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grain   miling   fermentation   distilling   maturing   blending
Selecting Grains
  • Using a variety of grains is one factor that sets the making of whisky apart from the making of other distilled spirits.

  • A variety of grains provides complexity in the aroma and taste of the whisky.

  • In Canada, the distiller has a wide variety of grains to choose from, each providing a different nuance of flavour.

  • One of the most important grains for Canadian Whisky is corn. Distillers look for different varieties of corn because each will provide a distinct flavour and a different amount of fermentable sugars.

  • Additional grains, including rye and barley are also used. Rye is the grain that provides the most distinctive flavour to a Canadian Whisky. While generally used in smaller amounts, its flavour is easily detected as a distinct “spiciness” and “fruitiness” that is characteristic in good quality Canadian Whisky.

Notes from John Hall, Whisky Maker: Forty Creek Whiskies
"To make a great whisky you must start with great grains. Grain selection for Forty Creek is all about flavour and quality. We choose rye for its spiciness and fruitiness, barley for nuttiness and Indian corn or maize for strength, body and weight."
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  barley
Milling & Mashing

Milling: Selected grains are crushed to a specific fineness to maximize the release of their starch and flavour when “mashed”.

Mashing: Water is added to the milled grains and the “mash” is carefully cooked. The starch content is released from the grain into the water and once cooked, enzymes convert the starches into sugars.

Notes from John Hall, Whisky Maker: Forty Creek Whiskies
"The Forty Creek Whiskies are made as 'single malts' where each grain is mashed, fermented, distilled and matured separately. This differs from many North American whiskies, which use a 'mash bill' that blends several grains together at the beginning of the whisky making process. Making Forty Creek Whiskies as single grain whiskies, and then blending at the end of the process allows me to capture each distinctive flavour and nuance of the three grains."

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Fermenting or "Yeasting"
Yeast is a vital component in the making of whisky. It is a natural living organism that converts the sugar into alcohol. Yeast also contributes a defining flavour to the whisky depending on the strain the distiller has chosen. The fermentation process begins when the yeast is added to the cooled mash, taking 3 or 4 days to complete. Once the sugars are finished being converted into alcohol & carbon dioxide, the mash has a sour and bitter flavour. At this point it typically contains 8 to 9% alcohol and is described as a “distiller’s beer”.
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  Tanks
Distilling
After fermentation, the distiller’s beer passes through a still, where steam heats the liquid to boiling. Alcohol & natural flavours have a lower boiling point than water. The heating separates the alcohol & flavours from the water. The alcohol & flavour vapors are then cooled & condensed into a clear, colourless young whisky spirit. Today, most whiskies are distilled in very large two, three or four column continuous stills. Largely, because the economics of whisky making requires efficiency. It is the traditional copper pot still however, that allows the creativity and craftsmanship of the whisky maker to shine. In a copper pot still, steam inside copper coils heats the base of the still. The alcohol and flavour is held within the body of the still until it’s heated to the point that it vapourizes. The alcohol and flavour vapours travel to the head of the still, where they condense and are collected.

Notes from John Hall, Whisky Maker: Forty Creek Whiskies
"Forty Creek Whiskies are distilled using 2 small copper pot stills. Each of my pot stills has its own personality and provide a particular character to my whiskies. The art of capturing the heart of the distillation is one of the handcrafted elements of using the traditional pot still. Both the heads and the tails of the distillation are discarded.

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  distilling
Maturing
Young whisky spirit is put into oak barrels where the interaction with the wood, and a slow evaporation process, cause the spirit to change from a young, harsh whisky to an aged, mellow, smooth whisky. Both the choice of oak barrel, and the length of time the whisky is aged, as well as the climate of the ageing location affect the final flavours of the whisky. By law, a Canadian Whisky must spend at least 3 years ageing in oak barrels. However, the distiller will usually choose to age whiskies for varying lengths of time.

Notes from John Hall, Whisky Maker: Forty Creek Whiskies
"The length of time a whisky spends in a barrel is often considered the most important aspect of quality. But, remember, a fine whisky is not created by age alone. Paying particular attention to the choice of grains, the copper pot distillation and the barrel selection, captures nuances and subtleties of flavour that result in a whisky of distinction. The ageing process then enhances and develops the character of the whisky." "For Forty Creek Whiskies, each single grain is aged in its own special barrel. Each barrel is hand picked. Lightly toasted oak barrels are used to enhance the fruitiness & spiciness of the rye whisky. Medium toasted barrels are used to enhance the nuttiness of the barley, and heavy charred barrels enhance the smoothness & body of the maize., I like to use different barrels for rounding off the aged whiskies once they are blended together. Such as vintage sherry casks for Barrel Select, or bourbon barrels for Double Barrel. This secondary ageing process adds complexity and different taste profiles for my Forty Creek whiskies."

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  maturing
Blending
Matured whiskies of different character and ages are blended to achieve the final taste desired by the distiller. The blending process enables a complex taste profile and consistency in the whisky.

Notes from John Hall, Whisky Maker: Forty Creek Whiskies
"The blending of a whisky is about more than just creating consistency. It's about creating a defining style, an expression of craftsmanship and establishing a heritage for my whisky. It's a matter of taste. Every barrel ages differently. No two barrels are alike, therefore every barrel must be tasted to determine if it has developed the defining style for Forty Creek. It's a tough job but somebody has to do it!"

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  blending
   
     
   
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