"THE WILD WILD...NORTH" :: 5 QUESTIONS WITH ANDRES FAUSTINELLI :: BEARFACE WHISKY
THE WILD WILD…NORTH?
Over the past few weeks I have been familiarizing myself with BEARFACE, a 7- year Canadian single grain whisky that has journeyed through three different cask types. It starts in ex-bourbon American Oak, and then goes to bask in tight grained French Oak that once housed Mission Hill Family Estate Bordeaux style red wine before being finished with 3- year air dried Hungarian Oak, giving it a wee bit of spice. With Canada being the perfect platform for innovation due to more relaxed regulations, Canada’s Mark Anthony Brands saw a perfect opportunity to launch its first whisky brand where experimentation is encouraged. And they brought on just the guy fr the job! Andres Faustinelli, their Master Blender, is dedicated to using truly exceptional casks to highlight their influence, and finds opportunity to experiment with finishing in different varieties. He set out on this mission knowing he wanted to use the tools of the winemaker, not the whisky maker, in reference to the relationship the whisky has with the oak. I had the pleasure of asking him a few questions about Canadian whisky regulations, his own journey with BEARFACE, and wine!
Canada has some of the most relaxed regulations when it comes to whisky. Will you be using this to your advantage for further releases? Will there be much more experimentation down the line, and if so are there any particular mash bills or cask types you are looking forward to experimenting with?
Where some see relaxation, I see innovation. Canada offers a fantastic playbook for whisky making, with our new expressions we are really challenging ourselves and the playbook with very exciting results. Our experimentation is driven by flipping or reversing traditional whisky keywords so it’s unlikely that our expressions will be about the Mash or the Cask. Oak is not the only wood out there, Cask is not the only type of finish.
Will the Triple Oak be a permanent addition to the BEARFACE portfolio? Are you currently working on other permanent expressions for BEARFACE?
Yes! Triple Oak is our permanent BEARFACE expression. We are excited to be launching BEARFACE One Eleven next week, presenting a first in the Whisky world.
When it comes to the casks, I know you have mentioned that 75% of the whisky’s flavor comes from the wood. What are your thoughts on the importance of grain, its terroir, and the impact that has on the flavor of a whisky? And would you attribute that same percentage to wine, and if not, what makes the difference and why?
I think the importance of grain on flavour will grow, once we revive more crop varieties. For example, in Mexico you can still find black, red and green corn. But in the whisky world we continue to try and differentiate using the same genetically modified crop? Some terroir centric places are reviving wild grains, but this remains minimal given our overall use of grains. For me, whisky has lost its true terroir in general, but I think you can still offer a local touch by connecting the whisky to locally used wine casks soaked in years of terroir forward wines or climate conditions when ageing.
I know you have a rich history in the wine world. Do you believe this has given you an advantage in the world of whisky?
My passion for wine developed when I had the chance to work with winemakers. Being closer to the process of wine making created a big impact in me, it was a clear lead in exploring the use of virgin high quality oak in spirits. Involving Coopers from the wine world and winemakers was key to BEARFACE Triple Oak, asking the wrong people the right questions created a completely new view on whisky for me.
When you are building a flavor profile, like you did with the Triple Oak, what are the steps you took to choose the right casks? Did you have cask types in mind, or were you experimenting for some time before landing on French Oak (Red Wine) and Hungarian Oak?
When I work on a new blend the steps are not necessarily the same each time. It’s rarely about targeting a specific flavour profile, more often for me, it’s about chasing an idea, so I run trials. I sometimes discover new exciting and unexpected profiles. That ‘awe’ or ‘aha’ moment is usually a trigger for a new expression.
Triple Oak took 2 years of experimentation and more than 20 Casks, we first nailed the choice of the right Ex Wine Casks (trying French vs American and exploring the previous two vintages of wine varietals in them) we then worked on the finish by experimenting with Virgin Oak from different origins and toast levels; we landed in Hungarian and a blend of Heavy Toast for Texture and Smoke, Medium Plus Toast for Spice and Medium for Tannic / Dry finish structure.
It has been a treat to explore this whisky and learn that more experimentation is down the road for BEARFACE, like the soon to be released top secret One Eleven, which I hear is a first for Canadian Whisky. The Triple Oak was also awarded BEST NEW WHISKY at The Canadian Whisky Awards this year.
I’m hopeful that BEARFACE will be a brand that changes the perspective of Canadian whisky here in The States, and around the globe for that matter. I’m not saying that innovation automatically means success, but the hope that it will is enough for me to keep my fingers crossed, and BEARFACE has me feeling that it is definitely possible.
I snuck in a few bonus questions, too!
What are your go to whiskies to drink?
I like very Old Rye whiskies, especially those in European Casks and I have a passion for Peat!
Where did the BEARFACE name come from?
Brave attitude when it comes to our approach to Whisky making, we aim to be an open, unapologetic and proudly Canadian Whisky, BEARFACE the name just worked with that vision.
What does the future hold for Canadian whisky?
It remains bright as long as the possibilities for innovation and transparency are in place!! Canadian whisk(e)y regulations provide an ideal platform for this category to lead whisky innovation.
“At BEARFACE, our collective aim is to showcase how Canadian whisky can lead the whisky world through innovation and flavour.’’
**The Small Print: Thank you to Andres for taking the time to answer my questions, and to BEARFACE for providing the whisky for me to try! This in NO WAY sways my opinions, which are my own. All photos taken by me.
BEARFACE CANADIAN WHISKY