Friday, November 25, 2016

Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky + a cautionary tale

If you are considering booking or hosting a house concert, or letting one happen in your home, I have one word of advice for you:

Don't.

By "house concert," I mean a live show which takes place in a residential space instead of a traditional venue. By being responsible for a house concert, you are most likely breaking numerous laws without even realizing and creating a ton of needless liabilities, legal and non-legal. If people who have experience with house concerts are giving you advice, they're most likely giving you horrible advice. Pertinent to this blog, house concerts set you up for a whole other level of DRUNK DRAMA. Alcohol-free shows are generally less attractive, so you want to have alcohol at a house concert...except you really, really, REALLY don't. People you know and have never seen drunk or disruptive at a traditional venue will come to see or perform in your house concert, get more inebriated than you've ever seen them, and ruin the show...and possibly the house.

I first learned this lesson at a show I booked and hosted at a friend's house -- thank goodness I've never been able to host shows in MY home -- and since the show had hit a lot of snags before it even happened, I thought I'd bring something nice to celebrate making it to show day: Forty Creek Barrel Select, a whisky which had previously gone over well when I'd brought it to a backyard BBQ. But at this house concert, someone I never had to worry about before downed whisky, wine, and beer in excess until he repeatedly disrupted the show, made a mess of my friend's living room, and got his butt thrown out. And I should have seen the signs and tried to nip the situation in the bud. See, early in the show, he asked me, "Shaheen, mind if I have some of your whisky, man?" I thought that was a strange request because I'd already announced that it was for everyone in attendance, but I simply reminded him of that. He then poured a DOUBLE SHOT and downed it all IN ONE GULP. Unfortunately, I had allowed myself to become such a snob that instead of thinking, "I've never seen him drink like that! I'd better take him aside and talk to him," I was too busy being aghast that he had SHOT a double of what I considered a fine sipping whisky. And then he grabbed the bottle and exclaimed (sorry about the language), "Man, that is smooth as SHIT!!! What is that? Canadian? That is smooth as shit!!! You people have to try this whisky!!!" Instead of thinking, "That level of goofball exuberance is not typical of him. I'd better take him aside and talk to him," I was too busy being happy that he enjoyed Forty Creek and was getting other people to drink it.

If you have any snobbery at all, keep it in check.

But yes, Forty Creek is one of the better brands of Canadian whisky available in the United States, but it's not one of the better-known, especially here in Philadelphia. So I do love to turn people on to it as long as they, you know, enjoy it responsibly. Despite the product's name, Barrel Select is actually the standard expression of Forty Creek, and priced reasonably in Pennsylvania: $24 (+ tax) per 750 ml.

Barrel Select used to come with the tag on the right, depicting Whisky Maker John K. Hall and the whisky's accolades. Unfortunately, now it comes with the tag on the left, which lists a few accolades but is mostly devoted to woefully inadequate tasting notes.

Forty Creek Barrel Select
Blended Canadian Whisky
No Age Statement
40% ABV (80 Proof)

Color: Burnt umber.

Body: Rich like Warren Buffett. Or since it's Canadian, should I say rich like Kevin O'Leary? Unlike some Canadian whiskies sold in the US, this is NOT syrupy, and that's a good thing.

Nose: Sweet, nutty aromas fill the air. Bringing the glass to my nose, I get walnuts. Pecans. Toffee. Burnt sugar. A blend of baking spices. Caramel. Almond liqueur.

Palate: Walnuts. Hazelnuts. That signature spicy zing (coming from rye) cutting through the sweetness -- a common trait in blended Canadian whiskies, and in this case, not necessarily peppery, but hot and tingly. Tangy corn. Molasses. A faint bitterness in the finish. The aftertaste brings quince in the back of my mouth. I don't recall this in previous bottles (I have owned a few), but a product made from living things cannot be exactly the same every time, and I may also be picking this apart more now that I'm approaching it as a reviewer.

Besides Sipping Neat: Over the years, I've tried this in various ways. I used to enjoy a few drops of still (not sparkling) mineral water, which brought out different characteristics in the whisky depending on the characteristics of the mineral water. This whisky also makes a damn good Manhattan, and it's worth trying in an Old Fashioned at least once. It also mixes wonderfully with cola or root beer. Some people love it with ginger ale, but Forty Creek Barrel Select is possibly the only mixable Canadian whisky I don't like with ginger ale. I didn't like this in a whisky sour (too medicinal-tasting for me), and while this is certainly drinkable on the rocks, it also loses a lot of its depth. After watching the drunk at that house show shoot this whisky, and watching others follow suit, I tried shooting this. What a waste! I barely tasted any of its distinctive flavors! Which brings me back to my earlier point: even with all the ways I enjoy mixing this, I most enjoy sipping it neat.

Overall: Damn good.

Stick around. Another great Forty Creek product is next!

Thank you for reading, and as always...Happy Drinking!

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