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Issue 47 - Up on Forty Creek, the whisky sends me

Whisky Magazine Issue 47
April 2005


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Up on Forty Creek, the whisky sends me

Charles K Cowdery explores a Canadian distillery that can lay claim to making a true small batch bourbon – and a quality one, too

In American whiskey circles, the term ‘small batch' has been generously defined to cover any whiskey selected, bottled and sold in small batches. In most cases, there is nothing ‘small' about the way the whiskey itself is made. Until it goes into the barrel it is identical to the company's ‘large batch' products.

Since that is what ‘small batch' means, we need a different term for Canada's Forty Creek whisky: ‘itsy bitsy batch' perhaps. Forty Creek Canadian whisky is just about the only widely available, honest to God “boutique” whisky made in North America. John Hall, Forty Creek's distiller and president, makes his whisky in two small pot stills. His ‘big' one is 5,000 litres (1,320 gallons), his other one is 500 litres (132 gallons).

In those stills, Hall makes individual corn, rye and malt whiskies – he malts his own barley – and ages them in American oak; some of it new, some not, some charred, some not. He puts his corn whisky into used bourbon barrels. Hall personally tastes each barrel and does all of the blending. So he can finish some of his whisky in sherry or port casks, he makes his own sherry and port.

The oldest whiskies in Hall's blends are about 12 years old. That makes it 1992 when this seasoned wine maker, well into middle age, decided to try his hand at making whisky. His wife marvelled that a man in his 40s should begin an enterprise that would not even bring a product to market for a decade.

As a wine maker, Hall was familiar wit...

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