For some, it will be a welcome arrival after a six-year wait. For others, it will be keepsake that won’t be opened, but something that’s passed down. Some may only savour it on very special occasions.
After all, there are special-edition whiskey releases, and then there’s The Beast Wildfire Whisky.
This past week, distiller Bryce Parsons, who oversaw the six-year process, joined members of the Fort McMurray Fire Fighters to fill and label bottles at Lone Pine Distilling in south Edmonton. Parsons, from Last Best Brewing and Distilling, and Spike Baker (head brewer at Jasper Brewing Co.) collaborated on a project that saw them salvage a pallet of peated malt that was exposed to the heavy smoke of the Fort McMurray wildfire. They decided to make a whiskey that would, in essence, capture the smoke and flavour of the fire that devastated the community.
Six years ago, chances to own a bottle of this once-in-a-lifetime release were auctioned off, raising $100,000 for charity. A total of 200 bottles will be set aside for Fort McMurray’s firefighters. And Lone Pine, being a friend in the distilling business, offered its space in which the project could be finished.
“The whiskey is absolutely fantastic,” said Parsons, who is also the president of the Alberta Craft Distillers Association. “I am super-happy with it. The character is exactly what we were going for. It’s unique in portraying the character of the forest fire, when we first started distilling it, and adding the characters of aging of the original barrels that we used.”
He said the peated malt, which was outside of the now-closed Wood Buffalo Brewing Company, was uniquely “double smoked.” There’s a sweetness to the peat, but, the flames from the forest fire added a campfire profile to the flavour mix. The combination of elements led to what Parsons called a minty flavour that separated this batch from a Scottish style peated malt.
“There’s very few things, six years later, that can evoke memories from back then. I think of aroma and taste, and bringing that into a product. Whiskey lasts a lifetime. It doesn’t spoil, it doesn’t have a shelf life. Unlike things that burned, that needed to be replaced, this whiskey holds up the character of what was happening back then. I believe time can heal, and we’re happy to make an offering, and the people who invested in this project look at it as such. It’s something they keep for a lifetime, maybe give to the next generation, or just come back to bottle and reflect on that part of their lives.”
All the bottles are currently spoken for. But there is some of the batch left, and all Parsons would say was that it would be held back for some special projects down the road. He’s launching a new distillery in Jasper, soon.
There will be a launch event for the whiskey Dec. 3 in Fort McMurray.
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