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Metallica, like many other bands, expanded their portfolio by entering the spirit game with their brand Blackened American Whiskey. Since launching in 2018, Blackened American Whiskey has won a number of awards and has introduced a variety of offerings with their latest being a Kentucky straight rye double cask finished whiskey aptly named Rye The Lightning.

At the helm of Rye The Lightning is Master Distiller & Blender Rob Dietrich, a man who loves the craft of making whiskey as much as he loves music. Dietrich boasts a vinyl collection of about 2,500 records. In addition to working for Bill Graham Presents in San Francisco for about a decade, Dietrich once worked as a stagehand and as a rigger at a Denver Metallica show in 1996. Dietrich would become the Master Distiller for Blackened in 2019 following the untimely passing of the brand’s original Master Distiller and co-founder Dave Pickerell.

“It was kind of this full circle experience of coming back to my rock and roll roots and combining my passion for making whiskey and music and being able to take up the honorable position of the Master Distiller for Blackened Whiskey,” said Dietrich.

Even if you didn’t know Dietrich’s impressive background, his killer mutton chops are a dead giveaway of the type of badass guy he is.

Rob Dietrich and Rye The Lightning

Seriously…just look at this dude! (Photo courtesy of Blackened American Whiskey)

So, when it comes to Rye The Lightning, what should would-be-drinkers keep in mind ahead of their first taste? Here are five things to know before trying Metallica’s latest spirit.

  • 1. This is a 'Sipper.'

    Rye the Lightning is meant to be enjoyed straight. Dietrich says that either on the rocks or neat is ideal noting, “We’re all adults, you know. You get to drink the whiskey the way you like to drink it.” However, the master distiller does have a process for enjoying Rye the Lightning or any other whiskey:

    First and foremost, you can nose knows the whiskey…kind of leaving your lips slightly parted and breathing it through your nose and your mouth at the same time, studying all the aroma of the whiskey. And then from that point, I suggest taking a sip, rolling around the sides in your tongue in the inside your mouth. That acclimates your mouth. Take a second sip. You’re going to get a lot more of the flavor from it. And then maybe add the tiniest little dash of water and that’ll help the whiskey open up bloom. And that really gives you the identity of the whiskey.”

  • 2. If you must make a cocktail, here's Rob's suggestion.

    While Rye the Lightning is meant to be enjoyed on its own, Dietrich says that if you must make a cocktail with it, he recommends an Old Fashioned.

    I do like cocktails when I’m in the mood,” said Dietrich. “There is an Old Fashioned recipe that I like that uses brown sugar, simple sirup, luxardo cherry and black walnut bitters, which I feel like are like this really good balance against like a high rye whiskey, which is what this whiskey is.”

  • 3. Pairing Rye the Lightning with food? Be game for game.

    If you’re looking to pair Rye the Lightning with food, Dietrich says, “This is probably a little obscure for some people, but I’m a hunter. I love venison. Venison or elk. If you have access to a good venison steak or can smoke a good venison roast, you’re getting all the treats of all the things. That’s what I would lean towards.”

  • 4. Yes, the 'Black Noise' sonic enhancement process is more than a gimmick.

    For anyone familiar with the Blackened American Whiskey brand, you may have heard about the “Black Noise” sonic enhancement process in which Blackened Whiskey barrels are played various Metallica playlists as part of the aging process. For Rye The Lightning, the special playlist used was of Metallica’s only live performance of the Ride The Lightning album in its entirety — and in reverse track order — from the June 2012 Orion Music + More festival.

    While the laymen may think this process is just a marketing ploy, there is actual science to “Black Noise.” In fact, when the process was initially tested, Dietrich said barrels that were treated with “Black Noise” had elevated profile and color markers.

    So, how does “Black Noise” work?

    “The best way to really describe it for anyone who wants to really understand it is if you’ve ever been to a concert and you’ve walked by the speakers and you feel that vibration in your chest and the actual movement in your body, that is what we are mimicking inside the whiskey barrel,” explains Dietrich.

    He continues, “When you’re aging a whiskey, there’s a char on the inside of the barrel. So, during the heat of the day, the pores of the wood are open, and the whiskey is moving into the wood. It’s picking up all those natural sugars and flavors from that that caramelized band of sugar in there. And during the cold at night, the pores close up. It puts the whiskey back in the belly. It’s almost like this living, breathing, moving thing inside the barrel.”

    Dietrich adds, “When you add ‘Black Noise’ sonic enhancement, for example, if you look at the bottle of Blackened and you see that that soundwave on the front, that is a physical representation of the movement of sound. So, if you think about that, that movement, those peaks and valleys, all that is happening inside the barrel. So now it’s moving to each individual song. Each individual note is moving in at that rapid pace. So. all these subtle changes are happening to the whiskey during that process.”

  • 5. Get your hands on a bottle while you still can.

    Rye the Lightning is a limited edition spirit. While Dietrich says there’s a possibility of making another batch, as of right now, once it’s gone, it’s gone. So, if you end up being a fan, you better stock up.