Those who take risks in the whiskey world are sometimes rewarded with solid bottle sales and longevity of a product line. In the case of Blackened American Whiskey, it also doesn’t hurt the brand is associated with legendary music band Metallica, originally crafted by legendary master distiller Dave Pickerell and now overseen by former Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey whiskey making master Rob Dietrich.
The core consideration of this expression is the use of low hertz frequencies from Metallica’s music to influence the aging of Blackened in barrels through a “proprietary sonic-enhancement process.” This process is said to use the movement from the sound waves to extract more flavors from the wood. Said whiskey getting this “Black Noise” treatment is normally a blend of North American bourbons and ryes but, in the case of their latest release, Sweet Amber Distilling, the entity behind Blackened, has turned instead to beloved Kentucky distillery Willett for a fascinating new offering.
The new Blackened x Willett Straight Rye Whiskey Finished In Madeira Casks, according to those behind it, starts “with a base of low rye and high rye whiskey recipes that were hand-picked by Rob Dietrich and Willett Distillery’s Master Distiller, Drew Kulsveen, from the Willett Family Estate Reserve Selection. The two tasted and experimented with a number of whiskeys before landing on the recipes that would create the perfect flavor profile. Aged for an average of 6.5 years in white American oak casks, the complexity of the whiskey balances perfectly, gracing the nose with hints of sweet rhubarb, brown sugar, corn husk, cigar box, and vanilla. The first sip liberates the palate with notes of buttery caramel, earthy mint, and fresh-cut hay, rolling into a superb finish with vanilla, cinnamon butter, and dark walnut.
“After the rye whiskeys are married together, they are finished in Madeira casks for up to 14 weeks. Madeira is a fortified wine made on the Portuguese Madeira islands and receives its unique taste from repeatedly heating the wine. The casks impart subtle dark fruit notes, overtones of honey, and slightly sweeter flavors of caramel and cinnamon that pair perfectly with the spicier notes of the rye. The expression is bottled at cask strength (109.6 proof – 54.8% ABV).
“During finishing, the whiskey undergoes the proprietary Black Noise sonic enhancement process in which the finishing barrels are pummeled by the low hertz frequencies of Metallica’s music. The sound waves visibly shake the finishing barrels, causing a greater interaction between the whiskey and the wood, thereby extracting more flavors and colors.”
There’s a lot of back story as to how this collaboration came to being. For one thing, the late Pickerell not only helped to build the Blackened brand – known for helping dozen of craft whiskey entrepreneurs during his time, he consulted as well with Willett and the Kulsveen family. It eventually came to being that when Blackened “was looking for a location to shoot its brand video, the Kulsveens graciously lent their distillery. It was then that Dave introduced the Blackened team to the Kulsveens, setting the foundation for this collaboration.
“Metallica met the Kulsveens and the distillery team when the band was in Louisville for its WorldWired tour. The band received a first-hand look at Willett’s production, christened the distillery’s new restaurant with a delectable meal, and bonded with the Kulsveens over fine cigars. The rest, as they say, is history.”
The Blackened x Willett Straight Rye Whiskey Finished In Madeira Casks, pricing around $140, is the first in a new “Masters of Whiskey Series.” It will bring together the strengths of Dietrich and other “renowned whiskey makers” to create original and “more complex” expressions.
“We couldn’t think of a more impactful first release for the series than a collaboration with Willett Distillery,” said Dietrich in a prepared statement. “I wanted the first expression in the series to be a rye, and as a huge fan of Willett and everything they produce, I felt it was the obvious first choice. I couldn’t be more honored to work with Drew and the great team at Willett Distillery. Our connections to Dave brought everything full circle, and when I was working with Drew and the Kulsveens, it was almost like being welcomed back. I’m extremely excited by what we’ve accomplished, and I hope our fans and the whiskey enthusiasts of the world will enjoy this whiskey as much as Drew and I have!” ”
We are thrilled to congratulate Rob and the Blackened team on this inaugural release of what will certainly be a unique series of whiskeys,” said Kulsveen. “Frankly, I have had a good time collaborating with Rob on this project. We realized early on that we both shared a vision for the flavor we hoped to achieve in the blend and we are eager to share what we have come up with.”
“The original idea with Blackened was to create something new, exciting, and unique that connected with both our fans and whiskey enthusiasts — something that stood on its own and was hopefully respected,” said Metallica Co-founder and Drummer, Lars Ulrich said. “The next step was to expand on Blackened’s foundation, to push the possibilities of the marriage of music and whiskey even further. When we visited Willett Distillery in 2019 and saw the passion and craftsmanship that goes into every drop they produce, we knew we had found kindred spirits.”
This whiskey will be available in limited quantities. For the curious, the Metallica playlist to serenade the barrels for this release is provided below by the brand.
- For Whom The Bell Tolls
- Master of Puppets
- King Nothing
- Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
- Dyers Eve (Remastered)
- Broken, Beat & Scarred
- The Thing That Should Not Be
- Atlas, Rise!
- Of Wolf and Man
- One (Remastered)
- Enter Sandman
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...