Forty Creek Heart of Gold 43% - Preview


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.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.comForty 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: 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.