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Tales from the Creek

Wine Maker turned Whisky Maker

I am a winemaker by trade, however, in 1992, I decided to start my own distillery in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada and turn my attention to whisky. Having been a winemaker for over 20 years, I decided I needed another canvas on which to paint
to satisfy my creative thirst. Also, I have always enjoyed the taste of a fine whisky. Scotch whisky makers were promoting their single malt whiskies and Bourbon whisky makers were beginning to develop & promote small batch bourbons, but no one in Canada was enhancing the heritage of Canadian Whisky. Over the years the craftsmanship of our Canadian spirit was being lost amongst distillery closings and consolidations. In the mid 1800’s there were over 200 whisky makers in Canada yet today I am the only independent whisky maker in Ontario.

Single Grain Whiskies

Intuitively, the mash bill concept doesn’t make sense to a winemaker. Wines are vinted by individual varietal to bring out the best taste characteristics from each grape type. Corn doesn’t taste like barley, and rye doesn’t taste like corn, so why mix them altogether at the beginning of the process? I treat each of my grains the same way as a noble grape variety: fermenting, distilling and aging each grain separately to highlight the best characteristics of each grain. This brings out the fruitiness and spiciness of the rye, the nuttiness of the barley, and the heartiness of the corn.

Copper Pot Distilled

Today, in Canada, all whiskies are column distilled. It wasn’t like that in the 1800’s when whisky makers used copper pot stills. Conversion to column stills came about when whisky taxes were imposed. Distillers chose the column still because it was very cost effective. Flavor loss was compensated for by lower prices. But, there is a reason why cognac and small scotch whiskies are made in copper pot stills. Pot stills capture not just the alcohol but also the flavor.

Great Barrels

The quality and toasting of the barrels can really change the spirit and no two barrels are alike. Light, medium or heavy char will greatly influence the flavor and aging of the whisky. For the rye, I use a lightly toasted 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 when young it is a very aggressive spirit, it can bring a great deal of weight to a whisky. Corn needs to be aged in a heavy charred barrel to smooth and capture the body and depth of the whisky.

Forty Creek Barrel Select then goes through one more barrel aging process. I select the rye, barley, and corn whiskies, decant them from their barrels and then bring them together. I call this my Meritage Whisky. I then put them into special sherry casks for further aging and mellowing.

The Result is in the Bottle

By making whisky in this unique handcrafted way, I believe I have created a whisky that is smooth and mellow but also intense and complex with a character of its’ own.

Tasting Notes of a Whisky Maker

Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky displays aromas of honey, vanilla and apricot, which fuse with toasty oak, black walnut and spice. The flavor is rich and bold with a smooth, long finish. As you let the whisky breathe in your glass many other flavors begin to evolve such as pecan, chocolate, orange and spice

Thank you for your interest in my whisky.

My Very Best Regards,


John K. Hall, Whisky Maker

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