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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon


I received a call from my daughter and trusty side-kick a few weeks back. “How much is too much to spend on one bourbon haul?” Well, that’s a loaded question … “What did you pick out?” She rattled off the list. “Well, that’s about $200”, I said. She didn’t believe me, but the receipt bore out the truth that my estimate was within 5% of the final total.

One of the bottles that had caught her eye was Blackened. The label looks a bit scary, but then began to read more about the story behind this unique product.

Forged by Sound

Blackened has an interesting story, one that bonds the rock band Metallica with a whiskey product crafted by Master Distiller Dave Pickerell. He attended West Point on a football scholarship, earning a degree in chemistry. Later, he attended the University of Louisville, garnering a master’s degree in chemical engineering. While Pickerell isn’t a household name today, over his 14-year stint as the Maker’s Mark Master Distiller, sales went from a sleepy distillery selling 175,000 cases annually to nearly a million cases annually. In 2008 he left Maker’s Mark, began consulting with a number of smaller distilleries, and is noted for founding the craft distilling movement. When he passed away late last year, he was serving as the master distiller for Whistle Pig Bourbon.Over the years, many have enjoyed his aging and finishing techniques.

In 2018, in collaboration with Metallica, Pickerell produced a 90-proof whiskey by blending straight whiskeys, including bourbons, ryes and whiskeys, finished in black brandy casks. As the casks are aged, low-frequency sound waves of the band’s music is applied to the barrels. According to the website, this Black NoiseTM causes the whiskeys to seep deeper into the barrel. Each run of 5,000 bottles comes with its own, unique playlist. The Blackened name is a reference to a song on Metallica’s 1988 album And Justice For All.

The Tasting

The bottle indicates 90 proof, but there is no evidence of a mashbill or age statement. The label states it was bottled by Sweet Amber Distilling of Shoreham, Vermont. My trusty sidekick paid $45 for this bottle.

Eye: Light copper.

Nose: Wood and spice, with some strong stone fruit notes, such as peach and apricot – presumably from the brandy cask finishing. There are some corn and grain notes, with some splashes of alcohol. I’ll swirl this glass a little more.

Palate: This seems young. Very thin, light, sweet, and fruit-forward. Wow! Fairly certain I caught some berry notes. Some caramel notes are present, too, but definitely something very different from the norm.

Finish: Short with a dash of spice and some lightly toasted grains. Nicely balanced.

Overall: This is maybe one to call up the playlist for your bottle and add a little more “finishing” as you finish the bottle. I have to confess that I wasn’t completely looking forward to this blend. I was expecting youth and alcohol-burn, but instead was greeted by something completely different.

Just in the last few days, Rob Dietrich, master distiller at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, has been named as Dave’s successor. I wish Rob luck – he will have big shoes to fill with Dave’s passing. I wish the price-point was a little lower – I’m not sure this is a $45 whiskey. Though, perhaps, it might just be fitting to snag a bottle and raise a glass to Dave Pickerell, a true whiskey rockstar.

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