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Forty Creek John’s Private Cask No. 1 Canadian Whisky

Review: Forty Creek John’s Private Cask No. 1  Canadian Whisky  94/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published on February 02, 2012

Last Winter (just a little over a year ago) I had lunch with John Hall when he was in town for the Edmonton Whisky Festival. One of the things we talked about was Mr. Hall’s penchant for saving his best whisky barrels for his own private use. You see, every once in a while when John was testing and tasting his barrels of whisky to see how they were coming along, he would hit upon a barrel that was absolutely exceptional. These barrels would be squirreled away and earmarked for his own private stash. John admitted to me that this had kind of gotten out of hand, and he had accumulated far more of these ‘Private Casks’ than what he would ever need, or be able to consume.

It turns out John figured out what to do with these exceptional casks as in the fall of 2011 he released his new special release, John’s Private Cask No. 1 Whisky. According to Mr. Hall, the focus of this new whisky release was to be upon the three grains he distills to construct his Forty Creek Whisky. To quote from Mr. Hall himself,

“…I am particularly excited about sharing my Forty Creek John’s Private Cask No. 1 as it offers a glimpse into the taste profile of some of my favourite whiskies. It is a blend of rye, corn & barley whiskies, which have all been copper pot distilled and aged as single grain whiskies. You will taste the characteristic complexity and smoothness in the whisky. The difference, however, is the barrels I have selected and the proportion of each variety grain that is included in the final meritage…”

I recently opened on of my own bottles of John’s Private Cask No. 1, and put it through the paces of my review system.

In the Bottle 5/5

Forty Creek has used the same style of bottle for each of the last four special releases. I love the look of this bottle and the attractive/professional graphics and labeling which are employed. In my review of the Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve (Lot 240), I expressed discontent with the cheap looking clear plastic box the whisky arrived in, and the cheap plastic medallion which was draped around the bottles neck. The plastic box has been replaced in the more recent releases by an attractive cardboard box with nice graphics, but the medallion is still a part of the presentation.  One feature of the presentation which I really like is the addition of John Hall’s signature to this special release. It looks just plain classy!

In the Glass  9.5/10

The initial aroma from the glass begins with some rich notes of oak and cedar rising into the breezes above the glass. I notice traces of bourbon and honeycomb, light baking spices, and a nice spicy rye influence. When I gave my glass a tilt and a slow swirl, leggy drooplets slowly coalesced and slid ever so slowly back into the whisky.

As I let the glass breathe, the scents and smells became much more complex with the oak and baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and dark brown sugar) becoming stronger and stronger. Wisps of maple rose up from the glass making things even more appealing.

In the Mouth 56/60

The initial entry into the mouth is soft and oily. A bevy of oak and rye spices quickly heat things up; but, the mouth feel is eased by the softness of vanilla, maple and caramel. The flavours I taste include fresh-cut cedar planks, and a strong dollop of rye. There is also a bit of orange peel which evolves into marmalade as the glass sits, and just like on the nose,the oak and baking spices build and build in the glass.

Recently, acting a judge for the Canadian Whisky Awards, I had the opportunity to taste and evaluate this whisky in a blind format. Just for fun I went back to check how consistent my tasting notes are now as compared with then. It turns out that the impressions I am receiving now are almost identical to then. I gave John’s Private Cask No. 1 Whisky an extremely high score when I judged it blind, I see no reason to judge it differently today.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The whisky has a smooth dry exit with strong oak flavours and nice touches of caramel and maple in the finish. After it is swallowed, rye and baking spices build upon the palate and in the throat. This spiciness is very appealing.

The Afterburn 10/10

In previous reviews for other Forty Creek Whiskies, I have indicated that I believed that John Hall was capable of greatness. Forty Creek John’s Private Cask No. 1 Whisky validates that belief. This is a whisky which grows and grows in the glass; however, the most pleasing aspect of the whisky is the name John has given it. Does not the very name imply that John Hall’s Private Cask No. 2 is in the works? I hope so.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


9 Responses to “Forty Creek John’s Private Cask No. 1 Canadian Whisky”

  1. rawkabillyrebel said

    This is a really nice whiskey, but at $69.95 in Ontario I would not consider it good value compared to other Canadian whiskeys like Alberta Springs or Alberta Premium.

    • The Forty Creek Special Releases are about triple the price of the two you just mentioned. So your point is well taken. (I too, am a big fan of Alberta Whisky)

  2. Mike said

    I’m reading your review while enjoying a glass and I find it most accurate. This is a fantastic whisky and it’s too bad mine is almost done.

    • I wrote my review while enjoying a glass, and you read my review while enjoying a glass. It seems we both enjoyed the process.

      Have a great day Mike!!

  3. Tony Menechella said

    Is this only available in Canada? A google search does not show any US Retailers carrying it.

    • The Private Cask was a limited release in Canada Only. I have no information if there will or will not be a follow-up release for the US.

      • Tony Menechella said

        As a big fan of Forty Creek whiskies, it is frustrating and depressing not being able to obtain some of these limited releases. I’ve also been made aware of the fact that Canadian retailers cannot ship to the USA. 😦 On a side note, we have very similar tastes with regards to rum, and if you ever get a chance to sample the Diplomatico Embassador or Neisson Cuvee Du 3eme Millenaire, jump at them!!! They are fantastic rums!! Slainte, Tony

  4. Mike said

    I love the tartness and spiciness of this whisky. Subtle yet complex.

    • Davin on his website ( called this whisky a spicebomb. I think I like your description much better. Tart and Spicy, Subtle yet Complex. I wish I would have used that line in the review because it sums up John’s Private Cask perfectly!

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