Words and Photos by Anna Piszczkiewicz (Photo of John K. Hall via Forty Creek)
I’ve taken day trips from Toronto along Niagara’s wine route a number of times, and among all those visits I always bypassed Kittling Ridge Estate Wines & Spirits (rebranded last month as Forty Creek Distillery) because I simply didn’t know any better.
As it turns out, there is a good reason to stop at the Grimsby distillery.
A quick backgrounder: Founder of Forty Creek, John K. Hall, is a first generation whisky maker with a background in winemaking. He has been making wines in Ontario since 1970.
“While I respect tradition, I am not bound by it,” says Hall. “This provides me with an opportunity for discovery and experimentation that tends to get overlooked, or is considered too much of a risk if one was, say, 12th generation.”
Hall founded his own distillery in 1992. But it was another ten years before his first bottle of whisky was ready. It was worth the wait.
Today, Forty Creek is the largest independently-owned craft distillery in Canada and has earned a reputation as Canada’s best producer of whisky in international competitions. The recent rebranding of the company was a no-brainer; spirits made up ninety percent of the business.
It is because of this rebranding, I visited the distillery one Wednesday afternoon for a (boozy) whisky-inspired lunch, copious tastings and tour. You can’t tell from the photos but the aromas alone were worth the visit.
I got to sample Forty Creek’s newest releases, now available at the LCBO: Copper Pot and Cream Liquer (also Canada’s first whisky cream liquer) and back-by-popular-demand Port Wood Reserve, paired with dishes prepared by local hotspot Memphis Fire Barbeque Company.
The best part: this was all lead by whisky pioneer John K. Hall himself.
Nestled at a long table amongst thousands of barrels (40,000 in this facility alone!) Hall led a seminar titled Deconstructing Forty Creek. And that is exactly what we did.
We tasted the single grain whisky’s that make up the company’s signature Barrel Select: rye, barley, and corn, distilled and aged separately before they are blended together. As an occasional whisky drinker, I enjoyed this lesson the most. It was educational, yes, but also so, so tasty.
Asked how best to drink whisky, Hall said on the rocks, diluted with pop, whatever knocks your socks off. He only warns against drinking it from disposable cups. It just doesn’t taste the same. Now that’s democratic, expert advice.
Rather fitting for the upcoming fall season, Forty Creek is showing off its libations at their annual Whisky Weekend, this September 15 & 16. While the tours and seminars are already full, tastings of their product line are available along with other goodies.
Top tip: We recommend their special edition Confederation Oak—aged in Canadian white oak barrels. It is equal parts subtle and sublime.