Thursday, October 2, 2014

Toronto roadtrip: 66 Gilead, Still Waters, Forty Creek and Fabric get together!

Ahhhhh "Taranta"... City of subways, cable cars and a million miles of year round construction?! How I missed you so. Well, not really. It's not the city I love but the people and places I get to go once I arrive. Some say Toronto is the armpit of Canada however I tend to disagree. Of all the Canadian cities I have visited over the many years I've been on this earth, Toronto has the largest population of amazingly friendly and caring people. I guess it's sort of the "New York" of Canada for me, which is why I try to get there as often as I can. Case in point, Forty Creek Weekend took place again this year on September 27-28th and so began the planning process a few months ago to get up there, see people, visit distilleries and taste good whiskies. 

Steven (mr_goalie7959) and Sandra Radcliffe have become good friends of ours. I can't begin to describe how much we enjoy their company and staying with them when we come to Toronto. Steven shares a passion for whiskies that equals ours. Sandra balances us all out as the voice of reason. I used to think I was one of the most organized people I knew. I do not exaggerate when I say, Sandra beats me 100X over and is not only brilliant at multitasking but has one of the sharpest & wittiest sense of humors I have ever heard. I can only hope to repay them both some day soon for their generosity, peace of mind and fantastic memories thus far.  

Thursday night we arrived at Billy Bishop airport (downtown Toronto) and were immediately met by Steven & Sandra. Luggage loaded and off to the Distillery District for a fabulous supper at The Beer Hall. If you are in Toronto and want to try something a little different, I would recommend this place hands down. The long "communal" tables are reminiscent of the old days of the beer halls, there's a heated patio, the beer was pretty good (I'm not a fan), the service was awesome and the food quite delicious indeed. 

Bellies full, of course we had to go shopping. So straight to the LCBO at Summerhill to browse and pick up a few good bottles. The rest of Thursday night was spent catching up, sharing a few drams and eventually falling into bed for a good night's sleep.

Friday morning I woke at 5:00am in order to go meet #whiskyfabric friend Jarred Lindale (@thecyclingyogi) for a hot yoga class. Yes, you read correctly. A hot yoga class. It's important to me to try and spend time with the people I really like so when Jarred told me he wasn't going to be around for the weekend due to a family commitment but offered the hot yoga class and a coffee date right afterwards I said yes immediately. Might sound crazy for some of you but again I believe in making the most of my passions and friendships. I loved the yoga class and it was nice connecting with Jarred. *Thanks bud!*

Back on a subway by 8:00am to the house, a quick rinse/clothes change and we are on the road with Steven to get to Prince Edward County which is about 2 hours away. Why would you go there Lassie you ask? I'll tell you why =  It's a hidden little gem on the shores of Lake Ontario that has wineries, golf and so many other great little get away ideas.  
For us the goal was to get to 66 Gilead Distillery and try their latest whisky releases but we also wanted to stop along the way, visit a few wineries and see the sights. As always a few funny little things happened during our travel. First we stopped off at a lovely little Inn to drop off Steven's son who had business there and found out the owners were not only from New Brunswick but their family (an uncle) was Graham's grandmother's neighbour AND on the other side of the family, the paternal great uncles had meat stalls side by each (as we say here in the Maritimes) in the Saint John City Market. It may be 6 degrees of separation everywhere else in the world, but in NB I assure you it's always 2...

Off to 66 Gilead Distillery right before lunch to try their latest releases of whiskies. It was my first time visiting the distillery. It is small but offers a very pleasant atmosphere with chickens running around, an art gallery, a tasting room nestled in the house (built by a hops grower in 1874) and the distilling unit is in back.

I started with the Wild Oak Whisky. Matured 3 1/2 years and bottled at 47%. This is a whisky made with 51% corn, 30% rye and the remainder a mix of wheat & peated barley. I tried asking a few questions about the wheat's origins as well as peated barley but unfortunately the gentleman pouring didn't know and I didn't find anything on the website. It is also not colored or chill-filtered.

Nose: Really Oaky, no surprise considering the name. Very sweet on the nose like hard Christmas candy and a bit of a medicinal smell, hints of orange oil (like furniture polish). 

Palate: Again really oaky, extremely drying and a bit bitter on the tongue. Very peppery and quite tannic in nature (reminded me of the taste I get after I drink Earl Gray tea). 

Finish: Hot, very hot! I didn't find it to be a long finish, but the "burn" definitely stays with you for a few minutes. If the flavor profile they were looking for was oak... then they achieved it. 

The second whisky I tried was their Crimson Rye. A 100% rye whisky aged 3 1/2 years in barrels that contained French Pinot Noir. Bottled at 47%, not colored or chill-filtered.

Nose: Sweet, spicy but not really strong on the nose. The rye seems a bit muted.

Palate: Hot, peppery but thin with not much character.

Finish: REALLY HOT, ground cinnamon powder (I literally exclaimed whoa! as it took my breath away)

Overall (and this is comparing them to all the whiskies I tried over the weekend) these were my least favorite. Although I found the flavor profiles quite unique, my personal opinion is that these are not ready yet. I can't say for sure they are flawed as in something wrong with the process but there is missing components in both whiskies as they are not quite balanced and simply too "hot" for me to enjoy. 

There is a delicate dance that takes place between barrel oak and spirit and I'm thinking that dance needs to be longer for these whiskies or that the wood chosen might not be the best choice. I may be wrong, but that's my gut instinct. They both retail at $68.95. 

For me personally, they are a pass for now but I do look forward to trying more of their products as time goes by. 

Off to lunch in Bloomfield - (  Something simple yet elegant - Fresh tomato basil soup with a grill cheese sandwich. Delish and jumped back in the car pick up Steven's son, stopped at a few wineries along the way, then back to the house in Toronto and to the best part of the weekend. 

This again is where #whiskyfabric always impresses me and touches my heart because Steven & Sandra hosted 14 people in their home from all walks of life from the fabric on Friday night. Yes, 14!!!

Sandra spent the entire day cooking recipes that either contained or paired with whisky. The table was beautifully set out, the house smelled amazing and she's a genius! We had a traditional Cullen Skink with Whisky Soda bread followed by Short Ribs, Polenta and roasted fall carrots. We finished off the evening with a lovely tart that was loaded with A'bunadh Batch 18 whipped cream. I requested sweat pants at least twice during the evening and I bow my chef's hat down to one of the best cooks I've ever come across (don't tell my grandmother I said that ok?!) 

The rest of the evening was spent enjoying each other's company, catching up, discussing and drinking everything whisky. Here is the line up of what was available for all to try (we all pitch in and bring bottles). 

Once the people all left, we helped Sandra to the best of our ability (she's effective let me tell ya!) and the house was back to almost normal, most of us retired to another fantastic evening of sleep. 

Early Saturday morning I was the first one up, coffee was ready as were some of Sandra's pumpkin muffins (are you getting my drift at how wonderful this woman is?). The house came alive slowly but surely and by 9:00am we were on the road again. Stephen and I picked up Maryse (@Bergamot63) and we headed up to Still Waters Distillery as a group. We originally started as 3, ended up as 10 but Barry & Barry were happy to see us all. We met Graham, Rick (@rmculver) and Lydia (@actionGeologist).

I tried a few more of their single malt releases (sorry didn't take notes for those, just enjoyed) as well as their very soon and upcoming 100% rye (95% rye, 5% malted rye) to be released on Saturday October 25th at 10:00am.

This was my 2nd time (2013 as well) trying it and I have to say I absolutely fell in love with it last year. That love affair still goes strong! It's the BEST new rye I've tried this year so far and when it becomes available I will be getting several bottles.

Nose: Dusty hay barn (right after the bailed hay has been stored). Floral and delicate spiciness (geraniums) with hints of powdered sugar. The longer it stays in the glass the more it develops a creaminess (French toast). 

Palate: A lovely roller coaster ride that starts with full mouth feel, sweet toffee pudding and grabs you with a bit of peppery spices like ginger & cloves. 

Finish: Long sweet heat. Hot pepper meets honey. Knowing I was in Toronto when it's this "" close to market almost gives me goosebumps. If I lived in Toronto, I'd be the first in line waiting to get bottles of this as there will only be about 300 bottles available. I always encourage people to try everything, take it on my advice that this one cannot be missed. It truly is a must try if you like 100% rye whiskies. If you see Stalk & Barrel at a whisky show, do yourself a huge favor and try it!

By the way, Barry & Barry will be at the NB Spirits Festival this year on Nov 21st so please stop into their booth!

On to Forty Creek!!!  We hit the highway for 11:45 and wouldn't you know it - Construction!? Our spirits were not dampened but I was seriously going to beat someone up if the smoked ribs were sold out when we got there!!?? That didn't happen, thankfully. We ate, we advised we were there to pick up our bottles and we went on a guided tour of the distillery. 

Overhead of the tour group in traffic mirror
It doesn't matter how many times I go one of these, there is ALWAYS something magical about being in the barrel warehouse! It smells divine. Tour over and run in quick to get/pay for our reserved bottles of Evolution. 

John's 8th limited release. Packages in hand, off to see John to get them signed (of course). While we waited in line I got my first taste of Evolution and I have to say I was really confused. Understandably, when they are pouring the taster they use small little plastic wine glasses and it was almost impossible to really smell the whisky so I simply enjoyed it and didn't think about "rating" it all that quickly. We saw many people of the #whiskyfabric while we were there, I had the chance to talk to Tim, got my hug from Lynn, saw Terri flit by a few times and of course spent a few precious moment with a tired but very happy John Hall (he had to put ice on his wrist that night from signing so many bottles). We left the distillery with the car full and again Steven kindly dropping us off at the airport on his way home. Our flight was spent talking about the weekend, the friends, the whiskies and how lucky we are to be living in these times. Canadian whiskies are booming for a reason - there are some really great whiskies coming to market.

We stayed in Moncton that night and it wasn't until the next day that we popped one of our bottles (yes, we buy more than one - always) and shared it with our friend Eric Lewis (@Eric_B_Lewis). It was 11:30am, hehehe...  We all enjoyed the dram, took out a few of the other Forty Creeks Eric has in his collection and tried to create a flavor "trail" of sorts of where the Evolution fit... We had different opinions but all enjoyed the dram together.

I drank more of the Evolution Tuesday night and then last night I really had the chance to quietly sit with it. So as you can see I went to the tub and enjoyed a good size dram while I relaxed with my feet up so to speak. So what is Evolution? As stated, it's Forty Creeks' latest limited release. Bottled at 43%. It starts its whisky journey like many of John's whiskies as an original concept and idea. So let's turn back the clock to early 2002 when the distillery was still in its infancy. John aged this whisky in ex-bourbon oak for 3 years, then he decided to re-distill it. HE DID WHAT!? Yes, you read correctly: He re-distilled the whisky using his copper pot still. Then he said to himself (as he was a wine maker at that time as well), I think I'm going to put this whisky in some French Oak barrels that held some of the Cabernet Sauvignon wine I make. Constantly checking on this whisky until this year 2014 when he felt it was ready. It spent 9 years soaking up the characteristics of the Cab Sauvignon & French Oak. Do you think he was done then? Well of course not because John loves to do things "differently". Then he hand picked some very personal and favourite barrels that he had tucked away to balance and round out the whisky. All of a sudden the name Evolution certainly makes sense to me?!

So what did I think:

Nose: Very rich and full bodied smell. It did remind me a bit of a previous release called Portwood but with a spicier kick to it. My mind immediately thought: Copper pot meets Portwood!? With a bit more time in the glass it turns to juicy wine gummies with hints of sweet dried fruits (fig newtons). There's a bit of clean nuttiness there as well, like blanched almonds or maybe marzipan. The nose is quite intriguing and pulls you deeply into the glass. 

Palate: Didn't quite match the rich full bodied effect of the nose. It sort of did remind me of a red wine from a colder region such as South America. It was fruity, with hints of dried cherries or plums. A bit spicy and drying in nature, sort of like ground cinnamon. Complex, but not quite what I had on the nose.

Finish: Short, sweet, spicy and to the point. Doesn't linger for a very long time.

(As a side note, the next morning I nosed the empty glass and I really had to work hard to find any of the spices left)

So what do I think of this latest release... I really like it. Graham and I had a good discussion about this yesterday and what I came away with is I pretty much have a Forty Creek for all the seasons and drinking moods. I have easy drinking: Barrel select & the Double Barrel. For rich warming drams I have the Portwood or the Copper Pot. I love the Heart of Gold as my light/delicate summer dram and my go to has always been the Confederation Oak. Happily I shared the last of my John's Private Cask (my special, I'm having a bad day dram) with Steve Beam (@stevehasbeans) on his recent trip home and it was glorious! So now I have yet another to add to my great collection. This one is also very easy drinking and I can see it fit somewhere between my Confederation Oak and the Portwood. It's sweet but not overbearing or sickly. It's rich but not quite heavy or full bodied and doesn't leave an after taste. 

I'm glad John takes chances and does things his way. I'm even happier that I get to enjoy his releases year after year. 

It's with trepidation that I look forward into the future when it comes to Forty Creek and with good reason. I've had a "good thing" for the last 8 years and I hope John's way of pushing the limits and going in new and different directions continues...

Overall my entire weekend was a fabulous one and I had no doubt that it wouldn't be. I know amazing people, I love good whiskies and I am truly a blessed Lassie...

Thanks Toronto, thanks #whiskyfabric and thank you Steven and Sandra from the bottom of my whisky soaked soul!!!

Love always TO and see you again, really soon...  


No comments:

Post a Comment