A recent trip to Niagara drew me to Kittling Ridge Estates Wines and Spirits where a number of different wines and spirits are carefully crafted. I’d often zoomed passed the building, which is easily seen from the QEW in Grimsby, on my way to other wineries, but I had never stopped in. I felt it was high time I visited Kittling Ridge, and I was very curious about their line of 40 Creek Whiskies…I wasn’t disappointed.
Internationally renowned whisky expert Michael Jackson has said that 40 Creek Whisky is, “The richest tasting Canadian Whisky I have tasted. Wins points for luxury. The most revolutionary whisky in Canada may well be Forty Creek. It is a delightful and well crafted whisky with international, timeless appeal.” That’s quite the endorsement.
The whisky maker’s name is John Hall, and his passion and talent for making whisky may be unequalled in Canada. His years as a successful winemaker have inspired him as a whisky maker to use a unique technique that most North American whiskies don’t employ. Instead of the grains being mashed together according to a recipe called a ‘mash bill’, the grains are all mashed, fermented, distilled, and aged separately before being blended into a beautifully balanced and complex whisky – just like the way different grape varieties are vinified and aged separately before being blended into the final wine. Hall says that using this method enables him to capture the distinctive flavours and nuances of each grain. Three grains are typically used – rye for spiciness and fruitiness, barley for nuttiness, and Indian corn, also called maize, to add strength, body, and weight. (Indian corn has a higher starch content allowing it to ferment to higher alcohol levels.)
Once fermentation is complete, the ‘distiller’s beer’ of 8 or 9% abv is passed through one of two copper pot stills. One still is a 600 litre pot and the other is much larger at 6000 litres.
By law, Canadian whisky must be aged for at least 3 years in oak barrels. Some 40 Creek whiskies are aged for 10 years or more. It isn’t just the length of time a whisky spends in cask that determines quality, the type of oak and the climate of the cellar also has an impact on the final product. The amount of toasting the barrel undergoes is determined by the type of grain that will be aged in it. Each type of grain will be aged separately in their own barrels before being blended into the final product.
40 Creek has daily tours through the winery and distillery. You can call 905-945-9225 or 1-800-694-6798 for times and directions.
Forty Creek Barrel Select: A very smooth whisky with aromas of butterscotch, spice, vanilla, and a slight nutty character. ($24.95/750 ml)
Forty Creek Three Grain: A blend of malted barley, rye, and maize. Each grain is aged in toasted white oak barrels (American oak). Brimming with caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, walnuts, orange marmalade, and spice. Smooth and silky on the palate with creamy oats, butterscotch, and spice on the palate. A long, pleasant finish. Very reasonable priced at only $26.95 for 750 ml.
Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve: Each of the three grains is aged separately in white oak barrels and then blended together and aged for a second time in bourbon barrels that came all the way from Kentucky. This second aging in the bourbon barrels allowed the blended whisky to take on subtle flavours from the bourbon, adding to the complexity of the finished whisky. There is a sweetness on the nose with chocolate, butterscotch, rye bread, toasted spice, and walnuts. Mouth-filling and rich on the palate with flavours of caramel and toasted walnuts and a long, lingering finish with a hint of sweetness. Now offered at a reduced price of $54.95.