Whisky Advocate

Guest blog: John Hall from Forty Creek Canadian Whisky

October 9th, 2009

Our guest blogger for October is John Hall, whisky-maker of Forty Creek Canadian whisky. John is doing some really cool, innovative things in Ontario. Here he talks about his latest creations–some available in the U.S., some (sadly) not. But I have been getting inquiries about his new releases, so I invited him to say a word or two. Thanks, John, for taking time out of your busy schedule to let us know what you’re up to.

John Hall 2Well folks, John Hansell graciously invited me to talk about my latest adventure in Forty Creek Whisky Taste Expressions. I am a bit reluctant as you will soon find out, because I feel I am all dressed up with no where to go! But John mentioned to me that he has received inquiries about my latest release and recommended I speak directly to you through his medium.  So here we go.

My latest release began its journey 16 years ago in 1993. My whisky distillery and winery had only been operating for a year. As many of you know, I am a wine maker by trade, so to keep myself occupied while my whiskies aged, I continued to make wine. This obviously helped with the cash flow as well. Many whisky makers are jealous of winemakers. Wine can be made, aged, bottled and on the shelf within a year or two, but fine whisky takes much more time.

The roots of this new whisky release dates back 16 years. While whisky is my passion, I am also very fond of vintage ports. So in 1993 I bought some new American white oak barrels and began making vintage aged ports out of grapes grown by my growers in Niagara. This not only provided me with some very tasty ports but also port wood that I could use to round off some of my whiskies. I intuitively knew the rounding in port barrels would be good, but I even surprised myself.

I believe it is one of the best whiskies I have ever tasted. I only wish I had made more of it. Only 3000 bottles available and I fear none of it will pass the provincial boarders of Ontario, Canada. What a pity. Although, some people believe it is worth the drive to “The Forty”. But hope reigns eternal, a year and a half ago when I realized the direction the Port Wood Whisky was taking, I immediately decanted more vintage port and filled the barrels with more aged whisky. So my next batch could be ready, within a year or two.

 In the meantime, I have made my second lot of Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve which was rounded off in bourbon barrels (Lot # 241). This lot spent an extra year for a total of 3 years rounding off in bourbon barrels. It is even deeper and richer than the first lot, which John Hansell rated at 90 points. It’s on its way to you having been shipped to distributor’s warehouses in the USA. The retail price is still being held at $59.95 a bottle.

But friends, the best news is yet to come.

As you may know, I am a first generation whisky maker, but my daughter just gave birth to my first grandson, John David Scott on Sept. 2, 2009 (299)! I know it sounds like a new batch number!

Well we are still trying to figure out what to call him. Scott sounds a little like whisky. JD sounds a little like whisky and Johnnie sounds a little like whisky. I think he will be Johnny! The thing is the first letter is right. All the great whisky men’s names started with “J”; Jack Daniel, Jim Beam, Joseph Seagram, Johnnie Walker, John Jameson, James & John Chivas, and John Dewar.

So here’s a toast to all the great whisky men, past, present, and future!
Cheers
John K. Hall

Portwood_bottle_RGB_clipFORTY CREEK JOHN K. HALL PORT WOOD RESERVE
Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve is the third limited release in the Forty Creek Family, and is the smallest, with only 3,000 bottles produced.

Notes on Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve from John K. Hall, Whisky Maker:

My Port Wood Reserve is made in the same style as Forty Creek Barrel Select and Double Barrel, in that I do not use a mash bill.  My varietal whiskies (rye, barley & corn) are pot distilled and aged separately, and once completed brought together as a meritage.  In this whisky, the Forty Creek meritage was  re-barreled in vintage Port Wood for an additional two years prior to bottling. Little did I know the profound effect that Vintage Port barrels would have on the final finishing of this whisky.

Appearance:  Mahogany gold with red flashes.  Huge legs that never leave the sides of the glass.

Nose:  A constant evolution of concentrated, complex aromas. Intense yet delicate aromas of deep vanilla, orange marmalade, ginger, dried fruits, black cherry, fig, dates, cereal malt spice, clove, cinnamon, chocolate, tobacco, toffee, honey and smoke.

Palate: Huge, full, rich, satin-like, very smooth, same dried fruit is nicely framed by oak, black licorice, hickory, almond and walnut.

Finish: Lingering long finish with spice, cinnamon, licorice and smoke in the back. A very pleasant sweet heat (spicy heat) hits the upper pallet and lingers on and on.

11 Responses to “Guest blog: John Hall from Forty Creek Canadian Whisky”

  1. Rick Duff says:

    Nice to see some hitting the states. I ordered a bottle and am going up next week to pick it up. There are such goodies at the distillery. Really worth the visit.
    Got to say though.. I’m biased.. John’s my hero. I’m a wine maker and whisky lover.. I love his approach on whisky.
    Last year’s double wood was amazing.. and his 3 grain is just the best. The normal whisky is also fantastic.. if you think you don’t like canadian whisky.. try the normal 40 creek.. it will change your mind!

  2. John Hansell says:

    Rick, yes, last year’s Double Wood was delicious. And I do feel sad about the loss of Three Grain. I still am holding on to a bottle, though…

  3. Steve says:

    I’ll have to plan my visit to Niagra Falls. I’ve kept a bottle of Barrel Select on hand ever since I first tried it. I picked up a bottle of Double Barrel a couple of months ago and it’s now an everyday regular pour in rotation with my Talisker 10, Dickel Barrel Select, Redbreast 12, and Beam Black. Five workdays covered and hold the limited edition stuff for the weekends. Just another reason to look forward to 5:00 and with the next batch of Double Barrel better than the first (and at the same price) Fridays will just get that much better.

    Sadly I missed the Three Grain but if the port finish is half as good as described I’d say Kittling Ridge is batting 1.000 for whisky with not a bum in the bunch. I doubt my wife would agree to plane fare for just a bottle of whisky, but with the leaves turning maybe I can sell the trip another way.

    I’m happy to hear John Hall thinks enough of this port finish he’s already planned for more in the next two years so if I miss it this round I have another shot relatively soon. When a distiller puts out a beautiful product at a reasonable price we buy it up and demand more. Maybe the folks on the other side of the pond will take notice.

  4. DavidG says:

    Do you blend in any wine (even a small percentage) into the whiskeys you produce? i understand with Canadian taxation schemes it may be advantageous to do so, as well as perhaps a taste advantage as well? and while you aren’t required to label it as such, I was wondering if you could give some insight.
    Thanks

  5. John K. Hall says:

    David, thank you for your question. I am not sure what other Canadian Whisky makers do with their whiskies for blending or tax purposes but for Forty Creek Barrel Select my meritage of barrel aged rye, barley and corn whiskies are kissed for 5 months in sherry casks and for my Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve the aged whiskies are re-barreled in vintage port barrels for an additional 2 years.

  6. Holysinner says:

    Thanks for the great work you do at Kittling Ridge, John! I love Forty Creek Barrel Select, and recently opened a bottle of Double Barrel Reserve. I find it different every time I pour some, but always good. As I live in the States, I’ve been wishing I could get up there for a bottle of the Port Wood (and have a peek at the distillery!), so it’s good news to hear you’re working on a future batch.

  7. Dox says:

    John, my friend, Suzanne and I both want to congratulate you and your family on the new edition to the Hall family. Here’s to the hope that Johnnie carries on in gramps’ steps and continues to provide the world’s best whisky.

    Speaking of, at the risk of frustrating all of you readers, I had the chance to taste the Port Wood Finish on a recent trip to the distillery. IT..WAS…BRILLIANT!!!! I dreamt of it a couple of weeks ago. Seriously. But like the rest of you, I’ll have to wait for the next batch that comes to the states. I shall then horde every drop that comes to Texas.

    Congratulations again on both your grandson and your continued success with Forty Creek. – DOX

  8. Neil Fusillo says:

    John (Hall),

    Congratulations on both an excellent whisky and a new addition to the family. I’ve still got my two bottles (1210, 1227) of the new whisky reserved, and am trying like mad to get up there to get it. More than likely, my wife will come down from Toronto to pick them up before I manage to get up there from Atlanta, but we’ll see.

    Very much looking forward to them.

  9. Richard says:

    I think Mr. Hall was to modest when listing the great whisky makers with names starting with J. He did not list John Hall, perhaps the best of all.

  10. [...] says the guy knows what he is doing. I trust Walt. I trust him because . . [...]

  11. dakota serviss says:

    I received a bottle of Forty Creek Whisky for my 21st birthday a few weeks ago. And man oh man has my opinion of whisky changed after that!!

    Amazing, absolutely delicious, full, smooth Whisky. I’ve grown up drinking cheap Jack Daniel’s, and this just blows me away. I never knew how Whisky tasted until I poured a nice glass on the rocks with a splash of root beer or coke.

    This is how Whisky tastes

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