As Mark Twain once said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” The same can be said of Metallica’s music: while some bands’ catalogs leave you worn out, the thrash titans’ albums only make you want more every time you listen to them.
It’s unsurprising, then, that Metallica’s new Blackened whiskey reflects its sponsors. Crafted by whiskey legend Dave Pickerell (former master distiller for both Makers Mark and Whistle Pig who, sadly, only very recently passed away), and blasted with “black noise” via Metallica’s music while aging in black brandy barrels, Blackened is a delicious American blend that will no doubt have drinkers begging for an encore: It’s rich and spicy, with intoxicating notes of toffee, vanilla, and dried apricot on the nose (and thankfully, nothing like the aroma of a sweaty metal band after a two-hour performance, as we’d feared).
The obvious musical accompaniment to drinking Blackened is, of course, a Metallica album – but which one? Given how much the band has progressed over the years, no two Metallica albums are exactly alike, and pairing the wrong record with the wrong drink could cause – in professional beverage expert terms – a shitty time.
Thankfully, our U.S. editorial duo of storied spirits journalist Ethan Fixell and tipsy Metallica fanboy Chris Krovatin sat down together and created a comprehensive pairing of Blackened drinks and Metallica albums.
Here are their match-ups below. Please headbang responsibly.
KILL ’EM ALL (1983)
DRINK: A shot
Fast, hard, straightforward, and just a little bit trashy – Metallica’s debut is truly the whiskey shot of albums. Kill ’Em All doesn’t mess around, cramming its message of heavy metal domination right down your throat. That’s exactly what shots are all about: delivering booze and drunken good times at alarming speeds with incredible strength. Both will make you want to yell, “FUCK YOU, MAAAN!” at a cop.
RIDE THE LIGHTNING (1984)
DRINK: A shot and a beer
Same as before, only drunker! Ride The Lightning has all of Kill ’Em All’s rancor and speed, but the album’s maturity and artistry provide the listener with with a frosty cold chaser (Trapped Under Ice) and pillowy relaxation (Fade To Black). It isn’t as much of a punishment as a shot alone, and will definitely keep you buzzing harder in the long run.
MASTER OF PUPPETS (1986)
The whiskey in its truest (and best?) form. Master Of Puppets is Metallica’s masterpiece, showcasing the band’s thoughtfulness and dynamics without sacrificing any of its raw power and musical chops. It’s awesome and hard as hell, but mature in its patience and taste – just as sipping a neat whiskey still burns and bites, but also allows one to understand the artistry of the drink. It’s also both the album and drink everyone can say they enjoy without fear of being called a poseur.
…AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (1988)
The Manhattan cocktail might disappoint those purists who want the satisfaction of an unadulterated spirit – but one sip in, they’ll realize that a Manhattan still contains plenty of whiskey flavor… with just a bit more complexity added to the mix. Similarly, Metallica’s fourth full-length is a classic album, even if its length, technical acrobatics, and muddled flavors put some traditionalists off. Go on, try it – it’ll still taste great, we promise.
DRINK: Whiskey on the rocks
For some, the Black Album, like a whiskey rocks, smacks of the original product, only slightly watered down. But the slight cutting of intensity makes the album more palatable than previous ones, and even opens up new flavors, just like an ice cube or two can expand the taste of a fine whiskey. On the rocks is also the way most people enjoy whiskey – and one only needs look at the Black Album’s sales figures to understand that comparison.
DRINK: Whiskey Buck
Whoa, wait a second. Hold on – things are getting… different, here. Load, just like a Whiskey Buck, raises more questions than it answers. Sure, a Buck is basically a whiskey-ginger, so it’s still tasty and palatable – but why do we need to dress the whiskey up so much? The Whiskey Buck is something everyone can stomach, rather than the beverage the die-hard whiskey fans come for. Like Load, it’s way more of a cocktail than a drink.
DRINK: Rusty Nail
Okay, now things are getting weirder. A Rusty Nail is like the previous cocktail… except it’s less obvious what went into it. And isn’t a Rusty Nail normally made with scotch? Well, not on this list, it’s not. Reload was an indication that Metallica were headed down a complicated, unpleasant path (it was, after all, the precursor to Jason Newsted’s departure, and the Some Kind Of Monster era). Likewise, a Rusty Nail, made with Drambuie, a Scotch whisky liqueur, is a confusing beverage that can taste a little overdone.
ST. ANGER (2003)
DRINK: Mint Julep
Hooo boy, now the bartender’s wearing a fuckin’ vest. Like a great whiskey used in a “classic” yet entirely divisive cocktail, St. Anger is the ultimate over-complication of a good thing. We drink whiskey because we like whiskey, and we listen to Metallica because we like killer heavy metal. In modern cocktail culture, getting served a Mint Julep can feel a bit like the bartender recently read up on a hip new trend he or she read about online – which means it’s perfect for sipping while enjoying St. Anger.
DEATH MAGNETIC (2008)
DRINK: Old Fashioned
Well, hey – this is more like it! Though not without its bells and whistles, Death Magnetic is a solid return to Metallica’s most recognizable sound. Similarly, the Old Fashioned is just that: the original whiskey cocktail, and perhaps the most recognizable. It’s all whiskey up front, but the bitters and touch of sweetness help the spirit go down a bit smoother than it would on its own. As with the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned (like Death Magnetic) isn’t for uncompromising purists – but respected by all fans.
HARDWIRED… TO SELF-DESTRUCT (2016)
DRINK: Whiskey and Coke
Well, alright, then. When it comes to enjoying Metallica’s most recent effort, this whiskey and coke’ll do. Death Magnetic’s sequel is tasty and recognizable – some would even say, a culmination of all that Metallica had achieved in the last few decades, with catchier songs and higher quality production. Whiskey and coke, of course, is a fairly simple formula, but it’s smooth, reliable, and Lemmy would approve – so who are we to complain?