Category Archives: Other Whisk(e)ys

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony Canadian Whisky
43% ABV
$70
Website
3_Grain_Harmony_Bottle_21May2015
What the Distillery Says:
Introducing Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony!

Harmony is the pleasing sound of two or more notes heard simultaneously. With whisky, the skillful blending of two or more whiskies, is genuine harmony.

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony is the 9th Limited Release from Forty Creek Whisky. This year, we decided to create a bit of music by carefully blending and harmonizing three single grains: rye, barley and corn. We began by fermenting and distilling each individual grain separately. Both the rye and the barley stocks date back to when we first began our Forty Creek Distillery. This Limited Release marks the first time these stocks have been introduced into one of our whiskies. As with many of our Signature Editions, the separate, single grain whiskies were patiently aged in toasted white oak barrels. At their peak flavour potential, they were then artfully blended to create the subtle yet complex whisky we named Three Grain Harmony.

To the nose, Three Grain Harmony displays aromas of vanilla, toffee and orange blossom with underlying spice notes. On the palate there are delicate soft flavours of exotic spices with a long dry finish.

Three Grain Harmony is a limited edition of 9,000 bottles.

Tasting Notes
Three Grain Harmony starts off with aromas of vanilla, toffee and orange blossom with underlying spice notes. On the palate there are delicate soft flavours of exotic spices with a long dry finish.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Prominent corn (but not “young”), rye beer-bread baking next door, corn muffins, with a hint of some type of cleaning chemical?
Palate: Corn sweetness up front with honey and vanilla, then some spiciness (rye spice, but not ‘American rye’; more gentle).
Finish: Moderately long and drying.
Comments: Of the three Forty Creek whiskies I reviewed this winter, this was my favorite and certainly the most interesting. If this were at a lower price point, it would be a “Must Try”. The nose reminded me a bit of the George Washington Unaged Rye made at Mount Vernon (which sounds like a dig, but it isn’t). When I think “rye”, I think sharp spice – and this is like that without the sharp edge, and with the spice dial turned down. It has a lot going on, and it is fairly well integrated. For me, this is a “sit and ponder” type of pour.
Rating: Stands Out / Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Orange blossoms and corn mash.
Palate: Warm buttermilk cornbread (real cornbread, not the sweet Yankee kind) with orange blossom honey drizzled on top.
Finish: Spicy on the finish. Not in a “hot” way but it fires off with black and white pepper, cinnamon, crushed fennel seeds, and coriander.
Comments: Very nice and well put together. “Harmony” is the appropriate name. It plays well together. The finish on this release is really fun and gives you cause to linger on on the after aspects of the dram. However, for me it’s not something I would buy again over the standard Barrel Select. It’s interesting and fun for sure but it’s not $70 interesting or $70 fun.
Rating: Stands Out

Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve

Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Canadian Whisky
40% ABV
$65
Website
confed oak
What the Distillery Says:
Notes from John Hall, Whisky Maker
I have worked with many types of oak barrels, first as a wine maker and then as a whisky maker. Every wood, whether it is from a bourbon barrel, port barrel, sherry cask, French, Balkan or American oak, creates a distinctive taste expression. As a proud Canadian whisky maker, I have always been curious what a Canadian whisky would taste like aged in a Canadian oak barrel, because most Canadian whiskies are aged in American oak.

To my delight, I discovered some massive Canadian white oak trees that were growing only 40 miles from the distillery! They must have started growing just before Confederation in 1867 because they were 4 feet in diameter and over 150 years old. The selected trees were harvested from a sustainably managed forest employing the principle of “no tree before its time.” This forest has a mixture of young trees coming up in the understory, mature trees in full productive vigor, and old trees whose growth has slowed. These older trees block sunlight and rainfall from the younger trees and when over-matured, need to be removed.

I thought I could give them a second career as whisky barrels. Canadian and American white oak trees are the same species. However, the cooler growing conditions in Canada result in slower growing trees that are more dense than their American counterparts. Consequently, the aromas and flavour profiles of Canadian oak are very different due to the Canadian terroir.

This is truly an iconic whisky. Canadian whisky, aged in Canadian oak barrels, harvested from trees that first rooted themselves in Canadian soil 150 years ago during Confederation.

Tasting Notes
Forty Creek Confederation Oak is the colour of old gold and is a very full bodied whisky. To the nose it is a big whisky with constantly evolving aromas and flavours. Beginning with a maple-raisin-vanilla-fig, layers of praline, banana, butter cream, honeyed nuts, marzipan, spice and orange blossoms. As it lingers, dark dried fruits and anise evolve. On the palate it has a very rich entry; soft, round and dry. Full bodied with vanilla, butter cream and pepper spice which is nicely framed with oak, walnut and smoke. An exceptional finish that has great depth. A long lingering finish with fading spice and white pepper. Excellent balance and vibrant flavour. A whisky to sip and cherish.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Soft, mellow Canadian maple syrup, fall leaves, faint apricots, plum wine.
Palate: Maple glazed donut with crumbles of praline pecans, mouthfeel is a tad thin.
Finish: Moderately long, with a bit of spice at the end.
Comments: I like sweet whisky, but this might be a bit too much sweet (definitely on the cusp for my personal taste). With the background all about the oak, I didn’t pick up much oak or spice – although full disclosure, I haven’t had a lot of experience with whisky aged in cooperage from really old trees. Maybe it is the Canadian oak that is just a different beast. Nothing off-putting about this pour (unless you’re not a fan of big sweetness), but nothing that stood out to me as particularly special. I’d be curious what this taste like at a higher proof, but I feel like I could say that about pretty much every 80 proof pour I taste (maybe the oak spice doesn’t get lost in the sweetness?)
Rating: Average

What Richard Says:
Nose: Bland and alcohol forward which is very odd given the 80 proof nature of the whiskey. It opens up with a bit time and water to fresh cut hay and fruit salad but there is a weird chemical-like note hanging way in the back.
Palate: Thank goodness this tastes better than it smells. It has a great creamy texture to it with gobs of vanilla cream filling (Boston Cream donuts) and poached stone fruit (pears and apricots) all drizzled with honey.
Finish: A bit dry and bitter. I was really hoping that some of the sweeter elements of the palate would linger a bit.
Comments: I really like the standard Barrel Select version of Forty Creek but I’m having a hard time liking this one. I really wish I had a chance to taste the original version back in 2010. My bottle is a later batch from 2015. This tastes very nice and it is easy to drink but the smell and finish are rough to get around. At $65 a bottle it’s rough to recommend buying one.
Rating: Average

Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve

Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve Canadian Whisky
40% ABV
$60
Website
forty_creek_double_barrel_reserve_whisky_1
What the Distillery Says:
Notes from John Hall, Whisky Maker
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase some outstanding bourbon barrels from Kentucky. These barrels are excellent for ageing whiskies because they are “seasoned”. This means most of the fresh harsh oak tannins have been removed and what remains is all the good stuff, such as the softer oak tannins, wood vanillas, sugars and the toasty, smokey, spicy aromas, as well as the caramelized flavours from the heavy charring of the inside of the barrel.

After ageing my rye, barley and corn whiskies in their own special barrels, I decided to bring them together as a meritage, and placed the three whiskies into the bourbon barrels. This double barreling allowed the whiskies to hang out together and take on the subtle qualities offered by the bourbon barrels to enhance the finishing of the whisky.

Tasting Notes
Forty Creek Double Barrel has a wonderful golden roasted aroma filled with deep vanilla notes and highlighted with toasted spice, pecan and walnuts. There is a caramelized creaminess to the flavour with a rich spice that lifts it off the tongue. The finish is very smooth, mellow and extra long.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Soft, maple syrup, bit of burning leaves over freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies, rich with a hint of malt.
Palate: Creamy mouthfeel, syrupy sweet (but not viscous), maple candies, butterscotch, vanilla ice cream.
Finish: Moderately long and wet.
Comments: I prefer the nose on this over the Forty Creek Confederation Oak (I thought they were similar, but this one was much more rich with a bit more character). On the palate, this one crosses the “too sweet” line for me. Again, nothing off-putting unless you don’t care for sweet whiskey (but if that is the case, you’re likely not a big fan of most Canadian whiskey, eh!) If you like that sorta thing (maybe a big fan of Crown Royal?), this might be right up your alley! It certainly has more complexity, and is quite drinkable.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says:
Nose: Slightly burnt caramel creams washed down with a vanilla malted milkshake.
Palate: Rich sweetness reminding me of vanilla fudge and toffee crisps. Cherry syrup, Frangelico, and Kahlua round out the palate.
Finish: A bit spicy with mild wood notes.
Comments: This whiskey is put together like their standard Barrel Select and then finished in ex-bourbon barrels instead of sherry barrels. It’s more of a vanilla forward version of that whiskey. It’s very pleasant and easy to drink. If you like lighter, sweeter whiskies then I would recommend giving this a try.
Rating: Stands Out

Willett Family Estate Rye 25 Years

Willett Family Estate Rye – 25 yr (barrel # 1776)
50% ABV
$250
Website
WFE 25yr
What the Distillery Says:
Willett doesn’t say anything about their estate bottlings on their website.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Big oak, molasses, burnt fruitcake, raisins, prunes, cigar paper.
Palate: Very oaky, sharp dry spices (allspice?) and bitter chocolate, sour raisins.
Finish: Long but quite dry.
Comments: This was the most expensive bottle of whiskey I had ever purchased at the time (which I purchased from their gift shop in September 2012). And it will go down as “lessons learned” in my book, that age doesn’t equate to quality, and if I’m laying down that much money – I need to get a sample first. I think this whiskey was past its prime, and probably would have been amazing at 15 – 20 yrs. For my taste, this is just too oak dominant. I have to really work to pick flavors out from beneath the oak, and I don’t like to work that hard to enjoy my whiskey. I have been blessed with the opportunity to try some amazing older Willett ryes, and I made the mistake of assuming they were a representation of most ryes of that nature (rather than the rare-exceptional barrels that they were). For the retail I paid 4 years ago (which it would be double or more than that today I’m sure), I wouldn’t buy it again – so knowing the current market, I can’t recommend this.
Rating: Probably Pass

What Richard Says:
Nose: Light mint, peach cobbler, black strap molasses, and polished leather.
Palate: NyQuil, heavy on the wood, cocoa powder, spearmint, and cinnamon.
Finish: Dry, minty, and long on the oak.
Comments: This is a thick, almost gooey whiskey that coats the inside of the glass. Some people tend to prefer bourbons no older than 10 to 15 years old. Some don’t even go that far. The warm Kentucky summers and new oak can quickly over power a whiskey with heavy notes of wood. I usually like “woody” or “oaky” whiskeys. It’s not as much of a turn off for me. But that said, this rye from Willett is exceptionally far on the woody spectrum. There is a great nose to it but the taste and finish are just in your face with the oak. This probably should’ve come out of the barrel about four years sooner.
Rating: Probably Pass

Willett Family Estate Rye 5 Years

Willett Family Estate Rye – 5 yr (barrel # 78)
55% ABV
$40
Website
willett 5 year
What the Distillery Says:
Willett doesn’t really say a damn thing about their “Estate” bottles.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Bright, crisp Christmas spice (nutmeg, cinnamon), orange marmalade over oak.
Palate: Sharp citrus spice with tangerines and craisins, subtle vanilla sweetness under pepper spice and cinnamon notes.
Finish: Moderately long and dry.
Comments: The line of Willett Family Estate Ryes has been mostly from the same distillery (MGP), although they started distilling their own rye a few years ago. This was a waxed-top bottle bought a few years ago, and gifted to me from a friend who knows I love rye. This bottle is no exception. I appreciate the high proof bottling, and while it is a single barrel – I’ve tried a dozen or so in this age range (4 – 5 yr) and found them pretty consistent. More oak than you might expect for a 5 yr, but not too much (probably aged high in the rickhouse). I really wish I would have picked up more of their 4 and 5 yr rye whiskey when it was laying around at $35-$40. It isn’t as widely available these days, and when it is – the price has gone up quite a bit.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says:
Nose: Fresh mint, nutmeg, Big Red cinnamon chewing gum, and lemon preserves.
Palate: This youngish rye is very flavorful but it also wears the proof on its sleeve. You feel everyone of those 110 proof points. Citrus, ginger, cinnamon, sharp mint, and red pepper.
Finish: Mild and woody. The heat comes more on the palate than the finish. It leaves black pepper notes around the edges of the tongue for some time.
Comments: This is a bit of a monster of a young rye. It’s very tasty and back when you could get this rye for $40 it was very versatile. Now Willett whiskeys are getting a bit too big for their britches in the pricing. Regardless, it is a good whiskey and worth trying.
Rating: Stands Out