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Megawatt
07-31-2010, 13:54
I toured the distillery at Kittling Ridge in Grimsby, Ontario today. It was my first time in a distillery (they are also a winery but who cares?). For those that don't know, these are the folks responsible for Forty Creek whisky.

It was interesting to see first-hand the massive fermentation units (for wine), the copper pot still, and the towering column stills (one steel, one copper). Neat little operation they have there.

One thing that struck me was how much they stress that they are unique in not using a mash bill for Barrel Select whisky, but rather distilling the whiskies and aging them separately before blending and finishing. As if every other distillery in Canada doesn't do something similar (Canadian Club excepted).

Out of the four whiskies I sampled (Barrel Select, Three Grain, Mountain Rock, and Pure Gold), I thought the cheapest was the best: Pure Gold. The most traditional in style, it had the fullest body, the most balanced flavour, and the least harshness to my palate. Nice buttery notes with hints of maple.

Speaking of maple, I also picked up their Oh Canada liqeuer, made with whisky, maple syrup and honey. Very tasty at 26.5% alc/vol.

Just thought I'd share my visit with those interested.

cowdery
07-31-2010, 15:03
I think they talk about making individual whiskeys not because other Canadian distillers don't do the same thing -- and as you note Canadian Club is the only one that does not -- but because they are really oriented to the American market and that is in contrast with practice in the USA. I assume because of their location that most of their distillery visitors are foreign (i.e., us).

Gillman
07-31-2010, 15:20
Good report, Mike.

Gary

Megawatt
07-31-2010, 19:00
I think they talk about making individual whiskeys not because other Canadian distillers don't do the same thing -- and as you note Canadian Club is the only one that does not -- but because they are really oriented to the American market and that is in contrast with practice in the USA. I assume because of their location that most of their distillery visitors are foreign (i.e., us).

Ah, well that would make a lot more sense, then. It was also interesting to find out that before John Hall bought up the distillery, which was previously used to make eau-de-vie and various fruit spirits, it was illegal in Ontario to make wine and spirits in the same facility. Apparently Mr. Hall lobbied for three years to change this.

I do wish that John Hall would venture away from his wine-makers mentality of "mixed vintages" and just release a well-aged whisky some time soon. I suppose they are still young, though.

In September the new Confederation Oak expression comes out. Should be interesting, though I don't know about $70 for a bottle.

Gillman
07-31-2010, 19:51
Barrel Select though has some good age on it, something like 8-12 years if memory serves. The whiskies are fine, the only thing I would do is emphasize the pot still and de-emphasize the others.

Gary

Megawatt
08-01-2010, 07:27
Barrel Select though has some good age on it, something like 8-12 years if memory serves. The whiskies are fine, the only thing I would do is emphasize the pot still and de-emphasize the others.

Gary

I had heard 6-10 years for Barrel Select though the woman giving the tour indicated that 4 year old whisky is used in the blend. I don't have much confidence in her statements, though; she stated 4 years as the legal minimum in Canada, among other erroneous statements.

She also led me to believe that Barrel Select, and the rest of their whiskies for that matter, are distilled in the copper pot. Interestingly, the one I enjoyed the most, Pure Gold, incorporates some column-still whisky as well.

Gillman
08-01-2010, 08:27
Well, perhaps it was 6-10, but anyway there is definitely some well-aged whisky in that bottle. If it is all distilled in pot stills (except I guess for part of the Pure Gold), then what I mean is, I would think the blends would benefit from using more whisky distilled at a low proof. When I taste those whiskies, they seem to have a lightness that may derive from distillation at a relatively high, clean proof. Even pot stills (with enough runs or other adjustments) can be made to produce a higher proof, clean spirit. I'd prefer in a word a heavier-bodied taste to those whiskies. However, Barrel Select is an excellent product still, it is always in my bar.

Gary

cowdery
08-01-2010, 20:56
He makes corn, rye and malt whiskeys. The normal thing in Canada would be to use the column still for the corn and the pot stills for everything else. I assume that's what he does.

dbk
02-19-2011, 19:40
I was at Forty Creek/Kittling Ridge for the release of the Confederation Oak Reserve. On the tour, I was also led to believe that their current whiskies (Barrel Select, Double Barrel, and Confederation Oak) are entirely pot distilled. Tour guides are never wrong... :rolleyes:

Megawatt
02-19-2011, 20:12
I was at Forty Creek/Kittling Ridge for the release of the Confederation Oak Reserve. On the tour, I was also led to believe that their current whiskies (Barrel Select, Double Barrel, and Confederation Oak) are entirely pot distilled. Tour guides are never wrong... :rolleyes:

In this case they were probably right. I think all the whiskies except Pure Gold and Mountain Rock are advertised as "pot distilled." Incidentally, Mountain Rock isn't half bad either, if you like Barrel Select.

Gillman
02-19-2011, 23:45
It's not so much pot vs. other distilling, but the distilling-out proof that I find of interest. To my knowledge, this has never been disclosed for the component whiskies in the blends. Their whiskies have a unique house taste and are well-made, the Confederation is certainly very good, with a rich buttercream flavour that still spells Canadian whisky to me, i.e., it stretches the boundaries but is not similar to a bourbon, straight rye or single malt.

Of the new crop of Canadian whiskies, I find this the best plus CR Black (now available in Ontario) and Wiser's Legacy. Legacy has the richest distillery character IMO, a big spearmint flavour that is excellent and denotes low-distilled straight rye, or a decent component of it.

Gary

Megawatt
02-20-2011, 05:56
It's not so much pot vs. other distilling, but the distilling-out proof that I find of interest. To my knowledge, this has never been disclosed for the component whiskies in the blends. Their whiskies have a unique house taste and are well-made, the Confederation is certainly very good, with a rich buttercream flavour that still spells Canadian whisky to me, i.e., it stretches the boundaries but is not similar to a bourbon, straight rye or single malt.

Of the new crop of Canadian whiskies, I find this the best plus CR Black (now available in Ontario) and Wiser's Legacy. Legacy has the richest distillery character IMO, a big spearmint flavour that is excellent and denotes low-distilled straight rye, or a decent component of it.

Gary

I personally like the Canadian style and I would be disappointed if Canadian distillers started making bourbon-style whisky. But I agree that a little moer variety couldn't hurt.

So if you had to buy just one, you would take Legacy over Confederation Oak?

Gillman
02-20-2011, 07:17
Each of the three I mentioned is excellent and different, it's so hard to say! I'd pick any one to start and catch up later with the others, sometimes as you know you can find them at a Tasting Tower at LCBO, so my practice has been to buy the most affordable for me and then taste the others at the Tower or buy them later if I can.

Gary

cowdery
02-20-2011, 17:24
John Hall has always said that he makes whiskey in the Canadian style. Although I don't know the precise distillation proofs, I know he pulls the corn whiskey off at a very high, nearly neutral proof and the rye and malt whiskey at a much lower one. He also uses a mix of sherry casks, used charred barrels and new charred barrels, perhaps also some toasted, un-charred barrels.

He uses a hybrid still, which is a pot but topped with a rectification column instead of an alembic. This is what most American micro-distillers who claim to use pot stills also use. It's pot only in the sense that it is a charge still, as opposed to continuous, but the rectification column allows it to produce a distillate virtually the same as what continuous stills produce. Also like most American micro-distillers, Hall only does one distillation, no doubling.

The proper question, when someone claims to be using a pot still, is "is it an alembic?" The 'pot stills' used in the production of Cognac and Single Malt Scotch are alembics. Most other claims of 'pot still' distillation involve hybrids, which in my opinion are more column than pot. A tip-off, you can't make vodka using alembics so if someone claims they're making pot-still vodka, their still is a hybrid.

Hybrids were developed primarily for making eau de vie, but they are very versatile and good for a small producer who wants to make a lot of different things. I just think it's misleading, although technically true, to call them pot stills.

dbk
02-22-2011, 07:04
The proper question, when someone claims to be using a pot still, is "is it an alembic?" The 'pot stills' used in the production of Cognac and Single Malt Scotch are alembics. Most other claims of 'pot still' distillation involve hybrids, which in my opinion are more column than pot. A tip-off, you can't make vodka using alembics so if someone claims they're making pot-still vodka, their still is a hybrid.

The column modification on Hall's pot still is rather short, and I'm guessing he really couldn't make vodka from it (though of course I don't know for sure). It really does seem to me that the intention of the modification is to pull out a slightly higher proof. Indeed, from my notes from the tour, the modification was made just so that the whiskey could come off the still at about 65% ABV. I'm relatively new to the whiskey world, so pardon any naivety on my part here, but I really do suspect the still is more "pot" than "column."

Gillman
02-22-2011, 08:43
Well that's interesting because 130 proof (in US terms) is pretty low, i.e., it conduces to a traditional, well-flavoured product. Kittling Ridge's products are distinctive but still to me have a traditionally Canadian character. Therefore I wonder if the part that is 130 proof is a relatively small part of the blends.

Gary

Megawatt
02-22-2011, 09:18
Well that's interesting because 130 proof (in US terms) is pretty low, i.e., it conduces to a traditional, well-flavoured product. Kittling Ridge's products are distinctive but still to me have a traditionally Canadian character. Therefore I wonder if the part that is 130 proof is a relatively small part of the blends.

Gary

Ah, but if all their Forty Creek whiskies are coming through the still only once, they would probably all be at this proof, no? I could be wrong but if anything 130 proof seems a little high for a single distillation.

If it makes any difference, they also have a column still which they use for Prince Igor vodka and other spirits. I believe the copper still was originally used for brandy.

Gillman
02-22-2011, 10:40
Yes, I think the copper still was from the Rieder days, when that company was a brandy and eau-de-vie maker. However, Rieder, if memory serves, also put out a Canadian whisky, called Canadian Company I think. So its equipment may have been used for that at the time.

If all the spirit (i.e., from all the grains) is distilled out at 130, that would be interesting. I would have thought some of the spirit is distilled out at higher than that especially the corn part, judging that is by the taste, but I could be wrong. It may be that the barrels do eliminate all the unpleasant congeners over the aging periods, that is possible, and that the reason we don't get any analogies in taste to bourbon is (or I don't), that only part of the cooperage is new charred wood. It's hard to say without detailed information...

I like all their output, especially Confederation Oak and Barrel Select.

Gary

cowdery
02-22-2011, 14:12
An article I wrote about 40 Creek in 2005 says, "he generally runs just one distillation pass, bringing the spirit off his self-modified, German-made still at 62% alcohol. Occasionally he doubles the spirit and takes it up to 70-75%."

That suggests his rectification column is, indeed, limited. The standard-issue German-made pot stills (i.e., hybrids) that most of the micro-distilleries use can achieve any proof up to and including neutrality in a single pass.

That article also says that the average age of the whiskeys in his blends is about 12 years.

Gillman
02-22-2011, 15:32
Interesting again. Those are low distilling-out proofs, similar to what malt whisky, Cognac and bourbon would be, or that neighborhood. Yet the character of the finished whiskies seems lighter to me than each of those.

Gary

bonneamie
02-22-2011, 17:47
I keep thinking the title of this thread is Knitting Ridge. C'mon you guys, where's all the knitting + booze posts?

squire
02-22-2011, 18:00
Sorry to disappoint, drinking and posting is doing two things at once and adding a third like thinking can be a bit much for us older guys.

cowdery
02-23-2011, 23:45
Interesting again. Those are low distilling-out proofs, similar to what malt whisky, Cognac and bourbon would be, or that neighborhood. Yet the character of the finished whiskies seems lighter to me than each of those.

Gary

He may have a short column but he does have a column and because it's a pot, he has the ability to keep working it so maybe he is able to fine tune the congener content at a lower proof. You can also do some of that in the earlier stages.

I confess that I'm also a little skeptical. I think he's using a corn base whiskey that's higher proof. I have to believe he can get to 90% on that still with two distillations if he really wants to.

dbk
03-18-2011, 05:59
I just came across this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6u9jxKLEwc) of John Hall discussing his copper pot stills. At the end, he confirms distilling only once and achieving ~65% ABV off the still via his modification.

If you want to get to this part of the video, you'll have to move past his statement at the beginning about fearing boredom as a multigenerational whisky maker. ;)

Gillman
03-18-2011, 13:37
Good catch there, I hadn't realized the whiskeys come off that low, but is it all of them used in the blends? (Haven't watched yet).

Gary

cowdery
03-18-2011, 16:32
The product just tastes too typically Canadian for it all to come off that low. There has to be some nearly-neutral base whiskey in there somewhere.

Gillman
03-18-2011, 16:35
I would think the same.

Gary

dbk
03-18-2011, 17:21
There has to be some nearly-neutral base whiskey in there somewhere.

If there is, it ain't part of the party line.

cowdery
03-18-2011, 18:50
If there is, it ain't part of the party line.

Sin of omission, probably.

When what my palate tells me conflicts with the party line I always go with my palate.

Gillman
03-19-2011, 05:23
If it is all distilled out at low proof, perhaps the long aging (upwards of 11 years for some of the components) smooths out the congeners and other secondary constituents. Since new charred barrels are not used I believe for all the whiskies in the blends, this too may soften the palate. Still, I would have thought the base is distilled-out higher, just from the taste. But I could be wrong on this.

Gary

cowdery
03-19-2011, 15:22
I had occasion to taste some 10-year-old Canadian base whiskey earlier this week (more on that later) but that, of course, is the nearly neutral spirit. If they're taking corn whiskey off at 60% abv, even in used barrels, after 11 years it's going to taste like bourbon and not like long-aged base whiskey.

John Hall has also said that he makes his whiskey "in the Canadian style." That means he's using a nearly-neutral base whiskey, distilled out at more than 60%. That's the 'Canadian style.'

dbk
04-19-2011, 13:08
Chuck,

I see from your WhiskyFest 2011 blog post (http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2011/04/thoughts-on-whiskeyfest-2011.html) that you got John Hall to confirm using a higher proof base whisky. Thanks for asking him directly; I had tried by email, but without success.

cowdery
04-20-2011, 12:06
He hemmed and hawed a little bit. He got off onto barrel entry proof and I had to ask a couple times. He does the corn in the same still with a second distillation.

Gillman
04-20-2011, 13:43
Excellent blogging, Chuck, that was a whole whack of good info in a small compass. (Small point, Gimli is in Manitoba). The interview with John Hall was very interesting. I agree with John on the effects of wood, but only up to a point.

For example, his Confederation Oak whisky is excellent with a full butterscotch palate but it is still Canadian in style and relatively light-bodied. You can't mistake it for a bourbon or straight rye. Even after drinking Jack Daniels for a while, and the SB at that, when returning to bourbon I'm always impressed with the heavier, more complex palate bourbon has. This applies irrespective of age and is from the larger number of secondary constituents in the whiskey, either that or their specific type, i.e., when not subjected to maple charcoal filtration or high proof distillation.

I hope John one day will consider distilling out all the components of his blends at a low proof, that would be a very interesting drink to try.

Gary

cowdery
04-20-2011, 15:07
Thanks, Gary. I fixed the Manitoba thing.

I don't think there is anything preventing John Hall or anyone else in Canada from making an American-style straight except tradition. But tradition is a pretty valuable thing and I'm learning that within the Canadian style it is possible to make richer and more interesting whiskeys than most of them do. Personally, I don't need a bourbon-style whiskey from Canada anymore than I need one from Scotland or, for that matter, Bulgaria.

tmckenzie
04-21-2011, 03:07
I just watched the video. He has to have a continuos still somewhere, I saw one, but he did not say it was in his plant. I do know one thing, he ain't making all that whiskey with the 2 copper pots. If he ran both 24 hours a day he would only get about 7 barrels a day. If he is running the rye it would be less than that because it does not yeild nearly what corn and barley does.

dbk
05-23-2011, 07:46
Not to re-open this can of worms yet again, but I spoke with John Hall last weekend about his distilling the corn spirit at a higher proof. After some discussion, I asked him to confirm that 100% of the whisky in a Forty Creek bottle comes off the still at no higher than about 72% (the highest proof he claimed he could get off the still), and that all of it is distilled only once. He confirmed this statement, so now I feel we're back to the beginning, without a clear answer.

cowdery
05-23-2011, 10:21
This is why hearsay evidence isn't admissible in court.

dbk
05-23-2011, 10:27
This is why hearsay evidence isn't admissible in court.

In a sense, this is worse, as both of us have gathered our information directly from the source (and thus the information conflicts, but does not constitute hearsay).

cowdery
05-23-2011, 23:19
It's hearsay in the tribunal that is SB.com.

I really think John is being coy. I'm not sure why.

Maybe he's just good at getting people to hear what they want to hear in whatever vague thing he says.

It doesn't make sense. Based on the taste of his products, he is using some kind of nearly-neutral blending whiskey. He just has to be.