Courtesy of Sweet Amber Distilling Co.

The “sonic-enhanced” Blackened will be released next month.

Mike Pomranz
August 31, 2018

Metallica—previously of coffee and beer fame—forged a reputation as a seminal thrash metal band thanks to their unique sound—mixing imposing volumes and tempos with equally adept craftsmanship. So when Metallica set out to release their own whiskey, it’s only fitting that the spirit wasn’t just barrel-aged, but also sound-aged to their own music.

The story behind Blackened, as the new whiskey is called, begins in a relatively straightforward fashion: It’s an American straight whiskey created by acclaimed master distiller and blender Dave Pickerell, who worked at Maker’s Mark before his current position at WhistlePig. But what truly makes Blackened a discussion-worthy addition to your liquor cabinet is “Black Noise”—billed as a patent-pending, “sonic-enhancement” process that uses Metallica’s music to help “shape the flavor” of the whiskey.

Pickerell says the idea behind Black Noise came from his days at West Point, home to the world’s largest church organ. When it hit its lowest note, “the whole building would tremble, it would really shake your guts,” Pickerell said. He suggested using these low-wave frequencies during the whiskey aging process, so Metallica turned to Meyer Sound who had already helped the band develop a special propriety subwoofer to amplify their low tones. The subwoofer hit exactly the frequencies Pickerell was looking for, and Blackened was off to the races.

Sweet Amber Distilling Co.

Metallica handpicked a playlist to energize their new whiskey and Meyer Sound worked with producer Sweet Amber Distilling Company to find a way “to envelop the barrels in music.” According to the brand, “the liquid is bathed in low hertz sound waves so intense that it actually intensifies the molecular interaction and ultimately the finish.”

Despite spending weeks being bombarded with heavy metal, Pickerell emphasizes that the whiskey is also aged by traditional means. “We’re not trying to cheat time,” he said. “This just kicks the finishing process up a notch. The sonic enhancements shake the whiskey molecules to their core. At a low-enough frequency, flavor elements start to work their way out of the barrels and into the blend.”

As for what those resulting flavor elements are, the brand writes that the honey-amber hued spirit has notes of “burnt caramel, oak and honey” on the nose and “moderate hints of spice upon first sip.” The taste includes “notes of honey, cinnamon, allspice, clove and mint, with unexpected hints of apricot lingering underneath” before “a long and smooth finish with slightly creamy hints of butterscotch taffy, maple and honey.”

“This is a whiskey that has our musical stamp,” Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett stated. “It’s something the world has not experienced before, and gives one the opportunity to truly ‘taste the music.’” To be fair, plenty of other alcoholic beverages have been aged with non-Metallica music from Wu-Tang beer to brandy aged while listening to the likes of Springsteen and Bowie. Though none of those involved Metallica’s proprietary subwoofer system either.

Blackened is planning to “be rolled out in limited markets by September 29,” just in time for Metallica’s Fall North American tour.

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