisky.

Canadian Rye Whisky Splash

2 oz Canadian Rye Whisky
2 or 3 Large Ice-cubes
Splash of Ginger-ale
Slice of Lime

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the Whisky over the ice
Add a splash of Ginger Ale
Garnish with a lime slice

As always, please enjoy my cocktail suggestions responsibly!


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)

8 Responses to “Forty Creek Heart of Gold Canadian Whisky”

  1. rawkabillyrebel said

    I have been underwhelmed by the whole Forty Creek lineup. Especially their grossly overpriced limited editions. For the money much preferred the Alberta Springs or even some of the mainstream brands like Schenley’s OFC.

    • The Forty Creek Line-up seems to have a polarizing effect on the whisky buying public. Almost everyone likes their whisky, but for some the price is a little steep. How much you are willing to pay for a good bottle of whisky is a personal choice. Having said that, I agree that Alberta Springs is a great value, it regularly makes my short list when I am thinking in terms of bang for my buck.

  2. Forrest said

    Great review, I’m basically a rookie to Canadian whisky having only tried a dozen or so. I’m hoping to expand my palate and these very well written reviews should help me accomplish that while at the same time getting me excited at the thought of my Christmas whisky purchases.

  3. paddockjudge said

    This is a magnificent whisky! Did you change anything from the earlier review?

    • The changes were very minor. I noticed some brown sugar flavour which I had not really commented on before, and the sour fruit was more apparent. Other than that the review was essentially the same. My scores did not change, and I felt again that the rye which John Hall was trying to elevate was perhaps diminished by the presence of the corn and barley whiskies. I long to taste the rye whisky which is the centerpiece of the whisky unadulterated by barley and corn.

  4. David T. Smith said

    Hi Chip, Davin and yourself have posted some good reviews on this. Cant wait for the sour fruits in my rye! Of course the hope is, after a few months to release that the whisky comes together a little better than the heterogeneity you’ve experienced.

    • I hope so too David. My intention is to revisit this whisky as soon as I can get my hands on a bottle this fall. If my opinion changes based upon the flavours marrying together more harmoniously, then I will change the review accordingly.

      I have talked to a few producers about the concept of ‘bottle shock’ and it seems to be a rather controversial topic with quite a few claiming they have never heard of the concept, to others, (mainly vodka producers) absolutely agreeing that spirits should be rested so that the spirits softens.

      Take care


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