Review: Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Red Cask Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

3 years (bourbon barrels); Wine Cask Finish
Malted Rye, Unmalted Rye, Corn
Producer Wayne Gretzky Estates (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario)

This whisky is produced by the Wayne Gretzky brand, which started with wine and has started to delve into whisky. It is whisky which is sourced, made from 100% Canadian ingredients, blended, and finished in a Gretzky wine cask. Wayne Gretzky loves wine, and moved into the wine business operating a vineyard in Niagara-on-the-lake from 2008 to 2011. The brand is now owned by Andrew Peller who also own Peller Estates and Sandbanks. Whisky is the new endeavor, alongside a brand new winery and distillery opening in 2017 at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Each bottle of the whisky supports the Wayne Gretzky foundation, which helps youth be equipped to have opportunities to play hockey.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

On the nose, rich maple, charred wood, candle wax, and terrific rye lead the way along with a well integrated wine character – lots of berries here alongside some clean white pepper. The grains are still present. The smoky wood and wine notes work pretty well together! It is a bit raw – but it comes together decently. On the palate, currants jump out alongside blackberries and cacao before the grain takes over with rich corn and a finish of creamy oak and vanilla. The palate is interesting, and is better than the nose. It finishes with some citrus pith, more vanilla, oak, cacao, currants, and the lightest touch of bitterness. The wine influence is there, and it fits in without clashing or dominating the grains. The finish is sweet, fruity, and lightly creamy – bringing to mind, in fact, vanilla yogurt mixed with berries. And I do love the bit of rye in here. It is quite oaky, and a bit all over the place, though, and in successive tastings over the years I’ve liked this less than I used to. Lots of pencil shavings.

It is somewhat natural to want to compare this to 66 Gilead’s Crimson rye, a rye whisky finished in a pinor noir cask. The whiskies are very different (and I quite like both of them). Crimson Rye is very winey, and fruity in a different character – much lighter, with cucumber and green apple – while the Gretzky whisky is more grain and oak driven, with fruitiness from the wine more along the lines of dried fruit and berries. I am a bit of a sucker for the mushroom notes in Crimson Rye, but that whisky is bigger and more raw than Gretzky’s, and a bit less refined. However, Crimson is a bit more interesting and unique – but some of the raw-ness detracts.

Value: Average at $35.