Food & Drink

Metallica's Music Literally Changed the Flavor of This Whiskey

It's Called "Sonic Enhancement," and Apparently It's a Thing You Can Do

By Sam Eichner ·

Some whiskies are finished with rum; others are finished with vermouth; others still are finished with IPAs.

This whiskey, however, is finished with the musical stylings of Metallica.

Yes, Metallica—the heavy metal band responsible for you head-banging to the point of whiplash—has used their music to literally alter the finish of a new American whiskey. The proprietary, patent-pending process is called “sonic enhancement,” and the resulting spirit is called Blackened. It’s available now, online and in select markets.

The wizard behind this dark magic is none other than Dave Pickerell, the Master Distiller of Whistle Pig who’s more or less responsible for making rye a thing. As a chemical engineer, Pickerell had long-considered the effect of sound waves on the distilling process. Fortunately for him, so had Metallica: together with their longtime collaborator, Meyer Sound, the band had already engineered a proprietary subwoofer that could amplify the low-frequency sound waves necessary for “sonic enhancement.” (It was a happy coincidence that much of Metallica’s music sits in this low-frequency range.)

Blackened begins as a combination of bourbons, ryes and whiskeys from all across North America, picked by Pickerell himself. After they’ve been blended, the concoction is placed inside black brandy casks for finishing.

That’s where the music comes in: using a playlist created by members of the band, Meyer Sound and Sweet Amber Distilling Co. “envelop” the barrels in music. So powerful are the low-frequency sounds that they catalyze the molecular interaction between the whiskey and the black brandy casks, thus yielding a more defined, woody character in the finished product. Think of it as a molecular lullaby, sung for two to ten weeks—except instead of putting the molecules to sleep, it jolts them into action.

The result of all this technological sorcery is a nose of burnt caramel, oak and honey, with initial notes of honey, cinnamon, allspice, clove and mint, as well as a long finish, defined by subtle hints of maple and honey. We hear it goes down particularly smooth where it feels most at home: a dark, gritty dive bar, with a playlist heavy on Metallica. 

Sam Eichner

Sam Eichner likes literature, reality television and his twin cats equally. He has consistently been told he needs a shave since he started growing facial hair.

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