Here at ScotchBlog we have a mixed relationship with Canadian whiskies. In our opinion, there are few truly interesting things happening these days in the Canadian Whisky landscape. A refreshing exception to this is John K. Hall's Forty Creek Whisky. Produced by Kittling Ridge Estates Wines & Spirits, Forty Creek has been increasingly producing innovative and new Canadian whiskies over the past several years.
Across its entire whisky lineup, Forty Creek individually distills and ages rye, corn, and barley spirits separately in small-batch copper stills (the rest of the Canadian industry uses column stills), then blends them together to create a final product that emphasizes the finest aspects of each spirit.
The story of the Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve expression began when John K. Hall found a stand of large Canadian white oak trees growing along the Grand River in Southern Ontario. These trees were extremely old, and by Mr. Hall's estimate, over 150 years. Canadian white oak trees typically contain much denser wood than their American counterparts, due to the colder growing conditions which result in slower growth. What Mr. Hall did with these trees is nothing less than a labour of love.
After the trees were cut, they had to be left for several years to dry out. Once they were dry enough to work with, they had to be sent to a cooperage to be turned into casks. Since there are no operating cooperages in Canada, Mr. Hall made arrangements to have an American Bourbon cooperage take the trees to produce and custom char casks for him. Once this process was complete, they were shipped back up to Canada where he separately filled them with his new make rye, corn, and barley spirits for aging.
The result released this past fall, is the Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve. Aptly named since the estimated age of the trees would suggest that they first began growing around Canadian Confederation in 1867, this is a superb whisky. With a wonderful buttery bouquet of vanilla, coconut macaroons and caramel, this is a nose that has many layers and takes time to develop into notes of fresh cut lumber and charred oak.
The palate can be described as nothing less than love in a glass. Wonderful creamy caramel quickly leads way to dominant but not overpowering vanilla and fresh oak. Toasted bread and maple syrup provide a bit of a counter-balance. The finish is wonderfully lingering with hints of pepper and orange.
I can't recommend this whisky enough, and once all of the 16,800 individually numbered bottles are gone, you won't see this exact expression ever again.