Stephen Beaumont, Whisky Advocate contributor, fills us in on his visit to Forty Creek distillery and gives us a sneak peak of some new whiskies they are about to release.
I was an aficionado of many different spirits, including whiskies and whiskeys, but the Canadian stuff had never moved me, not even back in the 1990’s when Corby experimented with its ill-fated trio of spirits marketed as the Canadian Whisky Guild. Then Hall emerged from the shadows of Niagara Falls with his Forty Creek Barrel Select, composed of corn, barley and rye whiskies separately distilled and aged for up to a decade, then blended into what remains one of the great values of the whisky world.
I was moved. Not to category love, mind you, but along the path towards Canadian whisky acceptance. His special editions—Double Barrel, John’s Private Cask No. 1 and, especially, Confederation Oak—plus assorted finally-stepping-up-to-the-plate releases from bigger names like Wiser’s and Crown Royal, sealed the deal. Finally I could drink Canadian and hold my head high.
So it was odd that, despite the distillery being a short hour’s drive from my Toronto home, I had never visited Kittling Ridge Estate Wines & Spirits, as Hall’s distillery is known. Or rather, was known.
The occasion that ultimately led me down the highway was the August re-branding of the business, plus the release of three new or almost-new products: the once-before-seen Port Wood Reserve, the premium Copper Pot Reserve and the new Cream, Canada’s first-ever home-spun whisky cream liqueur.
You’ll read more about these three brands once our resident Canadian whisky guy, Lew Bryson, gets his palate around them—hint: the Port Wood Reserve is superior to its initial incarnation, and the Copper Pot is true to its “amped up” billing—so I’ll instead tell you a bit about the “new” Forty Creek Distillery.
Now two decades old, the renaming of the company is representative of the fact that Hall says 90% of his production is now spirits, which include brandy and vodka, in addition to the whisky line. With Forty Creek Barrel Select now the seventh largest selling spirit in Canada’s most populous province, you can guess what the comprises the bulk of those spirits.
With increased whisky production, of course, comes a need for increased space, and to that end Hall has expanded his distillery twice to a total of 175,000 square feet, in which he houses 40,000 barrels, with an additional 60,000 stored offsite. That’s a lot of barrelage relative to Hall’s production, but it’s needed due to his insistence on maturing his component whiskies separately prior to blending and further aging them in his own sherry barrels.
Overall, it makes for an impressive tour, one which is open to the general public Tuesday through Sunday or by appointment for groups. Or, if you’re in the area in mid-September, during Forty Creek’s already large and rapidly growing Whisky Weekend, occurring this year on September 15 and 16. For further details, visit www.fortycreekwhisky.com/whatsnew.html.