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How is Canadian Whisky Made? A Deep Dive into Forty Creek's Process

Whisky, a spirit rich in tradition and craftsmanship, varies significantly in its production process and flavour profile depending on its geographical origin. Canadian whisky, particularly as exemplified by Forty Creek, stands out for its unique production methods and the artistry involved in blending.
Whisky, a spirit rich in tradition and craftsmanship, varies significantly in its production process and flavour profile depending on its geographical origin. Canadian whisky, particularly as exemplified by Forty Creek, stands out for its unique production methods and the artistry involved in blending.

The Making of Canadian Whisky: A Glimpse into Forty Creek

The process of making Canadian whisky begins similarly to brewing beer. Various grains, including corn, wheat, rye, and malted and unmalted barley, are milled to create coarse flour. These grains are then cooked, and enzymes and pure water are introduced to convert the starches into sugars. This mixture is then fermented by adding yeast, transforming the sugars into alcohol and CO2, resulting in a type of beer.

This 'beer' is then distilled using either pot or column stills, a step crucial for concentrating the alcohol and developing the flavours. Forty Creek, known for its meticulous distillation process, produces only the finest quality spirit. After distillation, the spirit is diluted with pure water and aged in wooden barrels, where it develops its unique flavour profile over time.

Grain Selection and Milling

The journey of whisky begins with the selection of grains. Each grain imparts a unique flavour profile to the final product. At Forty Creek, a careful selection of corn, wheat, rye, and barley is made. These grains are then milled, which involves grinding them into coarse flour and preparing them for the next production stage.

Mashing and Fermentation

The milled grains are then cooked, activating enzymes to convert starches into fermentable sugars. This mash is then cooled and transferred to fermentation tanks, where yeast is added. The yeast plays a crucial role, and ferments the sugars into alcohol and CO2. This fermentation process, which can last several days, is where the primary alcohol of whisky is created.

Distillation

The fermented liquid, now akin to a type of beer, undergoes distillation. Forty Creek utilizes pot and column stills, each contributing differently to the flavour and purity of the spirit. Pot stills are known for producing rich, full-bodied energy, while column stills are used for a cleaner, higher-proof distillate. This step is crucial in defining the character and strength of the whisky.

Distillation

After distillation, the spirit is aged in wooden barrels. The interaction between the whisky and the wood over time imparts depth, complexity, and colour to the spirit. The choice of new or used barrels and the type of wood significantly influences the final flavour. The aging process in the unique climate of Canada also plays a role, as the varying temperatures allow the whisky to expand into and contract from the wood, enriching its flavour profile.

The Art of Blending at Forty Creek: How Is Blended Whisky Made?

Blending is where the true artistry of whisky-making comes into play, especially at Forty Creek. Master Blender Bill Ashburn views blending as a craft where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each blend component contributes unique characteristics; the skill lies in achieving a harmonious balance.

This process involves tasting and selecting different aged whiskies with distinct flavour profiles and combining them in precise proportions. The result is a complex, well-rounded whisky that tells a story through its layers of flavour.

History of Canadian Whisky Laws

The history of Canadian whisky laws has significantly influenced the production and character of Canadian whisky. Historically, Canadian whisky regulations have been more flexible than other countries. This flexibility has allowed distilleries like Forty Creek to experiment with different grains, distillation methods, and aging processes.

Canadian whisky must be mashed, distilled, and aged in Canada in wooden barrels for at least three years. Unlike some other whisky traditions, Canadian Law allows up to 9.09% total of wine or spirits (aged a minimum of 2 years) and caramel colour, offering distillers a broad canvas for creativity. This regulatory environment has fostered innovation and diversity in Canadian whisky, allowing distilleries to craft unique expressions that stand out in the global whisky scene.

Whisky production, particularly at Forty Creek, combines science, art, and tradition. From the careful selection of grains to the intricate process of blending, each step is a testament to the craftsmanship involved in creating this storied spirit. The history of Canadian whisky laws has played a pivotal role in shaping Canadian whiskies' diverse and innovative character. As we explore the nuanced world of whisky, the dedication and artistry at distilleries like Forty Creek remind us of this beloved beverage's rich heritage and evolving nature.

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