Bearface Whisky cooperage toasting oak barrels
Bearface Whisky cooperage toasting oak barrels

What Andres Faustinelli does not know about whisky is almost not worth knowing. Over dinner at Per Se Social Corner, he regales the table with animated tales of how many trials it took to arrive at his wonderful new whisky, the Bearface One Eleven Oaxaca Release. First came Bearface itself, aged seven years, a fulsome, aromatic Canadian whisky, 100 per cent corn.  It is named Triple Oak, for the French, American and Hungarian casks it matures in. The Oaxaca release is the first in an intended series  of limited releases Faustinelli has in mind, and it is a resounding delight. The entire Bearface program is owned by Von Mandl Family Estates, better known for its wine holdings, which include Mission Hill Family Estate, Cedar Creek, Martin’s Lane and Check Mate. But proprietor Anthony von Mandl met and was impressed by, Faustinelli and the Bearface project came to life.

Bearface Canadian Whisky master blender Andres Faustinelli
Master Blender Andres Faustinelli
Bearface One Eleven Oaxaca
Bearface One Eleven Oaxaca

There is something called the “one-eleven rule” for Canadian whisky, in which ten parts whisky can be blended with one part of another spirit.

There is something called the “one-eleven rule” for Canadian whisky, in which ten parts whisky can be blended with one part of another spirit. Over the years, younger whiskies have been mellowed out, to varying degrees, any additions, most often such ingredients as apple, caramel, vanilla. But Bearface took a bold and imaginative new direction, forming a collaboration between Faustinelli  and Maestro Mezcalero Pedro Hernandez. The result is a marvellous, smooth, fragrant and formidable drink, with a sublime, smoky finish that goes on for hours. It is best taken with a tiny amount of ice and a splash of soda water. Neat is always okay, of course. “The mescal on its own is wonderful,” says Faustinelli. “It is made in extremely small batches, not really a commercial product at all, strictly artisanal. We obtained some barrels of it, and began the process of blending, to find the magic balance of age, oak, and spirit.”

Bearface Oaxaca, served with one cube of ice and a splash or two of soda water, matches extremely well with spicier foods, like Per Se’s grilled chorizo alongside a dish of patatas bravas.

At first, the mescal was actually dominating the palate, so simply blending 7-year-old Bearface with it was not going to work. The eventual solution came with a 4-year-old whisky, aged in Hungarian oak. The mescal is blended in, and that spirit goes into French oak, featuring two different toasts, or chars.  Faustinelli was born in Venezuela, where whisky culture dominates the beverage industry. So, cocktails with the meal, or even straight pours of various spirits, but mostly whisky, are the norm. Bearface Oaxaca, served with one cube of ice and a splash or two of soda water, matches extremely well with spicier foods, like Per Se’s grilled chorizo alongside a dish of patatas bravas.  Give it a try; you will not be sorry.

This Limited Release is a must-have for any whisky aficionado. It is so delicious, and can be served in so many different contexts, that it might be wise to buy two.

Bearface Canadian Whisky cooperage oak barrels
Bearface Canadian Whisky cooperage oak barrels
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James Tobler was Editor first of NUVO and then MONTECRISTO magazines, over a period of 20 years. He edited and wrote the Passport blog for Kiwi Collection for its first two years as well. He has written four cookbooks, with the chefs, for Araxi, Blue Water Cafe, West, and Cin Cin. He has contributed to a wide variety of publications, including The Globe and Mail, Okanagan Life, Fox News Lifestyle, and Wine Access magazine, where he was Managing Editor. He currently works with Mark Taylor on Gem City Guide, and, now, Inside Spirits magazine.

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