It’s been a big year for athlete-backed whiskies. Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning teamed up with tennis pro Andy Roddick and others to launch Sweeten’s Cove in May, while Pittsburgh Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw unveiled an eponymous bourbon a few months prior. These sporty spirits were preceded however by a line of bourbon and rye whiskies helmed by Hall of Fame goaltender Ed Belfour, first released in December 2019. Belfour joined Whisky Advocate’s Instagram Live series #TasteWithSpace on Dec. 18 to discuss Belfour Spirits, the whiskey business, and his starry career.
“My introduction to whiskey was rye,” said Belfour, who originally hails from Canada and moved to the United States in 1986 to play for the University of North Dakota. “We didn’t know what bourbon whiskey was back then.” Belfour added that in his early days as a whiskey drinker, he gravitated toward Canadian Club, and always enjoyed rye. As a 21 year old new to the United States, Belfour went to a bar and ordered a “rye and Coke,” which he says was met by confused glances. “I quickly learned I had to order a whiskey and Coke,” he said.
Despite those humble beginnings, nowadays Belfour is well-versed in all American whiskey, so much so that Belfour Spirits produces a pecan wood-finished bourbon meant to pay homage to his time in the States. “We wanted to have that Texas connection,” he said of the state-sourced wood. Belfour and his family moved to Texas in 1997, two years prior to his Stanley Cup win with the Dallas Stars. The bourbon was distilled at Southern Distilling Co. in North Carolina, where many Belfour Spirits products—including the new Special Edition Straight rye—are distilled until the company builds its own distillery.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Ed isn’t the only Belfour at Belfour Spirits—his two adult children, Dayn and Reaghan, work with their father as vice presidents of the family business. “Dayn and I started looking into this about seven years ago,” Belfour said, adding that his son even created Belfour Spirits Limited Edition Straight rye through an internship at Woody Creek Distillers in Colorado. Belfour said he and Dayn wanted to further their whiskey education in order to go beyond merely being spokesmen for the brand. “Dayn and I were full-time right from the start,” he said. “Reaghan would help us out wherever she could—she was a finance major, she was doing banking at the time, and she’s been with us full-time now for just over a year.”
While Belfour Spirits is a family business, it also nods to Belfour’s original claim to fame—hockey. Belfour is one of only two players to win the Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal, and an NCAA championship, and his status as a hockey legend bleeds into his whiskey business. Every bottle comes adorned with wings which reference Belfour’s “Eddie the Eagle” nickname, while the Limited Edition Straight rye is uniquely topped with a silver chalice that may look familiar to hockey fans. “It’s the Belfour chalice cup,” Belfour cheerfully dubbed it. Belfour’s hockey career was both lengthy and successful, and he drew a connection from it to this new venture as the owner and CEO of a whiskey brand. Good whiskey requires several factors, like quality ingredients, the proper maturation time, and the right cask treatment, to come together, just like a successful hockey team needs a variety of contributions. “It’s not just one thing, it’s the combination of a lot of different things that go into the makeup of championship teams,” he said. “I believe that’s the same thing here with whiskies.”
Belfour also answered viewer questions, discussed plans for a future Belfour Spirits distillery, and disclosed what it’s like to run a business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out the full interview on IGTV and follow Whisky Advocate on Instagram for all upcoming #TasteWithSpace interviews. Though this was our last new interview of the year, we will close out 2020 by returning to some of our favorite #TasteWithSpace episodes in the coming days.