Last weekend I headed over to Grimsby to take part of an increasingly popular whisky weekend at Forty Creek. The weekend in large part consisted of distillery tours, bottle singings, tastings, and a seminar. The seminar was fabulous, with panelists Johanne McKinnis, Davin De Kergommeax, Mark Gillespe, and John Hall. There were two parts about the weekend which I particularly enjoyed (though I enjoyed much more of it) – first was the seminar, in which we deconstructed all the whiskies available from forty creek, even the raw rye, corn, and barley whiskies which John Hall mixes into all of his Forty Creek releases. Second, it was enough laid back that it allowed for some mixing and time to connect with people like Davin de Kergommeax, with whom I talked alone for at least half and hour. Additionally, the bottle signings are neat as John Hall appreciates taking time with everyone and it is certainly neat to chat as he signs the bottles.
The way John Hall makes his forty creek whisky is in doing what he describes as a “meritage” blend. As a winemaker, Hall is used to making wines this way – you prepare each grape type into wine individually before blending them together at the end to create the end result. He does the same with whisky – he distills and ages three grains (corn, barley, and rye) together separately, and then blends them and allows them to marry together further in another barrel. Typically, each of these barley, corn, or rye is aged 6-10 years for the standard bottlings, and are removed when ready (except for exceptional barrels, which he sets aside for future releases). So it was, of course, really interesting to have the three 100% grain whiskies for tasting alongside the other blended and matured whiskies.
Each of these whiskies, of course, will vary from cask to cask and year to year, but here as some quick tasting notes on each of the building block whiskies:
rye whisky: Hall ages these in a lightly toasted barrel in order to preserve the delicate nature of the rye. Surprisingly, for a 100% whisky, I did not find it to be too spicy or powerful, but very light and mellow instead even with a bit of a burn on the finish. it was mouth-filling, with strong toffee and some chocolate flavours. There was some spice and oak, but they were not dominating. There was, of course, a fair bit of fruit from the rye, but even so, it had more of a dusty rye character than a particularly lush and fruity rye.
barley whisky: this whisky was very nutty. it was reasonably sweet, and holds up fairly well on its own as a malt. There are flavours and aromas of vanilla, fresh bread, and fresh cut wood with a lingering finish.
corn whisky: thick, creamy, and oily with spice – lots of ginger. toasted coconut, banana, and honey were all present. Also, it was very earthy.
of my samplings, all three of the base whiskies held up fairly well on their own, although perhaps the rye the least of them.
If you’re ever around for a Forty Creek Whisky weekend, as a expert or a beginner, I highly recommend it, especially the seminars that were run. Of course, this year’s special release, Forty Creek Heart of Gold, was also heavily featured at the weekend. I will give a brief review here.