Saturday, 3 November 2012

Whisky Discovery #224

Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve NAS (45% abv Lot 061 Bottle #5247)
Canadian Whisky
Not available in the UK (yet)
Photos courtesy of @WhiskyLassie
So onto the final tasting in this first experience of Canadian Whisky, and hoping I've saved the best to last! When I received the five drams from @Whiskylassie I lined them up and arranged them in colour order, and this being the Port Wood was the darkest and so was destined to be the final dram of this series.

I've been hoping to get a hold of some Forty Creek as there has been a lot of good things being said in the whisky forums that I've been reading so was pleased when Johanne included this Port Wood Reserve, a limited edition, which sold out almost instantly the first time this was released.

The Forty Creek distillery was started by winemaker John K. Hall in 1992 in Grimsby, Ontario, After being a for over 20 years, John decided he needed another challenge, being a whisky lover and seeing no one in Canada was enhancing the heritage of Canadian Whisky. Whilst the Scotch whisky makers were promoting their single malt whiskies and Bourbon whisky makers were beginning to develop & promote small batch bourbons. John noticed that over the years, the craftsmanship of the Canadian spirit was being lost amongst distillery closings and consolidations. In the mid 1800’s there were over 200 whisky makers in Canada yet today Forty Creek is the only independent whisky maker in Ontario.

Forty Creek treats each of their grains individually; fermenting, distilling and ageing each grain separately to highlight the best characteristics of each grain. This brings out the fruitiness and spiciness of the rye, the nuttiness of the barley, and the heartiness of the corn, John says "the mash bill concept doesn't make sense to a winemaker. Wines are vinted by individual varietal to bring out the best taste characteristics from each grape type. Corn doesn't taste like barley, and rye doesn't taste like corn, so why mix them altogether at the beginning of the process?" 

Today, in Canada, all whiskies are column distilled, but it wasn't like that in the 1800’s when whisky makers used copper pot stills. Conversion to column stills came about when whisky taxes were imposed. Forty Creek favours copper pot stills as you would find in Scottish single malt distilleries. Pot stills capture not just the alcohol but also the flavour.

Port Wood Reserve is made in the same style as all Forty Creek whiskies. No mash bill is used, the varietal whiskies are aged separately, and once completed, they are brought together for marrying. The Forty Creek blend was thenaged in the vintage port wood barrels for another two years prior to bottling.

John makes his own vintage ports, made from Niagara grown grapes and aged in white oak heavy charred barrels. There were just 6,600 bottles filled.

So what did I think?

As I said earlier this was the darkest of the five drams sent from Canada, and is a rich copper colour. It's rich and luxurious, with thick legs clinging to the nosing glass. The nose is just divine, and seems to go on evolving in the glass. As soon as you've identified one component something new flashes before you. Toffee and butterscotch, sweet sherried fruits; black cherries, plump raisins figs and dates and some rich candied orange peel. Vanilla and cereal grain notes then spicy rye, but wait there's more! Tobacco and dark chocolate notes, just glorious!

On the palate I was immediately reminded of an aged Oloroso Sherry. Beautifully balanced with the rich sherried fruits coming out in force; juicy black cherry and raisins, port is evident too with a slight tannin 'tartness' that keeps the honey and toffee sweetness in check. The finish is long with peppery spice heat, yet at the same time it's sweet and very mouth watering, before a hazlenut and/or coffee bitterness lingers.

This was definitely the best of the five Johanne traded with me, but each has been a great experience. I can honestly say I've thoroughly enjoyed each one and certainly want more than the 50ml teaser I've had of each. 

Many thanks to Johanne and Graham of The Perfect Whisky Match for sharing these whiskies with me and for introducing me to Canadian Whisky, check out their blog, it's a great read and for the oracle on Canadian Whisky take a look at Davin de Kergommeaux's fabulous website, simply named Canadian Whisky 

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