Wayne's whisky: Gretzky launches signature blend

Wayne's whisky: Gretzky launches signature blend

Whisky aficionados can now enjoy a Canadian whisky inspired by Edmonton Oilers legend Wayne Gretzky.

The new Wayne Gretzky No. 99 'Red Cask' Canadian Whisky is beginning to land on store shelves in Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba.

Drams of the distinctive spirit will also be served at Gretzky's new bar at the Edmonton International Airport, Gretzky's Wine and Whisky.

The bar opened in September. Gretzky and his family were on hand for a grand opening this week before the franchise legend was named partner and vice-chair of Oilers Entertainment Group.

The product is the work of Andrew Peller Ltd., the parent company of Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery, and master distiller Joshua Beach.

"They've been doing his wine very successfully for a few years. And Wayne is a big fan of whisky, so it was a natural progression from that," Beach said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"He really loves whisky and he's been deeply involved in the process.

"I'm given free rein to create some great whiskies as long as the bar is set quite high." The whisky is aged over three years at the new Gretzky winery and distillery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

"We've taken some rye-based spirit, some malted and un-malted rye that's matured by itself, and some corn-based spirit and blended it all together," Beach said.

"And to differentiate it, and make it a little bit different, we've taken the red casks from the wine program and put the finished blend whisky in there for a few months to finish out."

The result, he said, is a wonderful light amber hued blend with spicy and warm vanilla tones.

"It really pulls a lot of the fruitiness from the wine in the barrels, but also there is a lot of oaky character left in the barrel that the low alcohol wine can't pull out," said Beach.

"But as soon as you put some really high alcohol whisky in there it draw out all these great oaky flavours."

And although Beach acknowledges that the Gretzky brand is sure to sell a few bottles, he's certain that the taste will keep whisky lovers coming back for more, whether they're hockey fans or not.

"I'll just repeat what Wayne always says. His name will sell that product once, but it has to be high quality to have that repeat sale. And I agree with that," said Beach.

"It's not a factory. We're not just pumping out that spirit. We're really focused on quality."