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Issue 144 - Never Will These Barrels Plunge Over Niagara Falls

Whisky Magazine Issue 144
February 2017


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Never Will These Barrels Plunge Over Niagara Falls

Blair visits Gretzky Distillery, a first-class stop on Niagara's wine and spirits trail

Whisky fans recoil in horror each time some daredevil hurtles over Niagara Falls in a barrel. It's not compassion; what if there was still some whisky in those barrels? National Hockey League Hall of Famer, Wayne Gretzky's new whisky distillery is minutes from The Falls, but don't get ideas. Gretzky performed his stunts on the ice, leaving opposing players spinning in his undertow. If his first three whisky releases are any indication, he's about to do the same for Canadian whisky.

Traditionally, Stanley Cup Champions drink champagne straight from the trophy. Accordingly, Gretzky took his first Stanley Cup swig in 1984, the same year that daredevils roused the barrel stunt. That year, Karel Soucek survived the falls in a homemade barrel. No whisky wasted! When Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers repeated as Champions in 1985, Dave Munday survived The Falls, then Steven Trotter went next using a plastic pickle barrel rigged with inner tubes. Coincidence? Or had they cheered for the defeated teams?

Gretzky retired from hockey in 1999 but never sat in a rocking chair telling passersby to get off his lawn. Instead, his retirement has led him down a path into wine, and now into the whisky game. Trading his hockey sticks for barrel staves, his winery and a distillery is in Niagara-on-the-Lake – wine country. And a talented distiller knows how to play off that.

Enter Ontario native, Joshua Beach. He studied brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland before spending ...

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