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

3 years (bourbon barrels); Ice Wine Cask Finish (~4 months)
Rye, Corn
Producer Wayne Gretzky Estates (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario)

There is little more Canadian than Wayne Gretzky, or, for that matter, Ice Wine - the wine that put Canadian wine on the map in 1991 when Inniskillin's 1989 Vidal Ice Wine won Gran Prix D'Honneur at Vinexpo. It is the one segment of wine in which Canada truly produces world class, best of the world - a sweet, dessert wine made from sweet grapes that have are harvested after they have frozen on the vines (typically harvested overnight at temperatures below -30 Centegrade) and are gently crushed to release an ultra-sweet grape juice to make a sweet, acidic dessert wine which is often matured for a time in barrels.

Gretzky isn't the first to make whisky matured in ice wine casks, but I think they are the second after some nice bottlings froms Glenora. This bottling is blended from sources whisky that has been matured for at least 3 years in first fill (i.e. once used) bourbon barrels and then finished in 225 litre Gretzky vidal ice wine barrels for about 4 months. To balance the sweet and light fruitiness from the ice wine, the amount of rye whisky going into this blend on top of corn.

Coming to the LCBO in October 2017.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose has some really nice, clean, fruit – white grape, gooseberries – alongside a buttery, spicy spirit that is slightly heavy. It still carries some of the oiliness and charcoal of the Gretzky brand, but the woodiness is not as overt and the light fruit brightens the nose, and the palate. It develops well, and the fruity and sweet wine grows very nicely with time. The palate has some spicy oak, gooseberry, white raisin, and clove – it is slightly tangy – leading into a buttery finish full of bright fruit, spice, and fading to oak tannin. The cherry on the Sundae is the light bit of oxidized wine at the end. Nicely balanced.

On one hand I feel that it is still a bit heavy to fully embrace the ice wine cask – and yet, if it were lighter, I wouldn’t like the style as much. But it is a level above the Gretzky Red Cask, and I like it much more – lighter, cleaner, and more elegant. If you liked the Red Cask, you’ll probably like this too. Impressive work.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Against Canadian whiskies, it’s on the lower side, but it’s about par for the course against whiskies in general.