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Forty Creek Portwood Reserve

Review: Forty Creek Portwood Reserve Canadian Whisky 95/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted December 29, 2009

Forty Creek Whisky has for the past two 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 Forty Creek Whisky has been finished in Port Wine Barrels, and I am one of the lucky few who managed to buy a few bottles of this first edition.

In the Bottle 5/5

John Hall and the folks at Kittling Ridge have come up with a very nice presentation for their new whisky. Here is a nice snapshot I took of a case of Portwood on my deck. Inside those boxes are wonderful bottles each hand signed by John Hall the Master Distiller. Having the bottles signed personally to me was no problem at all as anyone who preordered the Portwood was allowed to have their bottles signed on the day of pick up. Here is a nice shot of the signed bottle.

In the Glass 9.5/10

It took me a long time to wrap myself around this review. It seemed that every time  I visited this whisky, a new experience presented itself. In the glass, the whisky is a meduim to light  brown with an obvious reddish tone. Notes of cherry and blackberry sit at the forefront of the nose, with spicy cinnamon and caramelized brown sugar rising up in between. Tiny Legs become apparent on the sides of my glencairn glass, and as I nose this more deeply I smell distinctive vanilla and light bourbon. A classic!

In my Mouth 57/60

Mmmm!   I taste cherries and wild field berries, stemming no doubt from the rich Port influence. At times the flavour is accented with grapes and dried currants which give way to a wonderful sweet caramel and hot spice. If there is a fault, it is in the character of this whisky to change with my moods and with my previous palate condition. However the variance in flavour is never disappointing. I may taste different things on different days, but I am always pleased with the overall effect the whisky has in my mouth. I believe the Port influence allows the whisky to pick up previous flavours on my palate and incorporate them into its flavour profile. This is rich elegant stuff!

In the Throat 14/15

A very light oil lengthens the finish. The berries and spice in the mouth are the first flavours to exit, and then grapes and raisins follow down the throat. A hint of smoky chocolate ends the experience with just an ever so slight touch of bitter grape at the end.  The 45% alcohol content gives this a nice satisfying kick which burns in all the right ways.

The Afterburn 9.5/10

One of the very finest Canadians out there.  In fact this is the first Canadian whisky which I have drank where I can nose the glass long after I am finished and still enjoy myself thoroughly.  The complexity is staggering, and the balance is almost always right on.  Well Done!

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


Suggested Cocktail

I chose a very standard cocktail with just a minor tweak for the Portwood Reserve.  A Manhattan with a touch less Sweet Vermouth than my standard recipe.  The sweet Port influence in the whisky easily makes up for the missing Vermouth.

The Portwood Manhattan

2 oz Portwood Reserve Canadian Whisky
1/4 – 1/2 oz Sweet Red Vermouth (Standard recipe is 3/4 oz)
Dash of Angostura Bitters (optional)
3 Large Ice cubes
Maraschino Cherry
Twist of Orange Peel

Add the whiskey, the Vermouth, and the optional bitters with 3 large ice cubes in a Martini Shaker.
Shake gently to chill the mixture.
Spear a cherry with a long toothpick and place it in a chilled glen cairn glass.
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)
Discard the peel.


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 Portwood Reserve”

  1. Piers Stronge said

    Encouraging news from John Hall heard in an interview on whiskycast from the Victoria Whisky Festival that they’re considering bringing back the Port Wood, I missed it the first time around (if it even made it to AB) and would really love to have a full 40 Creek selection on my shelf..

    • I can confirm that John has laid down the whisky for Portwood Version 2. I had lunch with John last Wednesday just before the Edmonton Whisky festival and he confirmed to me that not only will the Portwood see a second iteration but the Confederation Oak as well will be revisited in the future. I will have an article on this next week.

      • Darko Vusir said

        I was at the distillery last week, and they told me that portwood was going to be the special release this year.

        • That is good news, it corresponds to what John Hall was telling me, although when we spoke several weeks ago he had indicated that there was some more tasting to be done until a final decision would be reached.

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