Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Blackened Whiskey. 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.
Vanity project or lightning in a bottle? It seems like every month another celebrity or band is collaborating with distilleries to create their own limited-release whiskey. The reviews are often middle of the road, and these whiskies often come across as a vanity project on part of the celebrity or a ploy on behalf of their marketing team to keep them in the limelight.
Although this is the admittedly cynical lens through which I’ve viewed these projects, I have to eat my words after trying Metallica’s collaboration with Blackened: Rye the Lightning. Whatever Metallica’s motivation to create their own rye, this is one of the most interesting and surprising whiskies I’ve had in a long time.
The limited edition Blackened Rye the Lightening (a riff on Metallica’s sophomore album Ride the Lightening) is a Kentucky straight rye double cask finished whiskey. The ryes used in this project were five to eight years old, vatted, and finished in Madeira wine and rum casks for 2-14 weeks each.
During the rum cask finishing, Blackened’s proprietary “BLACK NOISE” process is applied. The barrels are exposed to low hertz frequencies of Metallica’s music – the Ride the Lightening set from Metallica’s performance at the 2012 Orion Music + More Festival, to be exact. That was the only time the band performed the entire album live, although in reverse order from the album. The vibrations shake the barrel, resulting in greater interaction between the wood and the whiskey. The thought being this extracts more flavor and color than sitting in finishing barrels without the frequency playing.
Master Distiller and Blender Rob Dietrich is quoted in the press release explaining his thought behind using these two different casks: “I absolutely love the high spice and earthy notes in American rye whiskey! I wanted to play with those flavor profiles by bringing a symmetry of subtle flavor elements by combining not just one, but two different cask finishes to the whiskey, creating a complex balance of sweet and savory.”
Tasting Notes: Blackened Rye the Lightning
Vital Stats: 90 proof, made from whiskeys aged 5-8 years. Pricing is usually between $75-$130.
Appearance: The whiskey is a clear, rich amber.
Nose: Immediately you are hit with strong vanilla and toasted sugar. After that first wave, polished leather, mint, and crisp apple unfurl.
Palate: On the first sip, the palate is much less sweet than the nose. Earthy notes of dried grass and clover and walnut are present. The leather note is in the palate as well. The palate is softer at first, but crescendoes into a strong lingering finish of sweet tea and mint, with a tingling menthol sensation on the tongue. the sweet tea note becomes stronger the longer the whiskey is sipped.
This was a wonderfully complex whiskey that kept opening up every time I went back to it. As much as I think this whiskey will appeal to Metallica fans, there is much to recommend it outside of the band’s affiliation. I think it is worth the slightly higher price tag to check out.
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Larissa Banitt is a writer and nurse born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She's a foodie, whisk(e)y nerd, and animal lover. You'll often find her hiking with her dog, trail-riding with her horse, or crocheting with her cats.