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Issue 98 - Permission to Tour

Whisky Magazine Issue 98
September 2011

 

This article is 2 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Permission to Tour

Davin de Kergommeaux finds visiting Canadian distilleries is not as easy as it seems.

I'm doing a piece on Canadian whisky and I'd like to meet with John Hall,” I repeated into the phone. “Hang on.” Down the phone line I could hear a cash register clang open. “Great!

I've ended up in the gift shop,” I thought, eyes skyward. But at least they have one.

Visitors are simply not welcome at most Canadian distilleries, and if you just show up there's never anyone around to cajole into making an exception. Months of correspondence and a really compelling story might finally get you on site, but then again, you might make your appointment and drive nine hours and eight minutes to keep it only to find they're putting in SAP and today's not a good day.

However, Kittling Ridge distillery where they make Forty Creek, welcomes visitors, and from June to September tours are free. But it wasn't just the distillery but the man himself I needed to see. John Hall bought the old Rieder distillery in Grimsby, Ontario, back in 1992 and quickly turned its eau-de-vie stills to making whisky. Well, grain spirit really; it was a good ten years before he had anything he was willing to call whisky. Forty Creek Barrel Select is Canada's tenth best-selling whisky today.

Back then, Hall had to go all the way to Texas to find anyone who'd buy it.

I met John Hall as he was coming out of the distillery. “Come on down to my office and we can talk.” And he explained that he's a winemaker and that he matures his rye and corn and barley whiskies separately then blends them toge...

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