METALLICA has welcomed Rob Dietrich as the new master distiller of the band's recently launched brand of whiskey. A veteran in the spirits and music industry, Rob will oversee the sourcing, blending, and cask finishing of barrels for each batch of Blackened American Whiskey.
Dietrich joins the Blackened team following the tragic passing of his predecessor Dave Pickerell. Pickerell died suddenly last November in San Francisco where he was scheduled to take part in the annual WhiskyFest event.
Says METALLICA in a statement: "Rob initially learned the art and science of distilling from expert distiller, Jess Graber. He earned his distilling stripes throughout more than 12 years in the industry and whiskey lovers took notice of his limited-release, cask finish expressions such as Snowflake, Sherry Cask, and more. In addition to an extensive distilling background, Rob spent a decade in the music business honing his passion with Bill Graham Presents, as a freelance agent for a variety of venues like Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre and The Fillmore in San Francisco, as well as managing tours and festivals. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division and served from 1992 to 1995. His two combat tours in Somalia and relief operations in Haiti helped shape his life-affirming philosophy.
"Rob will continue to build upon the foundation set forth by his predecessor Dave Pickerell, who we sadly lost last fall. Known as the world's preeminent distiller, Dave brought his vision and creativity to Blackened to offer a premier whiskey enhanced by our music. Rob will continue to honor his spirit while bringing his own talents and skills to the role, working closely with us to keep Dave's legacy alive.
"Dave will forever be a member of our family and we miss him tremendously. As we have gotten to know Rob more closely, his values, knowledge, and love for what he does are also apparent, and he shares great respect for craftsmanship that we have for Blackened and our music. We're thrilled that he's joined the party!"
METALLICA's first-ever spirit was dubbed Blackened after a track on the band's 1988 album "...And Justice For All". The spirit is a blend of American bourbon, rye, and whiskey that wasn't just barrel-aged, but also sound-aged to the group's own music. But what truly makes Blackened is "Black Noise" — billed as a patent-pending, "sonic-enhancement" process that uses METALLICA's music to help "shape the flavor" of the whiskey.
Pickerell told Rolling Stone that the brandy casks contain a lot of wood chemicals. "Right near the surface is the wood caramel, so when you burn the barrel, you make char and right behind the char there's what people call the red layer," he said. "That's where the wood sugars get hot enough to caramelize but not hot enough to burn. There's a lot of caramel right underneath the char, so the thing I'm going for is pulling some extra wood caramel out. As the ligaments in the wood break down, they form six different compounds that all taste and smell like vanilla — one actually is vanilla. If you can cause the interaction between the whiskey and the wood to be enhanced by sonic vibration, you can cause the whiskey to pull extra goodies out of the wood."
Blackened was rolled out in California, Wisconsin, New York and Florida for a suggested retail price of $43.