Beyond farming, distilling, and aging, we rarely consider all the steps that go into a dram of whisky. Things like cleaning, packaging, and shipping are all-important parts of the distilling process that often go overlooked by consumers. Proofing, where a whisky’s alcohol by volume of is adjusted using water, is one of the most essential, least heralded steps. But ask any distiller, and they’ll tell you pure water of good provenance is essential to almost every aspect of distilling. And one distiller in particular thinks that a specific water source used during the proofing process can add inimitable flavours to whisky.
Under master blender Andres Faustinelli, Bearface Whisky has been exploring the whisky wilderness, figuratively and literally, since the beginning. By aging outdoors in shipping containers, its “Elemental Ageing” process, Bearface whisky is exposed to weather extremes. Now, with the most recent offering in its Wilderness Series, Mitlenatch Island Release 02, Bearface heads to the Pacific Ocean, exploring how different types of water can add flavour during the proofing process.
Proofing is usually done with the water source nearest to the distillery, but the Mitlenatch Island Release 02 is made with water retained from the maplewood smoking process used by artisanal salt makers in coastal B.C. Leading with a funky wine-like nose, there is little to suggest that a special source of water went into this whisky upon first smell. However, on the palate there is an almost textural saltiness that gives way to smoky, vegetal, and, on the finish, caramel qualities. When it comes to these flavours, the proof is in the proofing.