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Forty Creek John's Private Cask No. 1

Average score from 3 reviews and 3 ratings 90

Forty Creek John's Private Cask No. 1

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Forty Creek John's Private Cask No. 1

I had to take a couple of days off my Canada series, as we went up to a Bobcaygeon cottage for Canada Day weekend (with some Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve)! But today I look at another Forty Creek whisky, and one that is much rarer.

John's Private Cask is a bit of a misnomer - it actually comes from 23 casks, each containing rye, corn or malted barley whiskies. Whisky maker John Hall then blended them into 9,000 bottles which by now are impossible to find. Only time will tell if a Private Cask No. 2 awaits us in the future. A huge debt of thanks and gratitude to @paddockjudge for this fantastic bottle.

The colour is deep copper. The nose is a powerful mix of sweet corn and rye spices: butter, clotted cream, white pepper, chilli powder, mint, sage and pencil shavings. A touch of freshly-squeezed lime. Extremely complex and quite oaky. A wee drop of water brings out more oak - caramel, vanilla, raisins.

The palate is creamy, bourbon-like, with rubber boots, wet slate, spices (ginger, cumin) and more pronounced oakiness. Also complex, and truly delicious. As with the nose, a mere drop of water brings the wood to the front. Very interesting.

The finish is dusty with more pencil shavings. A bit of sawdust and a saltiness right at the end of the finish. This is a stellar whisky, beautiful and complex, and incredibly enjoyable. Last week I opened this with a friend, and we smoked whisky-infused cigars (also from Forty Creek) as we enjoyed this. If you can find it - get it!

Are you still seeing John's Private Cask No. 1 floating around in stores in Ontario? Very good stuff, indeed.

No, not at all - they've been gone from stores - and anywhere else here - for a few years...unfortunately...


Thanks to @paddockjudge for the reviewed sample, which is taken from Lot 2011, bottle # 3486. The bottle has been open for 1 month

This review will be in non-sequential format (SQVH). For more info on this format see my review and comments on Royal Canadian Small Batch. I will also give separate scores within this review against all whiskies and within the category of Canadian whiskies only

John's Private Cask No. 1 was a special very limited release Forty Creek whisky, distilled and blended by John Hall, the Forty Creek Master Distiller and Master Blender

Strength: wine flavours are moderate in the nose, strong on the palate, and tapering down into the finish. Maple-style oak flavours are moderate in the nose, but strong on the palate and through the finish. There is plenty of very spicy rye throughout nose, palate, and finish. I would have preferred a stronger overall nose, and the wine a bit stronger into the finish, but overall the flavours are of good strength. This has a lot of flavour "punch" for 40% ABV Score 22/25 all whiskies 23/25 Canadian Only Category

Quality: The grain flavours are excellent. The rye is very strong, so, as things go with strong rye in the blend, you really can't taste the other grains. It doesn't matter, because the rye is top-notch. The wine flavours are very good, not super refined nor super delicate, but solid and quite serviceable. The wood flavours are solid and above average for Canadian whisky. There appears to be at least some new wood used for the aging, something which Forty Creek does far more often than do other Canadian distilleries. Score 22/25 all; 24/25 Canadian

Variety: John's Private Cask No. 1 provides great variety and complexity among the strong high quality rye, the solid, probably sherry, wine flavours, and the decent quality wood. This one keeps mind and taste buds busy and very active. Score 23/25 all; 24/25 Canadian

Harmony: this is a nice workable package. The spicy rye sits, as it were, on a nice bed of wine flavours and supportive wood. The contrast is great among the three sets of flavour components, but they form a delicious coherent whole when experienced together. It is always good to find a new whisky of high quality. For me rye and wine together is a combination which often doesn't work. This is one of those whiskies in which they not only work, but work very well in each other's company. Score 23/25 all; 24/25 Canadian

Score totals: 90 All; 94 Canadian Category

It would be nice if it were still possible to buy a bottle of John's Private Cask No. 1. I think that this issue has been sold out for a long time

@Victor, another fine evaluation, Bravo! Highlight reel of a favorite. This Forty Creek rare expression was the highest rated whisky in my cabinet (until 'the sheriff' came along) having scored 23/25 across the board - coincidentally, the entire batch was created from 23/25 barrels of a private stash held for self-proclaimed "whisky maker" John Hall...see pj profile picture.


From the description on the website, it is not immediately clear what sets John's Private Cask apart from other Forty Creek whiskies, or other Canadian whiskies in general. The impression I get is that this is a "reserve whisky", the distiller having set aside casks deemed to be of above-average quality. Also, no fancy wood finishing was implemented, allowing the grains to show their full character.

The nose is subtle. It is not the sweet toffee and vanilla of typical Canadian whisky. Rather you get toasted walnut, hints of fresh oak, dried fruit (dates, apricots). Definitely smells like Forty Creek.

The whisky is silky in the mouth but it quickly hits you with a bracing tartness and then a whole load of spice. The sweetness is mostly of a dried-fruit variety, as well as orange peel. The spices peak quickly and then fade, leaving toasty nut flavours. For a soft-spoken whisky there is a lot going on here.

The finish is long and leaves traces of that dried fruit flavour. There is not a trace of unwanted sourness or bitterness.

True to his word, John Hall showcases the component grains in this bottling. One gets the feeling that a higher than normal proportion of rye was used, but traces of creamy malt also make their presence felt. This is a different style of Canadian whisky; subtle and sophisticated.

Hmm, interesting observation. There may be some similarities but I think there are more differences. Forty Creek has a different flavour profile and this whisky really showcases it, subtle though it may be. I think the range of flavours, from earthiness to toasted nuts to dried fruits, is much more diverse than you would find in CCC. Also given the burst of spiciness I wouldn't call this a toned-down whisky. When I say "subtle" I guess I mean that it takes time to get the full benefit of the aromas and flavours. The only thing I can really compare it to are other Forty Creek whiskies. For what it's worth, I liked Confederation Oak Reserve just a little better.

Thank you for a very nice review. Your description sounds to me like a more refined, somewhat less sweet, and toned down version of Canadian Club Classic 12 yo. How would you compare those two whiskies to one another?

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