As Canadians, we’re always proud of our own when they make it big stateside. And by make it big, of course we mean: get so rich they can afford to make their own liquor.
While a surprising number of famous people have their own booze brands, from Gérard Dépardieu’s Pinot Noir to Marilyn Manson’s “Mansinthe,” there are only a handful of Canadians who do the same. So, with Canada Day coming up, we figured — why not give them a try?
Given the holiday weekend, our criteria rested on whether the booze in question made sense to bring to a summer BBQ. For that reason, we opted for choices that seemed BBQ-appropriate, which meant excluding Drake’s $400-a-bottle champagne.
One quick availability note: alcohol availability varies per province, and because we’re in Ontario, we went with the options available at the LCBO, and prices are Ontario ones. You may see some variation at your local liquor store.
Since retiring from hockey, the Great One has delved deep into the world of alcohol. He owns a winery and distillery in the Niagara region, and earlier this year, he also released his first beer.
Because he makes over a dozen wines and a wide variety of whiskey products, we couldn’t reasonably sample all of them and still be expected to write a review. And some products seems distinctly non-summery, like ice wine or “cream whiskey.”
We settled on the BBQ-est of options: a red, a white, and a beer.
We tried: 2017 Cabernet Merlot, $15.95
The verdict: It’s sharp, with a very dry aftertaste, and doesn’t taste particularly pleasant going down. Its highest reviews came from people who had recently tried a wine by another Canadian celeb of the same generation, reviewed below — so it’s certainly not the worst of the bunch.
“For ‘The Great One,’ he’d not doing much to prove he’s great,” one staffer remarked.
To be fair, though, there were only a couple bottles left on the shelf, and there was a sticker declaring it an “Ontario customer favourite.” So it while it was almost universally disliked at our offices, clearly some people feel differently.
Would we drink it again? Probably not.
Would we take it to a BBQ? Not unless the host TRULY loved Wayne Gretzky.
We also tried: 2017 Chardonnay, $14.95
The verdict: Flat. Bland. Meh. Of all the celebrity booze we tried, this was the one that elicited the mildest reactions.
“Oh, this is not that bad!” one staffer exclaimed excitedly, betraying our very low bar.
“Maybe I’d have this if I were alone, and I wasn’t trying to impress anyone,” another added.
Would we drink it again? Unlikely.
Would we take it to a BBQ? Only if we forgot the liquor store is probably closed on Canada Day and for some godforsaken reason this was the only wine we had on hand.
We tried: Craft Brewing No. 99 Rye Lager, $3.05/can
The verdict: This one’s pleasant! A simple but totally enjoyable summer beer. It tastes like a pretty standard lager, but the rye gives it a slightly richer, more complex, maltier taste.
Would we drink it again? Sure!
Would we take it to a BBQ? Definitely. This beer’s a summer crowd-pleaser, and a BBQ is its natural environment.
What we tried: Virginia Black American Whiskey, $49.95
The verdict: Drake seems confused, in general, and about this specifically. So it’s an American whiskey, named after Virginia, but in fact made in Indiana?There’s a sticker on the back of this bottle stating “NOT FROM VIRGINIA,” which, whoa.
And this tastes more like a whiskey drink than whiskey itself. It’s sweet and thin, like it might be cut with something. It’s definitely not bad, but it’s not all that thrilling, either.
The bottle is elaborate and aesthetically pleasing, and definitely fits into Drake’s OVO aesthetic. “It looks like something you’d keep on the shelf,” one editor remarked.
“It’s nice but lacks substance, kind of like Drake himself,” said another. Ouch.
Would we drink it again? Sure, but probably not with a huge degree of enthusiasm.
Would we take it to a BBQ? Maybe. But definitely not as a first choice.
We tried: Discovery Series Cabernet Shiraz, $11.05
The verdict: Stay away.
It tasted bad, like something you’d buy because you’re 20 and actively seeking out the least expensive wine on the shelf. Given that it’s a shiraz, you’d expect a peppery note, but instead, it was just flat and acidic. One of our staffers didn’t initially think it was that bad, but after a few sips, found she couldn’t finish it.
Would we drink it again? Absolutely not.
Would we take it to a BBQ? Only to a BBQ hosted by a person we deeply hated.
We also tried: Crystal Skull vodka, $59.95
The verdict: Dan Aykroyd, we love you, buddy, and we know your Canada Day birthday is a terrible time to do this to you. But this vodka is terrible, and its high price tag an insult.
It smells and tastes like rubbing alcohol. “It burned my eyes,” one editor said of the experience of drinking this vodka. “I regretted it instantly.”
Another very aptly pointed out that “it tastes like a skull.”
Would we drink it again? No, no, no, no. No, we would not.
Would we take it to a BBQ? Maybe if the person hosting the BBQ loved skull-shaped things so much that it would be worth it to spend $60 on a skull-shaped bottle, pour the vodka down the drain, and then present them with the empty skull. Maybe.
We tried: Aviation American Gin, $37.45
That being said, Aviation is shockingly good. It’s smooth and complex, with distinct floral notes, and a subtle but distinct juniper note at the end. One editor actually said it was one of the better gins he’s tasted.
Would we drink it again? Definitely.
Would we take it to a BBQ? Absolutely, we would.
We tried: Beau’s Tom Green Summer Stout, $5.95 for a 600mL bottle
The verdict: It’s nice! Effervescent and easy to drink, and much lighter than a typical stout.
One the stout scale, “this one surprises me with drinkability,” said the most knowledgeable beer guy in the office. They skipped dark malt, he explained, and added the flavours using adjuncts like coffee and cacao. And there’s a “nice sweetness from the lactose.” Overall, it’s “an exciting beer” that had universally positive reviews.
Would we drink it again? Unlike Gretzky’s, this isn’t an everyday beer that you’d drink several of in a row. It’s such a strong and a unique flavour that you might change to something less complex afterward. So yes, we’d definitely drink it again, although we might change up our order and get something else in between.
Would we take it to a BBQ: For sure.
If you’re going to go for Canadian booze, beer is definitely your safest bet.
Also, we’d love to see someone Canadian women starting booze brands. How good would Céline Dion’s Pinot Grigio be?
All that being said, we still haven’t tried Drake’s $400 champagne. If you’d like to send us some of Drake’s $400 champagne, you know where to find us.
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