Metallica Fuses with Willett Distillery to Create an Exclusive Rye

Blackened's Rob Dietrich (left) and Willett Distillery's Drew Kulsveen relax behind a bottle of the pair's new rye whiskey.
Blackened’s Rob Dietrich (left) and Willett Distillery’s Drew Kulsveen relax behind a bottle of the pair’s new rye whiskey. Michael Persico

Even the most hardcore of whiskey connoisseurs may have yet to experience Blackened American Whiskey’s exclusive new taste injection: Thrash metal.

Master Distiller’s Rob Dietrich at Blackened and Drew Kulsveen at the Willett Distillery teamed to combine rye whiskeys to create the first batch in Blackened’s new “Masters of Whiskey” Series. 

The legendary heavy metal band first introduced Blackened (so dubbed after an iconic track) in 2018 after collaborating with Meyer Sound to innovate a subwoofer that harnesses the resonant, visceral Metallica concert experience. The resulting Black Noise is a sonic enhancement that disrupts the barreled batch, increasing wood and whiskey interaction. The joint bourbon venture also forged with the late, legendary artisan craft distiller, Dave Pickerell. 

Dietrich took Blackened’s reins in 2018 after Pickerell sadly passed. Known as the “Johnny Appleseed” of craft distilling, Pickerell used his expertise to help dozens of entrepreneurs with small craft distilleries, one of which was Willett. The “Masters of Whiskey” series is in part an homage to the late master craftsman.

“As a huge fan of Willett and everything they produce, I felt it was the obvious first choice,” Dietrich said. “Our connections to Dave brought everything full circle. Working with the Kulsveens, it was almost like being welcomed back.”

Metallica first met Willett’s distillery team in 2019 when the band was in Louisville for its ongoing “WorldWired” tour. After the rockers received a first-hand look at Willett’s production and christened the distillery’s new restaurant with tasty grub and fine cigars, they decided it was time to team up. 

“The next step was to expand on Blackened’s foundation to push the possibilities of the marriage of music and whiskey even further,” Metallica drummer and co-founder Lars Ulrich said. “When we saw the passion and craftsmanship that goes into every drop (Willet) produces, we knew we had found kindred spirits.”

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Aged for about six and a half years in white American oak casks, the complexity of the whiskey graces the nose with hints of sweet rhubarb, brown sugar, corn husk, and cigar box. The first sip liberates the palate with notes of buttery caramel, earthy mint, and fresh-cut hay, rolling into a vanilla, cinnamon butter and dark walnut finish. 

After aging, the rye is finished in Madeira casks for up to 14 weeks. The fortified wine is fermented on the Portuguese Madeira islands, earning a distinct flavor after repeated reheats. The casks impart subtle dark fruit notes, overtones of honey and sweeter caramel and cinnamon together with rye’s spicy notes and Metallica’s noir tunes.

The 11-track Black Noise playlist, chosen by Dietrich, Kulsveen, and Ulrich, features some of the band’s most enduring hits.

The first brew in Blackened’s new “Masters of Whiskey” series, (with new collaborations ahead) arrives with a suggested retail price of $139.99. You can find locations at blackenedwhiskey.com

Read More: Metallica and Whiskey with Rob Dietrich

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