Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Bearface. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Bearface Triple Oak Whisky is a whisky (a blend of 99.5 per cent corn and 0.5 per cent malted barley) from Canada. It is distilled in Ontario by an unnamed distiller and then travels to a winery in British Columbia. In an interview, Bearface Master Blender Andres Faustinelli talks about his philosophy in crafting the Bearface Triple Oak 7 Year Canadian Whisky. His process, in a way, starts at the opposite manner of how bourbon or single malt are usually crafted.
While a lot of bourbon producers and many other distillers concentrate on each element from start to finish, including the grain and intricacies of the distilling process, with a focus on maturation and aging, Faustinelli starts with an already matured seven-year-old corn whisky as a somewhat neutral blank canvas to work with. Then he uses finishing barrels and blending to create the taste profile he wants. And again, in a departure from standard practices in bourbon, the whisky is sent to the winery where the finishing casks come from, rather than those wine casks going to a distiller.
There, they finish the whisky in different barrels in what is called “Elemental Ageing,” in an area they call “the bear country” in the Canadian eilderness (hence the Bearface label). According to Bearface, “Elemental Ageing” is “our unique process where hand-selected oak casks are matured in repurposed shipping containers and exposed to the elements in the Canadian wilderness. Our extreme northern climate amplifies how the whisky and wood interact, transforming the liquid inside for a bolder, smoother flavor. From freezing -10°C cold to searing 40°C heat, the temperatures can fluctuate wildly in a single day under steel.”
According to Faustinelli, “Canada is the perfect playground because you don’t have the regulations.” Though the relaxed attitude of Canadian whisky regulations compared to those of bourbon or Scotch might lead some bottlers to cut corners, it also allows blenders like Faustinelli to create very unique products and use many innovations.
As the name suggests, Bearface Triple Oak 7 Year Canadian Whisky is aged in three different casks. The original corn whisky was aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels. This imparts notes of honey, butter and natural vanilla. Then it is aged in select French oak casks that held Bordeaux red wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc), which impart a red color and hints of dry fruits and cranberry. The result is then aged in air-dried virgin Hungarian oak. After being air-dried for three years, the virgin Hungarian oak is toasted three ways – medium, medium + and heavy (note these are toasted, not charred). Hungarian oak finishing is a powerful component and it brings in spicy and oaky notes and adds complexity.
Also a note is that the bottle is beautiful, and has what looks like bear claw slashes. This whisky won 2019 Best Canadian Whisky award and also Double Gold at the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition in 2021.
Tasting Notes: Bearface Triple Oak
Vital stats: Bearface Triple Oak is a corn-based whisky that is aged at least seven years in ex-bourbon American oak barrels in Ontario, then travels to B.C. to spend time in former wine barrels from Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, and is then finally finished in Hungarian oak. It has a mash bill of 99.5% corn and %0.5 barley.
Nose: The aroma of red wine, but not overpowering, as well as sweet corn and oak. The nose is mellow.
Palate: It has a solid, strong palate for a lower proof whisky. The wine notes are not overpowering, but definitely round up the middle palate. It has nice oak and is very smooth and creamy with some spice. It has a medium long finish, and is rich but not overly complicated.
This is a very smooth, decently complex and unique whisky from Canada that is a joy to drink. It has more bite and complexity than most standard Canadian whiskies and complements a sweet base with touches of wine and oak. I can see this at a casual get together, or a slow relaxed evening where whisky is an integral part but not always the focus or bring it to a party to class it up.
You can enjoy Bearface Triple Oak 7 Year Canadian Whisky casually or sit with it in front of a fire place and contemplate the many steps master blender Faustinelli took to create this beautiful blend.