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The rich and enveloping flavours of an old-fashioned cocktail that included porcini mushrooms inspired Andres Faustinelli to join foragers in British Columbia’s Monashee Mountains. They gathered a wide variety of interesting and edible ingredients – including leaves, moss, mushrooms – to see how their flavours would interact with Bearface’s whisky.
Hiking down the mountain, the master blender’s backpack was filled with little bottles containing collected ingredients preserved in high proof whisky. The results from that expedition in October, 2020 set Faustinelli’s sights on the matsutake mushroom as the first release in Bearface’s new limited-edition portfolio, the Wilderness Series.
“It’s interesting because, like the truffle, the matsutake can be consumed raw. You don’t need to cook it,” he said in an interview. “It brings an umami note to the whisky without overpowering it.” (Umami is the fifth basic taste, commonly described as meaty or savoury.)
“It’s a different concept, a different approach, a different conversation,” Faustinelli added. “It’s trying to give a whisky a footprint of a place in time.”
For that reason, he says this edition of the Wilderness Series will not be produced again.
“The next release will focus on something else because this is something that’s hard to do,” Faustinelli explained. “It’s hard to repeat these flavours. What I captured is related to a specific type of cask and a specific type of mushroom grown in British Columbia in the Kootenays in October, 2021.”
Canadian whisky regulations allow producers to blend 10 parts whisky with up to one part of another spirit, wine or sherry. In this instance, it’s the addition of cask aged mushroom-infused whisky. For another produce line, Bearface produced a whisky called 1:11, which blends Canadian whisky with one part Oaxaca agave spirit.
“When people think of Canadian whisky, I want them to think of innovation,” said Faustinelli. “Our rules are unique and allow for a broader range of whiskies. I think we can play within the rules to do something different.”
Currently available in Ontario, The Wilderness Series: Matsutake Release retails for $49.95. It will be released in coming weeks in other provinces, with the exception of Quebec.