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Water of Life - Metallica’s Blackened and Waitui from New Zealand

“…fire to begin whipping dance of the dead – Blackened is the end….” - Well, certainly not the end of celebrity and band inspired spirit creations as they are mushrooming at a pace that it proves hard to keep track of.

However, the question more often than not is if those often gimmicky liquids are actually of drinkable quality or if they mainly serve as another novelty merch item for dedicated fans to display on their mantlepiece.

What separates BLACKENED from other celebrity endorsed spirits is that fact that its creation is based on a true collaboration between Metallica and two veritable masters of craft in the realm of distilling and blending, i.e. the late Dave Pickerell and Rob Dietrich, both of which have created quite a legacy with how they have become known to channel their alchemy when it comes to craft distilling, e.g. by being the creative heads behind Maker’s Mark and Whistle Pig’s liquid emissions.

Apart from the underlying concept of creating a blended spirit equivalent to Metallica, this collaboration takes things a step further by literally giving it an idiosyncratic note: During the final stages of aging, the whiskey barrels were sonically assaulted by a Metallica playlist via a specifically created “Black Noise” sound system in a bid to literally shake things up and thereby imbue vibes to the process that would enhance interaction of the bourbon and rye blend with the charred former Brandy barrels with the result being the extraction of deeper flavours.

The efficacy and physics of the aforementioned process might be disputed by scientists, however, the result is an immensely enjoyable and unpretentious drop:

Bottled at an ABV of 45% , the stylishly and aesthetically well- crafted and nicely understated decorative vessel it is housed in pays homage to the Black Noise process via its label and each batch comes with an accompanying curated playlist of Metallica songs to enjoy it with.

Honey amber in appearance and with a distinctly creamy and slightly oily mouthfeel, BLACKENED tickles the nostrils upon approach with a melange of burnt caramel, plums and honeyed oak, rounded out by spicy highlights.

On the top of the mouth citrussy honey nuances take on centre stage courtesy of the inherent sweet profile of the dominant bourbon component, flanked by spicy cinnamon, apricots, baking spicy and clove notes derived from the rye, to then culminate in a deliciously elongated finish, reminiscent of cognac and dominated by burnt butter, an intriguing saline aspect, caramelized sugar and molasses.

A well-balanced very decent sipper with a complex flavour profile that holds its own and does not need to rely on the celebrity endorsement.

In Oceania, BLACKENED is available from the fine people of Groglords, which offer a wide array of well-selected band endorsed quality spirits, along with specifically designed limited edition merch, e.g. an Australian exclusive Metallica x BLACKENED shirt designed by Sindy Sinn.

Waitui Whiskey

As part of this series I have covered the Australian whiskey landscape far and wide and while there is no vestige of the mushrooming of new boundary pushing distilleries ebbing at any time soon, I am always excited when I get to sample something new from across the Tasman, i.e. New Zealand, which at least for me is largely uncharted territory in the spirits realm.

We have covered and praised the excellent handcrafted emissions from the family owned Kiwi Spirits Distillery before, so needless to say that when a package from the Golden Bay of New Zealand’s South Island arrived, containing their latest 8-year old Waitui Whiskey expression, I was giddy with a excitement as the family’s credo is firmly focussed on creating quality over quantity.

What I loved about previous incarnations of Waitui is that all ingredients are locally sourced, i.e. garden to glass, and produced in small batches without any additives, spending eight years in two-hundred litre barrels that previously were used by local monks to create a Pavlovian response evoking, lip-smacking delicious honey mead. The fact that previous Waitui incarnations only got better over time, once they interacted with air, only adds to the appeal.

Now, channelling one’s alchemy in the realm of honey malt whiskeys can be tricky, as the honey aspects can easily run danger of overshadowing finer nuances, so it is good to see that with Waitui, things are on the more subtle side of things:

What tickles the nostrils upon approach is a pronounced fruitiness reminiscent of fruitcake, backed by a melange of honeyed oak and cinnamon, which seamlessly transitions to the palate where via a delicate oily mouthfeel, dark chocolatey nuances are married with the distinct New Zealand malted barley notes, i.e. nutty and faintly smoky notes with cocoa characteristics, and an interesting peppery heat.

The elongated finish reverberates for days and leaves on lusting for another dram.

A beautiful, unique creation that given its quality, makes me wonder what facets could be added if it was bottled at cask strength instead of the tame 40% it is currently being made available with.


images from company websites

T • February 14, 2022

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