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Forty Creek Portwood Reserve – 2012

Review: Forty Creek Portwood Reserve 2012 Whisky (89.5/100)
a Review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on September 13, 2012

Forty Creek Whisky has for the past several years produced a special limited release whisky and allowed the public to participate in its release by offering to let those who pre-order the whisky to choose their own numbered bottle(s). These special release whiskies are built upon the foundation of the company’s flagship whisky, Forty Creek Barrel Select, and are actually versions of this whisky which have spent additional time finishing in certain selected oak barrels. This year’s special release is the Forty Creek Portwood Reserve – 2012 Whisky.

This is the actually the second edition (lot 061) of the Portwood Reserve; the first edition (lot 060) was a very limited bottling released only in Ontario in 2009. As you have already determined, what makes this whisky special is that this Forty Creek Whisky has been finished in Port Wine Barrels. I am one of the lucky few who managed to buy a few bottles of the first edition 3 years ago, and as you can see by my 2009 review (see review here), I found this first edition of the Portwood Whisky very much to my liking. Of course, this means that I am delighted to have been sent a pre-release bottle of the second edition such that I can share my thoughts here on my website. This whisky is produced at 45 % alcohol by volume and is limited to only 6600 bottles and will be available in limited markets across Canada.

In the Bottle 5/5

Forty Creek has used the same style of bottle for each of their last four special releases. I love the look of this bottle and the attractive/professional graphics and labeling which are employed on the display box as well as the whisky bottle. When I have guests over and I pull out one of the Forty Creek special release whiskies, they are always just as impressed as I am. A nice touch is the individual bottle number which identifies not just the bottle number, but also the lot number. Although this bottle is almost identical to that of the original release three years ago, identifying the lot number on each bottle allows collectors and whisky enthusiasts to know which edition they have in their possession.

In the Glass 8.5/10

I began my examination of the Portwood Reserve 2012 by pouring a small sample of the whisky into my glencairn glass. The whisky displays itself as a mahogany coloured spirit with obvious reddish highlights. There is a light astringency rising into the air pushed by the higher than normal alcohol content. This astringency is persistent although not overbearing.

The scents and smells rising into the breezes above the glass remind me of dark ripe BC cherries, blackberries and raspberries. Some dry fruit sensations (reminiscent of raisins and prunes) are part of the overall fruit and berry aroma. Subtle but firm impressions of cinnamon and cloves join in with a bit of sweet Demerara sugar thrown in for good measure. There are strong impressions of oak and orange peel in the air as well as hints of rye spice (perhaps this is part of that astringency which I sense). The overall aroma is rounded out with some sensations of vanilla, bourbon, and a dash of rum and cola residing in the background.

In the Mouth 54/60

Firm impressions of field berries and fresh ripe cherries lead out onto my palate as I take my first sip of the Forty Creek Portwood Reserve – 2012. I also taste dry fruit, some dabs of bourbon and vanilla, and flavours of dark brown sugar which all seem to be tainted by a spiciness which builds in the background. This spiciness seems to resemble embers of cinnamon and cloves mixed with light dabs of rye spice and orange peel. To my delight, I also taste that same rum and cola impression I sensed on the nose winding through the currents of the whisky’s flavour.

Like the original Portwood from 2009, this Portwood was difficult to quantify. It seemed to taste just a little different each time I sampled it. Not the overall flavour, but rather the nuances. Some days the rum and cola impression was just a ghost in the glass, but on other days it reached out and tapped me firmly on the shoulder. It was the same with the dry fruit and the bourbon flavours which appeared to vary in intensity each time I returned to the whisky. What did not change from glass to glass was the rich fruit-filled flavour of blackberries and cherries, and the lightly glowing spiciness of cinnamon and cloves.

In the Throat 13/15

Those glowing embers of cinnamon and cloves seem to take hold of the whisky in the exit. Rye spices like ginger and cardamom join in with vanilla and Demerara sugar chasing them. The sensation of bourbon is perhaps stronger in the finish that it was in the delivery.

The Afterburn 9/10

The Forty Creek Portwood Reserve – 2012 is a very nice whisky. I was curious though, how it compared with the original 2009 Forty Creek Portwood Reserve. Fortunately, I still have a few bottles of the original Portwood on hand, and I decided to do a little side by side tasting and share my findings here at the end of this review.

I found the overall flavour of the whiskies to be very similar. I did sense just a little more softness (and smoothness) in the flavour of the 2009 version. The Forty Creek Portwood – 2012 seems to be spicier with those glowing embers of cinnamon and cloves reaching further into the whisky. The oak and rye flavours are stronger as well. As you may have noticed, (if you checked my previous review), I prefer the softer and gentler Portwood which seems to display a better balance between the fruit and the spice.  However, as you can also see by my strong score of 89.5 for the 2012 Portwood, I am happy to have both versions as part of my growing collection of fine Whiskies.

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


For two more points of view regarding the Forty Creek Portwood 2012 Whisky, here are two links to other reviews, one from Eastern Canada, and one from Central Canada. Including my Western Canadian perspective, I think we have this great Country covered:

Link to  A Perfect Match  (Johanne McInnis (Aka Whisky Lassie) of Saint John, New Brunswick )

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


Suggested Recipe

I suggested this recipe when I reviewed the 2009 version of the Portwood Whisky; it is just as good with the 2012 version of the Portwood Whisky.

The Portwood Manhattan

1 oz Portwood Reserve Canadian Whisky
1/4 oz Sweet Red Vermouth
Drop of Angostura Bitters
Large Ice cubes
Maraschino Cherry
Twist of Orange Peel

Add the whiskey, the Vermouth, and the bitters with Large ice cubes in a Martini Shaker.
Shake gently to chill the mixture.
Strain the mixed ingredients over the cherry but do not add the ice.
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Add the Maraschino cherry for garnish


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 Portwood Reserve – 2012”

  1. CBrown said

    This was a tough one for me. I picked it up on release with high hopes but it has never worked and I can only assume it’s due to the combo of Port and Whisky. I love a good Port but this and other Port style whiskies like the Balvenie have left me cold.
    I’ve gone through two bottles of the Confed Oak to maybe a 1/4 of this one despite the high praise in many quarters.
    Different strokes I guess.


    • Hi Chris.

      I obviously really liked this one and as indicated, found the very first Portwood (Lot 060) even better. But I understand your comment. If you like clean spicy rye then that sweetness from the Port kind of gets in the way. I feel the same way about some of the Sherried whiskies I have tried where the thick sherry smoke gets in the way of my enjoyment. Yet some of these Sherry Bombs are coveted by other collectors who want exactly what the whisky delivers.

      It’s good to have different tastes and preferences. It keeps the whisky makers working hard to please us.

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