Forty Creek Barrel Select Canadian Whisky

Forty Creek Barrel Select (40% alc./vol.)

November 8, 2017


Creamy, sweet corn whisky with dusty, earthy rye, ripe red fruits, sherry, sweet-and-sour sauce, floral perfume, ginger, cinnamon, hot pepper, and hints of citric peels. Fruity & Spicy. ★★★★

Many Canadian whisky connoisseurs consider Forty Creek whiskies to be the most exciting recent arrivals on the Canadian whisky scene. They exemplify those whisky profiles that we love here in Canada: hard spicy rye, nutty barley, and sweet succulent corn. How odd, but typically Canadian, it is then, that Forty Creek achieved its first successes, not in Canada, but in the USA. Canadian whisky is very popular in America, though the best sellers tend to be a little sweeter than the Canadian palate prefers. Leave it to Texas though, that hotbed of Canadian whisky lovers, to put Forty Creek on the whisky map. Believe it or not, the highly recommended Barrel Select is the entry-level whisky of the Forty Creek line although it certainly holds its own against its more expensive siblings.

Nose: The very expressive nose begins with rich caramel, fruity sherried notes, and dusty rye. It smells almost like creamy corn whisky as the rye is quite mild at first. Some typical sour rye notes that remind you of pickles or sweet-and-sour sauce are followed by something floral. Again, this is typical of rye whisky, but the rye Christmas spices are very faint indeed. Finally, some citrus notes surface—orange peel this time, then lots of ripe fruit— sweet, over-ripe plums, juicy, rich Vancouver-Island blackberries and tartish black currants. Very fruity.

Palate: A first impression of sweet fruits and creamy toffee turns into an ever-changing menu of rye spices and pepper. Sweet-and-sour notes meld into the vaguest tangy, zesty bitterness in the middle. Zesty bitterness is not only one of the many great things about Canadian whisky, it helps define its signature taste. This is the element of the Canadian whisky profile that keeps the palate fresh and responsive.

Though it tastes and feels a lot like corn whisky, the rye keeps poking its head in with spices, pepper, bushel-baskets of ripe red fruits, dry grain, a slight earthiness, and freshwater plants. There are hints of sweet cream sherry, then burnt sugar, more toffee, and then increasingly peppery spices with more cinnamon/ginger notes. Lots of lingering heat hovers over a sweet foundation.

Finish: Medium, sweet, peppery, and fading. Although it seems medium in length, it never totally goes away despite the underlying citric zest. Rather, it lingers over cinnamon, ginger, and white pepper, with hints of dusty rye.

Empty Glass: For such a flavourful whisky there is surprisingly little left in the glass the next morning. Slight hints of toffee and caramel, a whiff of pickles, and hints of black licorice that were not present in the whisky itself. If you work hard at it, you might even convince yourself that there are some elements of prune juice here. But what remains is certainly more of an invitation to conjecture than a definable trace.

When John Hall began making whisky, he didn’t leave his wine making experiences behind. Rather, he used these skills to make a whisky from rye, barley, and corn, each distilled and aged separately, before he blended them to create what he calls his “Meritage” whisky: Forty Creek Barrel Select.

At $28.95 Forty Creek Barrel Select is a genuine bargain. I’d say it was underpriced if I was sure no one from the distillery would find out.

Highly recommended

Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve is reviewed here.

Forty Creek Confederation Oak is reviewed here.

Forty Creek John’s Private Cask No. 1 is reviewed here.

Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve is reviewed here.


39 Responses to “Forty Creek Barrel Select (40% alc./vol.)”

  1. Paul:

    Can you let me know what cocktail that is in the photo? Looks great.

    • Davin:

      Hi Paul,
      It’s a take on a Dry Manhattan in a Glencairn Canadian Whisky glass. Yes, it’s great for hot weather. Do you have a favourite cocktail or a Manhattan recipe to share? I have a piece on Manhattans (with appropriate glassware) in the queue waiting for when I run out of new arrivals and tasting notes.

  2. One of the best canadian whisky ever for sure. A sure shot at any time ! and a true bargain. And again not available in Quebec province (no more comments on this one…)

    • S. Massy:

      It appears to have *finally* just become available in Quebec! Picked up a bottle when I was in Toronto last year and loved it; definitely looking forward to enjoying it more often.

    • Mathieu Fréchette:

      just bough one 30 minutes ago in QC city!Really happy!

  3. Davin:

    Well LCBO has loads of it.
    Yeah, these guys know how to make whisky, for sure.

  4. George Jetson:

    It is a shame that the Three Grain was discontinued in the US. To me, it had much more rye character than the Barrel Select, but it is clear the US market wants sweeter smoother, more mix-friendly things from their CW than I. John’s Limited Editions like the Port Wood Reserve are truly outstanding examples of modern Canadian whisky-making.

  5. Davin:

    Hi George,
    Yes, the Three Grain is a very tasty whisky. I’m not sure you can find it in the shops anymore, but it is still available at the distillery. Since most Canadian distilleries will not accept visitors at all, maybe knowing the Three Grain is available at Kittling Ridge is just one more reason to make the trek there.

    As far as withdrawing the Three Grain from the US, my understanding is it was a simple matter of not wanting to divide their marketing attention between two whiskies. Now that Barrel Select is a big hit, who knows, maybe there’s hope for Three Grain to return again.

  6. Just got a message from John K Hall, and Forty Creek Double barrel makes his way in Quebec’s SAQ store by the end of september. What a good news !!!

  7. Davin:

    You’re telling me, André, good news indeed. Double Barrel is even better than Barrel Select. And I’ll bet you are looking forward to the new one – Confederation Oak – which is to be released in September.

  8. Well, John Hall will be with our whisky club in november for a private tasting. We will sample the new Confederation oak, with the barrel select, the double barrel, the 3 grains and the Mountain Rock.

    • Davin:

      Well expect great things! On top of making great whisky he is a very interesting speaker as well.

  9. We are now offering the Official Glencairn Canadian Whisky Glass at

  10. Darko Vusir:

    Davin, do you have any plans to taste the “three grain”?

    • Davin:

      Hi Darko,
      Yes, I have notes for the Three Grain and the Portwood Reserve almost ready. Actually, I have quite a few reviews almost ready. The problem is getting them into the queue. Have you tried the Three Grain? I like it.

      • Darko Vusir:

        Actually, I just tried it today. I live near the distillery, and had gone to pick up some more “Barrel Select”.
        I was surprised what a difference there was between the two whiskies. Of course, I came home with a bottle to give it a more in depth tasting.

  11. Shamus McWade:

    Just tried the Forty Creek this evening and was blown away at it’s body and smooth flavor. Had to look up some reviews and this is the first one Google gave me. Love the whiskey and the site!

    • Davin:

      Thanks Shamus. I am glad you enjoyed the whisky and the review.

  12. Shamus McWade:

    I look forward to reading your reviews on other libations!

  13. Larry Patterson:

    I have enjoyed many bottles of Barrel Select. It has become a very popular whisky and as such the quality is now suffering. My last bottle had no sherry aroma, just a sweet taste, and a short alcohol finish. This last lot/batch is terrible. I will not be purchasing the more expensive versions of Forty Creek Whisky. Just a shame that these people have sold out the consumer!

    • Davin:

      Hi Larry,

      If you are like me, from time to time your palate changes. Before you write off any particular whicky that you have already enjoyed, why not do a head-to-head tasting of an older and a newer bottling. My bets are you’ll find them quite similar. As well, the more you taste whisky, the more refined your palate becomes and you are much better able to taste the nuances.

      • Shamus McWade:

        I’ve bought about 15 quarts since the end of Nov. 2011 and am noticing the same thing as Larry. I don’t drink them all and have given a few away, but in the last while it doesn’t contain the same flavour and I sometimes find the urge to mix it while I normally enjoy it in a glass neat……

      • I did purchase a bad bottle, as subsequent bottles; purchased at different locations throughout my state, have been fantastic; furthermore, I have bought both the Confederation Oak and Double Barrel and found these whiskies excellent. Just wanted to set the record straight!

  14. Shamus McWade:

    I’m also heading to Alberta for a while, can you recommend any good local whiskeys?

  15. Chris:

    LCBO no longer carries the 40 Creek 3 grain. When will it be available again? Does anybody know?

    • Davin:

      Forty Creek Three Grain was discontinued and the last bottles were sold at the distillery this past fall and winter. I don’t think they have any plans to re-issue it.

  16. Greg:


    Sitting here in a TX bar and saw this bottle on the rail so pulled the trigger and asked for a pour. This is surprisingly good at 80 proof. I can’t find this in VA where I live so may have to get bottle for the trip home.

  17. C Gaudette:

    Being finished in sherry casks, does this bare any resemblance to Canadian Club sherry cask?

    • Davin:

      The CC is a lot fruitier.

  18. John from Georgia:

    I’m no expert , however , the Forty Creek Barrel Select is wonderful ! I’m an Evan Williams , Jim Beam Black and Wild Turkey 101 fan [ for when I want to feel like I just got smacked in the face :) ] . My wife would buy me a bottle of Crown Royal for a holiday , feeling it was something special and fancy . So , last Christmass she happened upon buying me the Forty Creek for something different . It’s very smooth and the flavor is fantastic ! Being it’s aged in sherry casks must really smooth out the edges in every way . The aroma is a touh sherry like , which is a mind bender . I drink it neat and I love it . For the money , it’s the finest whiskey I’ve ever tried

  19. [...] Forty Creek Barrel Select is reviewed here. [...]

  20. [...] Forty Creek Barrel Select is reviewed here. [...]

  21. Andrew:

    What amazes me about this whisky is that John has managed to truly showcase the characteristics of each component grain at the same time. The nutty richness of the barley, the spicey and fruity rye, and some amazing corn flavour that finishes with a definite smoky barrel char. While they’re all there, my only wish is that the flavours were more integrated. The whisky is wonderful, but a little busy.

  22. [...] Select is a highly lauded, highly esteemed Canadian Whiskey by those who enjoy Canadian Whisky. Folks who spend their waking hours exploring this category have given it quite high marks and so it was with bated breath that I opened this bottle to see what magic it held [...]

  23. Brian:

    Saw a few cases of this at our local gas station in Illinois with a sign saying $5 a bottle. So the adventurer in me says WTF, if it’s no good ya can use it to cook with. Have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Pretty sweet for my taste but very drinkable, and if you’re a mixer it would be perfect for you. I’ll be going back to Habib’s for several more of these, I reckon.

  24. Shaheen J. Dibai:

    Hey, Davin. It might be time for you to re-review this one. I’ve found that it has gone downhill quickly since John K. Hall retired last autumn. Not awful, but it tastes younger, there’s no sherry influence to my palate (sherry casks are also no longer mentioned on the label), and it tasted really weird after some foods which the previous Barrel Select would have paired well with. I’d love to know your thoughts on the current Barrel Select.

  25. Jonathan:

    Hey for a whiskey why do you call it a whisky if it’s made in canada?

  26. Dave:

    I usually drink Canadian Club or Crown Royal (on special occasions). I found myself wanting to try a new Canadian Whiskey just for the fun of it. I saw all the “awards” Forty Creek received, so I figured I’d spend the extra few dollars and buy a 750ml bottle just to try it. I bought the bottle of the Barrel Select about 2 years ago. I made 1 whiskey coke and will never drink it again. It left the worst aftertaste in my mouth, very similar to Canadian Mist. Just now, 2 years later, i noticed the bottle still sitting in my bar, and thought I’d warn others. It’s supposed to be one of the higher end “Canadian Whiskeys”, but spending that much money on this sub par whiskey will only leave a sour taste in your mouth, as it did mine. (pun definitely intended)

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