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Forty Creek Barrel Select

Review: Forty Creek Barrel Select Canadian Whisky (85/100)
a Review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Original Review: November, 2009 (Revised and re-scored September, 2016)

On March 12, 2014 spirits conglomerate Campari reached an agreement to acquire 100% of Forty Creek Distillery Ltd., the producer of the premium branded Forty Creek Canadian Whiskies, the fastest growing brand in the Canadian whisky category.

John Hall was the mastermind behind Forty Creek Whisky. (He owned the distillery and has been making his Forty Creek Whisky since 1992.) His flagship brand for the distillery was (and still is), Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky. This whisky is constructed as a blend of three grain whiskies: a corn whisky aged in heavily charred white oak barrels; a rye whisky aged in lightly charred white oak barrels; and a barley whisky aged in medium charred white oak barrels. Each grain whisky and each barrel type was chosen by John Hall to add specific characteristics to the final blended whisky which is then ‘married’ or finished in Forty Creek’s own sherry casks.

After John Hall sold his interest, he remained as Chairman of the company and Whisky Maker at Forty Creek Distillery. Two years past the sale of the brand and the distillery to Campari, I thought it would be appropriate for me to revisit the flagship whisky with a new review.

40_Crk_bottle_RGB_05_clipIn the Bottle:  4/5

The Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky bottle is a medium-tall whisky bottle, dark brown in colour. I like the design of both the bottle and the label. They seems to have just the right colour scheme to imply professionalism. There is something about this whisky that catches my eye every time I see it on the shelf. And that is the point of a good presentation. It should catch your eye in a positive way, and perhaps stir the inkling in the person looking to think that whatever is inside must be worth investigating.

In the Glass 9/10

The Forty Barrel Select displays a luscious copper colour in the glass which has obvious tints of orange and red when you hold it up to examine in the light. When I give my glencairn a slow tilt and twirl I see that the whisky leaves a light film on the inside of the glass the crest of which gives up a plethora of tiny droplets which form skinny legs that drop quickly back to the spirit at the bottom of the glass.

The immediate nose is a mixture of wood spice and butterscotch mixed with hints of honeycomb and an obvious taint of corn. As the glass begins to breathe, rye spices separate from the wood spice giving the glass a bit of dusty dryness, and the caramel begins to turn ‘punky’ with an aroma which matches fairly well with those ‘Halloween’ caramels which seem to be only available in October. Some nice damp tobacco smells well up as do lightly sweet impressions of corn syrup and maple with a touch of marmalade. Light baking spices develop (vanilla and cinnamon) as well with dry fruit scents which gives the whisky a light smoky quality. Overall, the dram is very inviting in the glass.

In the Mouth 51/60

The Forty Creek crosses the palate with the light sweetness of caramel and butterscotch mingling with dry wood and rye spices. There is some unwanted astringency which perhaps was hinted at on the nose but ignored then because of the wonderful interplay of scents and smells which hinted a complexity and depth of flavour. Some, but not all of the promise has made it to the palate. Vanilla and honeycomb mix with light almond flavours, and dry fruit come through giving the whisky a lightly smoky flavour complemented by bits of leather and tobacco.

The oak and rye flavours also seem to grow in the glass, and a simple ice-cube alleviates the astringency noted earlier. It is my feeling that the positives definitely outweigh the aforementioned negative.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The Forty Creek Whisky has a short dry finish with hot oak spices and orange peel warming the throat perhaps just a little more than I would like. Some smoke and dry fruit flavours trail down in the finale where a touch of sweetness helps with the heat and light harshness of the dram. I should point out that adding an ice-cube made the ending very enjoyable.

The Afterburn 8/10

The Forty Creek Barrel Select shows tremendous promise in the glass with a good portion of that promise realized when we sip upon the whisky. I suspect a little more aging would allow the spirit to realize its full potential.

Although I can sip the spirit over ice with enjoyment, it is in the realm of the cocktail where I found the most pleasure (see my suggested cocktail below).

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


Suggested Recipe:

ice-stormIce Storm

2 oz  Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky
1/3 oz Lemon Juice
2/3 oz Orange Juice
Dash of Fees Cocktail Bitters
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Lemon Peel

Chill a small cocktail glass until it is very cold.
Place the five ingredients into a metal shaker with cracked ice.
Shake until the outside of the metal shaker begins to frost.
Strain into the chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a twist of lemon peel

Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


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)


4 Responses to “Forty Creek Barrel Select”

  1. whiskey pig said

    I have not tried any other forty creek product but enjoy this whiskey a lot, smooth and inexpensive the best combo for the regular working guy . I was a crown royal fan for a couple decades and still a top 5 for me, the competition is becoming strong .I like to try new to me whiskey and know this site makes this very easy find what I like in a whiskey, glad I found it.

  2. Darko said

    I think you might like Forty Creek Three Grain. Alas, it’s only available at the distillery.

  3. Don said

    While I am not a fine whiskey sipper (never had the stomach for drinking on the rocks or neet) I enjoy good rye whiskeys for mixing with cola or ginger ale.
    I’ve been a big and loyal fan of Crown Royal for years, occasionally dipping into Canadian Club or CC100. When I found Forty Creek, my search stopped.
    It has since become my favorite and while I have tried and enjoyed Crown Royal Black, and tried and didn’t enjoy White Owl, I find I am brought back to this as a favorite for mixed drinks.

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