In Arts + Entertainment

Master of Puppets, Makers of Bourbon: Metallica Have Released Their Own Whiskey

In an age where musicians are releasing their own line of beverages left, right and centre (there’s already been a Bob Dylan whisky, a Foo Fighters beer and an AC/DC um, chardonnay), the news that Metallica has released their own whiskey barely raises an eyebrow. Except, this whiskey has been serenaded with a Metallica soundtrack, which enhances the flavour of the brown spirit.

Blackened is a whiskey collaboration between the band’s own distillery company, Sweet Amber Distiller, and Dave Pickerell, a renowned whiskey distiller from Maker’s Mark and WhistlePig. The blend is a combination of primarily, aged bourbon, and aged ryes and whiskeys, which are finished in black brandy casks for two to 10 weeks. Pre-casking, the spirit is sweet with honey and caramel; after time in the casks, the wood imparts an apricot note.

But here’s where things get interesting. The whiskey-makers strap subwoofers to the casks and press play on a bass-heavy Metallica playlist, curated by the current band members themselves. It’s claimed that the low-hertz vibrations cause the liquid molecules to move and “interact” with the cask walls, “pulling” the smoky-sweet flavours from the wood at a faster rate than non-serenaded whiskeys.

“If you can cause the interaction between the whiskey and the wood to be enhanced by sonic vibration, you can cause the whiskey to pull extra goodies out of the wood,” Pickerell told Rolling Stone. The result is a deeper, penetrating caramel note throughout the whiskey – burnt caramel, oak and honey on the nose; mild spice, honey and a lingering apricot flavour on the palate; and a smooth, slightly creamy finish.

This “sonic-enhancement” process, called Black Noise, is currently being patented by the band’s distillery. The process was inspired by Pickerell’s childhood days as an usher at his school’s church, and his fascination with the sonic force of the instrument’s gut-trembling bass notes. “I knew that ultra-low frequency has the energy to move molecules,” he told Esquire.

Skeptical? So was Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, until he studied the sonic-enhancement process himself, and tasted its results. According to Rolling Stone, he’s nicknamed the process the “mash pit”, referencing the energetic front-row dance area of hard rock gigs, and the “mashing” process of whiskey-making (where grains are stepped in hot water before being fermented and distilled).

There are eight batches of Blackened currently available. Blackened 81, named after the year that Metallica was formed, was finished with a 15-song soundtrack selected by all four band members (James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Trujillo). Batches 82 to 88 feature shorter playlists by individual band members (their version of the Irish song whiskey in the Jar features in the batch 84 playlist).

Currently, Blackened is for sale online for $US70, though delivery is only available to select US states. If you want to get your Australian paws on a bottle, your best placed to sign up to the Blackened newsletter for updates on international shipping … or become pals with a Californian.

(Lead and all images: Sweet Amber Distilling C0)

Published 11 December, 2018