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Bourbon Whiskey

Review: Bearface Is a Whisky That Reimagines the Barrel Influence

What we’re drinking: Bearface Elementally Aged Triple Oak Whisky

Where it’s from: A sourced single-grain whisky, Bearface is aged in hand-selected oak casks that are matured in repurposed shipping containers and exposed to the elements in the Canadian wilderness

Why we’re drinking this: How much effect does the barrel have on a whisky? We’ve asked this question before, but Bearface, which launched in 2018, takes that query to an extreme.

“Bearface is taking a very not complex whiskey [a sourced 100% corn mashbill] and creating something from it,” says Master Blender Andrés Faustinelli, a Diageo vet who has a vast background in not only whisky but rum, mezcal, beer and wine. “I’m trying to challenge the rules of how you make whisky and define it.”

To do that, Faustinelli puts every drop of Bearface through American, French and Hungarian casks and also moves the liquid from one part of Canada to another to utilize different climates. And that Canada part is important, even for a drinks vet who had no prior experience in the country.

“I wanted to use Canada because they have a less regulatory environment for whisky. I could make something different,” says Faustinelli. 

For Triple Oak, Bearface’s core release, a seven-year 100% corn whisky is matured in ex-bourbon American oak barrels, then “elementally aged” (that would be the shipping containers in the northern Canadian wilderness) in French oak red wine casks and air-dried virgin Hungarian oak — actually, three different toasted levels of Hungarian oak, which impart the whisky’s backbone and finish. “It was either buy younger rye stock and spice up the blend or take our budget and buy high-quality oak,” says the blender. 

How it tastes: There’s a lot of balance to Bearface — the corn notes are certainly up front, but you’ll get vanilla, orange, raspberry and caramel in the mid-palate and more of the spicy oak in the back (it does finish like a rye). And much like any good Canadian whisky, this is approachable and smooth, but also a little more complex than what you’d expect from a $30 whisky hailing from up north.

Fun fact: The more interesting but definitely harder-to-get one-offs from Bearface include the One Eleven Series, which highlights the sorta-secretive Canadian law that allows the blending of ten parts of whisky with one part of another spirit, wine or sherry (which is not allowed in other whisky styles — here, they used mezcal). More unusual is the Wilderness Series, which uses foraged Matsutake mushrooms that are cask-infused with a differently sourced (and obviously differently aged) Bearface whisky.

Where to buy: You can find Bearface Triple Oak for around $30-$45 at your local liquor store or via Drizly or ReserveBar.

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