By Franz Scheurer
The Lounge Lizard
Ballantine’s 12 y/o, 40% a/v
Colour: Polished maple.
Nose: Herbaceous, maple syrup, golden delicious apples, hints of dried figs and jackfruit.
Palate: Grassy Speyside flavours integrating cereal and toasted, slightly smoky grain aromas with a finish full of violets and rosehip.
Comment: A very complex blend incorporating more than 50 different malts with Miltonduff and Glenburgie playing pivotal roles and Dumbarton supplying the incredible and complex maize grain whisky.
If this were music then you would be listening to Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny’s ‘Beyond the Missouri Sky’.
This excellent blend has just been released on the Australian market and should be available in a bottle shop near you.
The Bone Breaker
Bruichladdich Dist. 1989, 13 y/o, 57.1% a/v
Colour: Light straw.
Nose: Very closed at first. Hints of Japanese boiled lollies, basil and dates.
Palate: It’s a bit like being hit by a truck; it takes a while to be glad you’re still alive. Although this is a brute, it’s really a fist in a velvet glove. Lots of briny, seaweedy, iodiny flavours with just a hint of peat and an arnica root and gentian finish.
Comment: If you like cask strength Islay whiskies you will take this one home!
If this were music then you would be listening to Steppenwolf’s ‘Magic Carpet Ride’.
Available through Graham Wright at the Odd Whisky Coy in Adelaide. Graham will happily dispatch single bottles to individual consumers. Contact Graham on 08 8365 4722
The Smooth Operator
Forty Creek, Barrel Select, no age statement, 40% a/v
Colour: Rich, red cherry wood.
Nose: Toasted almonds, oloroso sherry with hints of vanilla and coconut.
Palate: Smooth, smooth, smooth! The nutty, sweet sherry flavours with hints of apricot and blood oranges, instantly fill every nook and cranny of your mouth and seduce you. This is the Mata Hari of whiskies, alluring, seductive and unforgettable. Not particularly complex but rich, sweet and very moreish.
Comment: This fabulous Canadian dram is easily the smoothest whisky / whiskey I have ever tasted. Although Canadian whiskies make a great basis for a good Manhattan cocktail, this is far too good to be used as a mixer. I love it! Go on, all you spirit importers, someone bring this into Australia, we deserve it!
If this were music then you would be listening to Oscar Peterson’s ‘My Foolish Heart’.
This superb whisky is unfortunately not as yet available in Australia.
Forty Creek – John Hall’s Story
John Hall is an extraordinary visionary individual and he is the reason why Forty Creek exists. Here’s his story:
Wine Maker turned Whisky Maker!
I am a wine maker by trade, but in 1992 I decided to start my own distillery in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. Several reasons prompted me in this endeavour. Having been a winemaker for over 20 years, I decided I needed another canvas on which to paint to satisfy my creative thirst. I decided to turn my attention to whisky. At that time I noticed the Scotch whisky makers were promoting their single malt whiskies and the Bourbon whisky makers were beginning to develop & promote small batch bourbons, but no one in Canada was enhancing the heritage of Canadian Whiskies! In fact, quite the reverse, all the Canadian Whisky Makers were selling out! Back in the mid 1800’s there were over 200 whisky makers in Canada. Today, I am the only independent whisky maker in Ontario and I started in 1992! I knew it would be a rough road to follow, a David & Goliath story, as I was starting the race about 100 years late. All the others established themselves during the American prohibition era.
My goal was to try to make the best tasting whisky I could; to make a whisky that was smooth, mellow and intense. The first thing I learned as a whisky maker was that I needed more patience. As a winemaker I could have a wine out on the market within a couple of years. As a whisky maker I would have to wait 10 years! The next thing I learned was to follow my intuition! This meant I relied on my winemaking background to make my whiskies truly unique. I needed to search for quality and flavour and start with great grains, great stills, and great barrels.
This started by throwing away the mash bill concept! After all, I didn’t make wines by mixing all of the varieties together. Wines are vinted by varietals, in order to bring out the best tasting characteristics from each grape variety. At breakfast time I don’t mix my corn flakes with bran flakes. Corn doesn’t taste like barley, and rye doesn’t taste like corn, so why would one mix them altogether at the beginning of the process. It just did not make sense. Therefore, I treated each of my grains the same way as a noble grape variety, trying to bring the best tasting characteristics of each varietal grain. This meant I would make my whiskies as single grains, bringing out the fruitiness and spiciness of the rye, the nuttiness of the barley, and the heartiness of the corn. Each of these grains has unique taste characteristics and to me it was important to define them and bring them out as singular whiskies.
In Canada, all whiskies are column distilled. It wasn’t like that in the 1800’s. Back then, whisky makers used copper pot stills. Conversion to column stills came about when whisky taxes came in. Whisky makers were forced to find a more cost efficient way to make whisky. They chose the column still because it was very cost effective but obviously they compensated flavour loss for cost reductions. Again, falling back on my winemaking skills, I intuitively knew there was a reason why brandy & cognac are made in copper pot stills, to capture not just the alcohol but also the flavour. I have two copper pot stills, very unique; one is a 500 lit. still, the other a 5000 lit. still. Bigger than a breadbox but smaller than a car, these stills capture the precious flavours of each of the grains.
As a winemaker I know the quality and toasting of the barrels can make or break a wine, and no two barrels are alike. To explain, when you go to the lumberyard to buy “2x4’s”, every one of them is different, because of the grain of the wood. An oak barrel has over 25 staves and the grain of each stave is different. In addition, the level of toasting is extremely important. From light to medium to heavy char will greatly influence the flavour and aging of the whisky. For the rye, I use a light toasted American White oak barrel in order to preserve the fruitiness and spiciness of the rye. For the barley, a slightly more aggressive spirit, I use a medium toasted barrel to provide smoothness and to bring out the nuttiness of the spirit. Lastly, the corn, although it is an aggressive spirit, can bring a great deal of weight to a whisky. Corn needs to be aged in a heavy charred barrel to smooth the whisky (that’s why all vodka is charcoal filtered to smooth the vodka out). The resulting maize whisky is smooth and brings excellent body to the whisky (just like a full bodied red wine). These three varietal grain whiskies are barrel aged from 6 to 10 years.
Forty Creek Barrel Select then goes through one more barrel aging process. I select the rye, barley, and maize whiskies, decant them from their barrels, and bring them together. I call this my Meritage Whisky. I then put them into special sherry barrels for an additional 6 months. In 1992, I heard the Scotch whisky makers were using sherry casks to round off their whiskies. I did not have any sherry casks and could not afford to go to Spain and acquire them, but being a winemaker I knew how to make sherry. So in 1992, I made sherry and aged it in new American White Oak barrels until 1999. I then bottled the sherry and used the sherry casks to round off my Forty Creek Barrel Select. Presently I have vintage ports aging in American White oak and hope some day to do a port finished whisky.
Great Barrel Selection
You may have noticed on my Forty Creek Whisky label I say “Barrel Select”. The reason for this is that each and every barrel is tasted. Again, no two barrels taste the same. Therefore, if you are going to make a hand crafted whisky, it is imperative to taste each and every barrel. I have 6 year old barrels that taste like 8 year olds, and indeed I have 8 year olds that taste like 6 year olds. It’s a natural thing. But, if you are truly passionate about the whiskies you make this very tedious tasting of the barrels must be done, recorded with tasting notes and followed up for the selection process. It is very time consuming and many whisky makers do not place enough time and energy into this process. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
The Result is in the Bottle
By making whisky in this unique hand crafted way, I believe I have created a whisky that is smooth, mellow and intense all at the same time. It is complex with a character all its’ own. The whisky is just like the process!
I am very humbled and truly blessed to be acknowledged by the industry, fellow whisky makers, writers and customers. I have received Gold Medals in Europe and North America as well as Best in Category at Whisky Festivals and Forty Creek Whisky received the highest score and Rated #1 at the Beverage Tasting Institute in Chicago. It gives me the passion and encouragement to continue to follow my dream.
Expressions of a Whisky Maker
Forty Creek Barrel Select has become my passion. It is truly the expression of what I set out to do. At the same time, through my exhaustive barrel tastings, I have discovered barrels of whisky that are truly incredible! I have set these barrels aside; some of them I have left in the barrel, some I have re-barrelled and some I have put in stainless steel in order to preserve the accumulated taste qualities. These are remarkable whiskies, and I am proud to include them in my Forty Creek Family, although for now they are still just a glimmer in my eye. Someday I hope they will be a glimmer in your glass.
Tasting Notes of a Whisky Maker
FORTY CREEK BARREL SELECT
Aromas of honey, vanilla and apricot fuse with toasty oak, black walnut and spice. The flavour is rich and bold with a smooth long finish. As you let the whisky breath in your glass many other flavours begin to evolve such as pecan, chocolate, blood orange and spice.
No Corks Thank You!
You will notice I do not use corks to seal my bottles of Forty Creek. Again, being a winemaker, cork is a winemaker’s worst nightmare. It is estimated that 10% of the world’s wine is cork tainted. While wines do age in the bottle, whiskies do not. Therefore, in my quest to make a great tasting whisky, I refuse to seal the bottles with cork.
What’s in a Name?
Inspired by Tradition – but not bound to it - First Generation
My name, “John Hall” does not have the same ring as Johnnie Walker or Jim Beam or Jack Daniels, and while I have never met the above whisky makers, I can understand why they named their whiskies after themselves. They were very proud of what they made.
I am a first generation whisky maker, and therefore I have no restrictions as to how I paint my canvas. With tradition, the whisky making process often becomes rigid. I am inspired by tradition, but not bound to it.
But, how to name my whisky? I decided to name it after the area where I established my distillery. This area was first settled in the mid 1800’s. The early settlers came upon a creek that started high on the flats of Niagara and flowed over the mountainous escarpment and emptied into a natural harbour in Lake Ontario. The settlers could grow the grains on the flats; they established two grist mills powered by the waterfalls to process the grain and used the harbour and lake for transportation. They call this creek Forty Mile Creek because it is forty miles from Niagara Falls. I call my whisky Forty Creek in respect of these early settlers.
Thank you for your interest in my whisky! If you have any comments or questions I would love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at whiskymaker@FortyCreekWhisky.com