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This Umami-Packed Whiskey Is Distilled With Gourmet Mushrooms

This Umami-Packed Whiskey Is Distilled With Gourmet Mushrooms

Pipe tobacco. Caramel. Baking spices. Honey. The spectrum of flavors a talented whiskey maker can conjure from distillation and wood alone is impressive, but rarely do descriptors like umami, petrichor (the smell after a warm rain), or funk enter the conversation. Yet those are the perfect descriptions for the newest experimental release from Bearface Whisky, a renowned Canadian distillery that Cool Material has highlighted before.

Matsutake Release 01 is infused with matsutake—a deliciously woodsy, umami-packed mushroom that flourishes in the lush forests of British Columbia. The whiskey is a mahogany-colored nectar brimming with barrel flavors, whiffs of the woods, and undertones of mushroomy funkiness. Matsutake Release 01 is worthy of drinking neat, especially given its one-of-a-kind flavor profile, but here is a whiskey that absolutely slaps in an old-fashioned, Manhattan, or whiskey-based holiday warmer.

ABV: 42.5 percent (85 proof)
Price: $44.99
Where it’s available: Find a store using the brand’s locator

The Origin of Bearface Whisky Matsutake Release 01

outdoor aging of bearface whisky in canadian wilderness

Credit: Bearface Whisky

Upon moving from Venezuela to Canada, Andres Faustinelli, head distiller at Bearface Whisky, obsessed over the question of how to express the damp, sylvan terroir of British Columbia in his spirits. After tinkering with a range of one-off ingredients from forest and sea—moss, sea urchins, even tree bark—he stumbled, quite literally, across the silver bullet while hiking through the forest: matsutake mushrooms. A bulbous mushroom found in rainy pine forests in North America and Asia, matsutake has long been prized in Japan for both its rich flavor and heath benefits.

In a nod to old-school American bourbons, Matsutake Release 01’s mash bill is comprised entirely of corn. Aligned with his mission to capture British Columbia’s terroir, Bearface first ages the whiskey for the Matsutake Release 01 in barrels stacked in shipping containers deep in the Canadian forest (an exposed-to-the-elements aging method Bearface calls “elemental aging”). The whiskey spends its first two years in barrels that previously held wine and sherry, picking up delicate sweet notes, and then it’s blended for a robust color and round flavor profile. The outdoor aging process allows the pronounced seasonal temperature swings to work their magic, pulling the whiskey in and out of the sweet sherry wood. The devil’s cut, the whiskey absorbed by the barrels, is much larger than that of whiskey aged in temperate climates, lending the final product rich and well-developed flavors as well as a deep ruddy-brown hue.

For Faustinelli, British Columbia was the ideal location for his distillery not only because of the western Canadian province’s excellent water and grains but also due to Canada’s less stringent regulations for whiskey production.

“Whereas American distillers have to follow precise—and, at times, stifling—rules to be able to call their product whiskey, Canada is much more relaxed about what can be marketed as whiskey,” Faustinelli says. “Thus, I can freely add experimental ingredients like matsutake, and I can tinker with different woods and aging style.” In addition to his Matsutake Release 01, Fausteneli crafts an equally compelling vintage, Triple Oak, using a combination of American oak, Hungarian oak, and ex-red wine barrels—an unorthodox method of aging verboten in whiskey production below the 49th Parallel.

What Does Bearface Whisky Matsutake Release 01 Taste Like?

Matsutake mushrooms used to make bearface whisky

Credit: Bearface Whisky

Imagine hiking through an old-growth Canadian forest after a light rainfall. The damp forest floor is redolent with the fragrance of petrichor, those heady aromas of earth, moss, and wet stone. On a comfortable-looking felled tree, you cop a squat and break out a flask filled with bourbon—maybe a pour of Buffalo Trace or Angel’s Envy. As you savor the whiskey, the pleasant reek of the forest tickles your olfactory bulbs, subtly melding with the spirit’s aftertaste. Pour a glass of Matsutake Release 01, and you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

Despite its high ABV of 42.5 percent, Bearface drinks as smoothly as Canadian spring water gurgling forth from a granite boulder. The corn adds a gentle sweetness to the liquor, and, as the whiskey’s dark brown color suggests, well-articulated barrel notes like vanilla, nutmeg, and, most of all, cinnamon shine through brilliantly. Subtle but titillating are hints of peach and apricot, a fruity bouquet reminiscent of the bottom of a jam jar. The matsutake adds hints of funk and umami on the back of the tongue, but the mushroom flavors—savory and earthy—hit mostly as a coda after the pleasant symphony of barrel and fruit flavors.

Why You Should Add Matsutake Release 01 to Your BarCart

Matsutake mushroom

Credit: Bearface Whisky

Sure, your bar cart already boasts the tried-n-true stalwarts: A few of Kentucky’s greatest hits, a smokey heavyweight or two from Scotland, perhaps a treasure from Japan. But, then again, so does everyone else’s. Bearface comes in handy when you want to sip something quirky and unorthodox but is nonetheless masterfully crafted. Even without the novelty of the matsutake, this whiskey easily holds its own on traditional merits like meticulous distilling, expert aging, and expressive barrel flavors.

Also, with the holidays and snowy season fast approaching, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better spirit to jazz up wintertime elixirs like hot toddies, old-fashioneds, or penicillins. Faustinelli recommends mixing Matsutake Release 01 into any cocktail with L’Orgeat, the bitter-sweet orange liqueur that lends a citrusy zip to mai tais and margaritas. The delicate mushroom funk combines marvelously with smokey and sweet spirits. Try it in tiki cocktails for a wondrous sweet-umami flavor bomb.

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