Yes, it's as smooth as his voice.
Michael Bublé is a pop star renowned for his dulcet tones. He has no less than five Grammy Awards to show for it. Now, the Canadian singer/songwriter is promising fans a liquid as smooth as his enviable croon.
Earlier this month, he launched Fraser & Thompson Whiskey. And we know what you’re thinking: another day, another celebrity spirit. It’s a point well-taken, even by its conspicuous co-founder. But with this 84-proof blend of American and Canadian grain spirits, Bublé is putting his name behind something truly unique. He’s also refreshingly honest about his involvement in the upstart brand.
“One of my favorite things about doing this is not knowing what I’m talking about,” he tells Food and Wine, with an unapologetic self-awareness. “I’m just a Canadian hockey-loving dude who got very lucky to be partnered up with incredibly cool whiskey nerds.”
The key nerd in the arrangement is his fellow Canuck—and now-business partner—Paul Cirka. Back in 2014, the spirits industry vet opened an eponymous craft distillery in Montreal. Since that time, he’s been tirelessly building up a stockpile of some of the best rye and corn-based whiskies born and barreled north of the border.
Bublé first came across the juice in 2020 when his manager brought him a few cases and suggested he become an ambassador for the label. The showman was no stranger to partnerships; he had worked with legacy brands such as Rolex and Pepsi for years. But when he sampled Cirka’s range of products, it tickled him in a different type of way. He immediately got a hold of its owner and told him he wanted to go in on the venture with skin in the game. Not long after, he was signing paperwork to make it happen.
“It represented a new era in my life,” he recalls of that fateful moment. “I’ve been the ambassador for some incredible companies. But this was the first time that I’d ever reached out to be an entrepreneur.”
With Bublé attached, the distillery began to attract the interest of marquee names from the spirits space — folks who command as much regard in their respective industry as Bublé does in entertainment. They included people like Shelly Stein, one of the biggest players in booze distribution, and Max Shapira, president of Heaven Hill, the largest independent, family-owned distillery in the United States.
Together, these trusted tastemakers came up with the idea to combine Canadian corn, rye, and malt whiskies with a small portion of Kentucky bourbon. The resulting blend of all these distillates was matured in first-fill American white oak barrels. It holds a robust, molasses-like sweetness in its nose, but goes down easy as velvet, with vanilla in the finish. Ultimately, the drink flaunts a level of sophistication not always apparent in $30 bottles of booze.
It's also worth noting that in its 88-year history, Heaven Hill has never entered into a collaboration of this kind. It speaks to an emphatic trust it places in Cirka as the chief blender of the endeavor.
"Listen, when it comes down to it, celebrity is going to help get this thing on people's minds, but the truth is the real star is Paul Cirka," Bublé readily admits. "He's made this a wonderful, delicious, smooth drink. He went over the blend, tinkering with it for three years to get it perfect. I like to drink it and, also ... I like money. So this is perfect for me!"
Bublé, to earn his paycheck, took the lead in naming the new product. At first, he wanted to incorporate a musical theme, but everything he thought of sounded somewhat forced — or even corny. Ultimately, he was reminded of cherished childhood memories shared with his grandfather.
"He would always take me to this place up the coast in British Columbia," he says. "There was a confluence of rivers there, and he would tell me that this is where the dirty, mighty Fraser met the glacial, clear Thompson. For him, I think it was a lesson about how two different kinds of people could come together and meet and create something so beautiful. When I remembered that, I knew I had it."
What he didn't know was how much he would have in common with Cirka as craftsmen. The process of creating music, it turns out, is not too far removed from that of whiskey making.
"You're blending notes and taking a million different things, and it's all just personal tastes," he says. "You take that instinct and your knowledge, and then when you're done, somehow all of these parts meet to create something that's unique and beautiful—and hopefully timeless. I build music the same way that I watched Paul put this juice together."
When asked to compare Fraser & Thompson to a specific style of music, Bublé doesn't hesitate to shout out some of his iconic idols: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bobby Darin. In other words, he thinks he's offering something unquestionably classic in the bottle. We'll soon see if whiskey fans are willing to sing the same praise.
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