Heart of Gold Canadian Whisky from John Hall's Forty Creek Distillery

Forty Creek Heart of Gold 43% – Preview

May 26, 2013


Oh my, what wonderful whisky! Available beginning late in September, 2013, at the distillery and in select liquor stores. On-line reservations from Monday, May 27th to Friday, June 21st, 2013.

Butterscotch, maple and barley sugar in tingling gingery pepper. Dark fruits and prune juice with hints of dried apricots along with lilacs, violets, dusty rye and wispy tinges of willow smoke. Complex, full-bodied and full of flavour. ★★★★★

If you have followed the rise of Forty Creek Distillery over the past decade, you know that each new expression brings high expectations. This one will not disappoint. However, put your tasting preconceptions to one side when you sit down to taste this little beauty. That first taste . . . it does not so much have the Forty Creek signature as it does the very fingerprints of John K. Hall, winemaker. This one is very different from anything he has ever done before. Still, a little forensic sipping soon teases out the familiar Forty Creek notes, so beautifully wrapped together that the result is something entirely new.

Hall fooled us last year. After a spectacular spice bomb called John’s Private Cask was released in 2011, fans wondered if Hall’s genius had finally reached its peak. Could he ever surpass Private Cask? 2012 did not bring an answer. Hall avoided the question altogether by reprising his much-sought-after Port Wood Reserve. That whisky sensation went on to be named Canadian Whisky of the Year in the Canadian Whisky Awards blind tasting competition, just as John’s Private Cask had done the year before.

It turns out that Hall simply needed more time to finish his newest creation: Heart of Gold. Here, at last is the next step in the evolution of spicy rye at Forty Creek. It’s a bold whisky that harkens back to the classic days of big, fruity, rye-forward, long-aged, elegant Canadian whiskies. Old is new at Forty Creek in a whisky, that at 43% abv packs significant wallop without succumbing to the punters’ crutch of high alcohol content.

When I told her that the anticipation was killing me, John Hall’s daughter, Beth Warner, responded that “Patience is a virtue.” Good advice, but her dad has enough patience for us all. He’s been working away at Heart of Gold for nearly a decade. Then, when my whisky buddy Johanne McInnis visited Forty Creek a couple of weeks ago she got to sample it, but true to her promise, would not tell us what it tasted like.

Johanne, along with Chip Dykstra in Edmonton, Blair Phillips in Toronto, and I, have formed a loosely-linked, on-line whisky writers’ cabal. Sensing our unbridled enthusiasm Hall relented and a put a few samples in the mail. This is new for Forty Creek. He has not distributed pre-release samples before, and a couple of years ago he told me why. As a former winemaker John Hall is keenly aware of bottle shock and insists that his whisky rest after bottling until it settles down. So, as good as they are, these samples, drawn from a marrying vat can only suggest the full potential of the bottled whisky.

Chip Dykstra, Blair Phillips & Johanne McInnis write and blog about Canadian whisky.

Edmonton's Chip Dykstra, Blair Phillips from Toronto, and Johanne McInnis of Saint John, New Brunswick. Three of Canada's most knowledgeable Canadian whisky writers each has a different way of expressing his or her enthusiasm for Forty Creek Heart of Gold.

When I sent a note to thank him, Hall responded, “I guess I am just as impatient as you are. It was a lot of fun and very personally satisfying creating this whisky over the past decade. My plans are to bottle it in early July, allow it to rest in the bottle for 2 months, then release it in September.”

Nose: Butterscotch, dark fruit, concentrated grape juice, nose-tingling spirit, maple fudge, vague wafting whispers of sweet mint.

Palate: Sour dark fruit, prune juice, hot pepper then glowing, glimmering spices. Settles down quickly and lingers on and on, yielding a lovely throat burn, hints of walnut skins, dusty rye, barley sugar, dried apricots, fragrant sweet flowers, and wispy willow smoke. The body has a lot of weight, with ever-present heat seasoning the other elements while staying in careful balance with the underlying fruitiness. Each accentuates the other. It becomes even fruitier, and the spiciness begins to centre on ginger after a minute or so. This whisky is spicy, just as Private Cask was, but broader and fruitier and without the corn-cob middle. It displays more floral rye while restraining the bursting spices just a hint. Big, spicy, fruity and rich; very good stuff.

Finish: Medium spicy fade, hints of hot ginger.

Empty glass: Crispy clean oak, buttertscotch, dry red oak.

John’s own brief tasting notes are on the Forty Creek website under What’s New www.FortyCreekWhisky.com

Forty Creek Heart of Gold will be available on allocation across Canada (except for Quebec) and will be released in the USA, but only in Texas. The whisky will be available in September, 2013. It’s worth the wait. You can reserve your bottle beginning Monday, May 27, 2013, on the Forty Creek website.

For another perspective see what my rum chum and whisky buddy, Chip “Arctic Wolf” Dykstra has to say on his Rum Howler blog.

See more at: http://fortycreekwhisky.com/whatsnew.html#sthash.Sh1Ssoh7.dpuf

First thoughts on Forty Creek Heart of Gold.

Forty Creek Barrel Select is reviewed here.

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.


21 Responses to “Forty Creek Heart of Gold 43% – Preview”

  1. [...] on http://www.canadianwhisky.org Partager:PlusWordPress:J’aime Chargement… 26 mai 2013 Laisser une [...]

  2. Forsly:

    Wow! Your description of this whisky sounds absolutely lovely. An old style Canadian Club Whisky in the style of the 70s full of rye and sweet & sour fruit! I grew up on Canadian Club whisky and feel that it has changed a lot in recent years and not for the better. If the Heart of Gold truly tastes like the Old CC, I am going to have to buy a case!

    • Davin:

      That was Chip’s description and I completely agree with him. And yes, it is wonderful.

  3. Rob:

    Two things. Chip gave Heart of Gold a mid-80′s review. Although I’ve looked through his list of rating and disagreed with many, I was disappointed to see the lower rating… I was hoping that this was a five star. The second thing Davin is that earlier on one of the forums you hinted that big name Canadian Whisky manufacturers were planning to produce new Whiskies to compete with Forty Creek. Is it possible to elaborate on that or is too little known? Are we talking Canadian Club, Wiser’s or Crown?

    • Davin:


      The Heart of Gold that Chip and I tasted is just part way through the marrying process. The flavours are all there but marrying is not complete. Given three more months to come together I am certain that this will be a five star whisky when it is ready. I declined to score it now partly for that reason, and partly because my sample is not big enough to give it a really good going over. I think it is going to be awesome, likely his best yet. But we must be patient. Incidentally, I am hoping to be able to pick up my own bottles at the distillery on the release weekend this year. I am very excited about this new Forty Creek whisky.


      • Davin:

        This came from Rob – somehow it got into e-mail rather than comments:\
        Hey Davin

        Thanks for the reply. That’s good news then. I too have reserved two bottle for myself and will see you that weekend in September. I also watched Ralfy’s blog and was a bit frustrated with the whisky he chose to review. I almost feel he purposely decide not to review the high quality Canadian whiskies due to the unrelenting pride the Scottish have with their scotch. Heaven forbid Canadian Whisky is approaching in quality. Anyway, I’m sure your tired of my rants.


        • Davin:

          I know Ralfy and I don’t think he has any negative intent in his selections. He is exploring Canadian whisky, and as you know some are better than others, just as it is with Scotch. I would not read anything into his selection. He really is a very generous and down-to-earth guy.

          • paddockjudge:

            great to hear that you may be at the Grimsby facility for Whisky Weekend…bring a Sharpie with you!

            Good on you for respecting John’s wishes and allowing this whisky to settle down for some months before assigning a score.

            I am very excited about this new expression and look forward to another epic weekend at the Forty Creek distillery.

    • paddockjudge:

      Rob, check out the FC Port Wood review and the reply to one your comments. pj

  4. [...] Forty Creek Heart of Gold is reviewed here. [...]

  5. Rob:

    Every year John Hall surprieses my senses a challenges my preconceived notions of my “favourite” whiskies. So I will simply say this is truly great stuff. Smooth as silk. Great character. It was as a pleasure meeting you Davin. Cheers.

  6. 2shrodes1cup.com:

    Great weekend, great whisky.
    Thanks to the guy who didnt show up, your whisky was fantastic!
    Nice to meet you too, davin. Thanks for the emphatic pat on the back.

  7. 2shrodes1cup.com:

    Just to let everybody know, if your looking for a bottle, there’s 74 left in Ontario one week after the release.

  8. Omineca Greg!:

    Hey Davin!

    I figured I would never get a chance to try this one, but lo and behold, B.C. is getting a shipment. Nov. 2nd as part of “Premium Spirit Release”. The other Canadian is Wiser’s Red Letter. Still missing the Legacy in the worst way…

    Oh, and apparently Highland Park 50 Year Old is a fairly rare whisky? You could buy a bottle of the Heart Of Gold, a Neil Young CD, and still have enough money to buy 13 ounces of real gold for that price! I mean I know they have to bring it all the way across the Atlantic, but wow!

  9. Rob:

    Have an unopened bottle of this. Getting rid of it email if interested. Rdesantis9779@gmail.com

  10. Rob:

    My bottle has been claimed.

  11. John:

    Hi all,
    I have an unopen bottle and want to get rid of it.
    If you want it, email me at johguz23@gmail.com

    • John:

      My bottle has been claimed

  12. Sherry:

    Ashy is this one not on your main web page site. I didn’t even know this existed. Looking to buy if price is right.


  13. Sherry:

    Port Wood Reserve… Does anyone have one to sell


  14. Stuart:

    I have an unopened bottle available. If you want it, email me at whisky@hfour.ca

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