Whisky Advocate

Visiting Forty Creek Distillery and tasting their new whiskies

August 23rd, 2012

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.

John Hall, the man behind Forty Creek whisky, turned me around on Canadian whisky.

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.

No Responses to “Visiting Forty Creek Distillery and tasting their new whiskies”

  1. Rick Duff says:

    Great article and great news. I love Forty Creek and John Hall. I’ll have to be sure to stop by this fall and plan a trip that way. While I love the special edition whiskies, his every day Forty Creek is an absolute wonderful whisky at a great price.

  2. Mark says:

    I dropped by Kittling Ridge in March I believe, and despite being a big fan of Forty Creek whisky, had a pretty disappointing experience. Granted, March isn’t the best time to visit, because they weren’t offering tours, but the staff in the boutique seemed generally annoyed that we decided to visit. And begrudgingly poured us our drinks.
    Forty Creek should pull inspiration from the many wineries in the area that offer visitors a great experience. It would be a great way to capitalize on what they do have, which is a great product line.

    • Rick Duff says:

      While I love their product and John Hall, I do have to agree and tell you a couple of my visits the staff has been a little “put-off”. It wasn’t crowded or anything either. Definitely not as friendly as the wineries down the road.

  3. Tadas A. says:

    I’ve heard John Hall stating that he uses only copper pot stills in whiskey distillation. I would like to clarify that he actually uses one 6,000 liter copper combi-still (a pot still with a column on top of it) and 500 liter copper pot still. He also has column stills but they are not used for whiskey production.

  4. Nic Vaughn says:

    Stephen/John,

    Is Forty Creek available in other markets. Do they have any export capabilities?
    Dying to get some in the UK
    Thank You!

  5. Beth Warner says:

    Mark & Rick,

    We are so sorry to hear of your disappointing visits to the distillery. What a shame. We take pride in being THE fun and friendly place to visit on the wine route in Niagara, so a less than stellar customer service review is definitely a concern. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at bwarner@fortycreekdistillery.com if you would like to share details, and we certainly hope you will stop by again soon to give us another try. Warm Regards, Beth

  6. Red_Arremer says:

    Forty Creek puts out some great products– I may make the trip, myself in a year or two.

  7. Yannis Themelis says:

    Hi, Beth,

    Forty Creek is amazing. Our only lament is it seems Quebec’s SAQ selection of Forty Creek is always somewhat limited or non-existant. Such a shame, considering the distillery is close (and Canadian).

    Please bring more Forty Creek (and its bottlings) to the SAQ!

    Cheers,
    YT

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