Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Forty Creek Whisky Weekend Review

So what happens when a whisky maker decides he should throw a party and invite 3500 of his closest friends?   Forty Creek Whisky Weekend happens.

As most of you who read my blog know I made a decision in 2012 to review 5 whisky events across Canada for 2013.  Forty Creek Whisky Weekend is event #4 for me.  I've been to Victoria, Toronto, Halifax, and now Grimsby!  

Let me take a moment to remind you what parameters and scoring mechanism I am using:

Cost (accommodations, events, classes, etc)
Venue (locale, food, geographic location)
Classes (Quality, type, time, etc)
Main event (Availability of whiskies, venue, services, knowledge of the exhibitors, etc)
Overall personal experience (People, Place, Whisky).

Scoring sheet:
A (90 - 100) Exceptional value
B (80 - 90)  Great value
C (70 - 80) Good value
D (60 - 70) Some value (FAIL) - No value

Ready?  Here we go...

Forty Creek Whisky Weekend has been in existence since 2008. It takes place in the small town of Grimsby, on Lake Ontario. It's a 2 day celebration that runs the last weekend in September.    

COST: Accommodations:  There are two hotels within a mile of the distillery. Now for me, that's walking distance for others, a 5 min car ride. Neither hotel was affiliated with the weekend event so no discounts available, but like the savvy traveler I am, I called around and found they had specials going on if you were a member of the CAA, etc.. Super 8 was charging $105, but I was able to find an $89 rate online. Small savings of $16.  

Events: Tour of the Distillery including the sleeping whisky warehouse (only does this for this specific weekend). Musical performances all weekend outside on the deck. Whisky Bottle Signings by John Hall himself. ALL FREE!  

John also brings in Southern Food Smoke Trucks.

Classes: Forty Creek offered for the first time the opportunity to assist in an event they dubbed the Whisky Cast tasting featuring Mark Gillespie, Davin de Kergommeaux, myself and John Hall. Tickets were $40.00.

Consumer Tastings:  In the FC store there is a tasting bar at the back where you can try all the Forty Creek Distillery offerings.  FREE

So total cost for an actual "ticket" = $40.00

Total cost for Lodgings & Whisky events = $238.00 (That did not include meals).


VENUEForty Creek Distillery is situated in the town of Grimsby Ontario. It's nestled between Burlington and the lovely Niagara Valley.  Although you can't land there, it's accessible from Toronto Pearson (YYZ) & with a car rental it's quite easy to get to.  

Pro #1: For a "small" distillery it's quite modern & spacious and you get to see most of the process John uses to make his products (no tour of the quality assurance lab).

Pro #2:  My hotel is in walking distance (again, by my definition).  

Pro #3:  Niagara Falls & Wine Country is less than 15 minutes away!

Con #1:  Store area is way too small for this particular weekend's turnout!  

Something I'd like to point out was the food at Southern Smoke Truck. The ribs were heavenly. I usually find them tough, grizzly and don't enjoy eating them.  I'd post a picture of Graham and I eating ours, but it's way too embarrassing.  Sort of looked like this:


I will have to cheat a little here and combine Main event with Classes as this is not a traditional Whisky show.

CLASSES/MAIN EVENT:  No other distilleries in Canada open their doors to the public or offer events. Forty Creek Whisky Weekend does both. They also offered a class held offsite for anyone who wanted the opportunity to try the following:  100% corn whisky, 100% rye whisky, 100% barley whisky, Barrel Select, Copper Pot Reserve, Double Barrel Reserve, Confederation Oak and of course this year's special release:  Heart of Gold. The class was led by John Hall with each panelist discussing and presenting one whisky. A class was offered each of the two days, cost $40. This was the first year John did this and it sold out both days weeks in advance. Considering this is a completely different venue then a traditional whisky show, I'll be a bit generous on the score as I feel this was quite an innovative and different thing to try. From an educational perspective this was a great class/event as many people would never have the opportunity to try such a range of whiskies, especially the 100%.


OVERALL PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: As I travel from coast to coast experiencing what Canada has to offer, it's easy to say that the best part of every event is getting to meet people from the whiskyfabric that I so often talk about. This was no different. Our entire weekend was spent surrounded by the people we have come to call our friends. I can't begin to describe the conversations, the late night shinanigans or the quiet moments spent sharing a dram with a few select people. The whiskies are great no matter where we go but the end result is the memory of who we shared them with. That's what stays with me. 

Bantering with Ross and winding him up tighter than a drum was so much fun and I'll never be able to eat Steven's "whisky balls" again without breaking into fits of laughter. Meeting Val all the way from Alberta or the fact that Amy brought a very special and rare whisky for us to try, just because. Being reduced to tears while listening to Mark and Davin utter hilarity is not something you will "find" in the middle of a whisky show. The opportunity to have supper with John & his extended family was priceless. Sharing a quiet moment among friends as John pulled a rare spirit out of his "vault", surreal. I think you get my point. This little event was by far the best for time with friends and meeting even more people than I could have possibly imagined. Having twitter followers come forward, introduce themselves and spend a few minutes talking about whisky with me - WOW! 

The Heart of Gold whisky might be gone soon, but the memories of the weekend and all its lovely people will last me a lifetime. By far the best "overall" experience yet for 2013...


Final score for this whisky event:

Now I know some of you are going to think that I may have scored this a bit unfairly if you compare it to a whisky show, but I'm not.  It was a whisky event and for the cost, it's definitely worth a B+.  This is a well organized, well run weekend event that has a little bit of everything:  Music, whisky, food, tours, shopping, you name it.  It's all right there on site for an extremely reasonable price, and the best part:  IT'S A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. 

Nowhere else will you feel like you are family like this and I'm not "tooting" any horns.  I spoke to people who travel all the way from Texas, BC and NS to come to this event, EVERY YEAR...  

So what happens when a distillery decides to throw a whisky weekend? Like I said 3500 of your closest friends come and enjoy themselves immensely. Thanks to John, Beth, Dave, Tim and all the others who made Whisky Weekend such a special event.  

Whisky Weekend will take place on September 27 & 28th 2014.  I for one, plan on being there.  Hope you will consider it too.

Thanks for tagging along...



  1. Even tho I was sick as a dog, I enjoyed it tremendously (imagine how much I would have enjoyed it had I not been sick!). Very much looking forward to next year. It was also great to meeting you and Graham. :-)

    1. I wanted to say how wonderful it was to meet you and "share" all your cold germs, hehehe but I deleted that part. I REALLY wish you had been feeling better and hope you and I have another opportunity to share a few drams sometime soon.

      Santé my whisky sister!


  2. Whisky & BBQ? Yeah I'm not really into that sort of thing... :)

    1. OMG "Smoky", it was the first time I tried ribs from a smoke truck, I was truly in heaven! Just before they were given to me they were slathered in Forty Creek BBQ sauce. The pic I posted of the baby covered, is not far from the truth of what Graham and I looked like after we were done inhaling the ribs! FANTASTIC!!!

  3. REAL Canadian Whiskey AND BBQ? Sounds heavenly ;)

    1. I do hope you have a chance to try the Barrel Select I pointed out on twitter. Forty Creek is one of my favorites. John Hall & Forty Creek were instrumental in opening my eyes and palate to great Canadian Whisky!

  4. It was an amazing weekend, not just the event itself but with the #whiskyfabric of you, Graham, Mark S, Mark G, Ross, Rick, Val, Amy, Steven, Davin - plus I'm missing one or two. I too will be there next year!

  5. It was one of the best events I've been to, in the sense that I never felt more connected to the whisky fabric as I did over the course of those 3 days. It was truly awesome! Thanks T.