Begging a question about appropriateness, Metallica unleashes new Rye the Lightning Blackened Whiskey

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      Depending on how one looks at the whisky glass—sadly half empty, or gloriously half full (which leaves plenty of room for a top up)—it’s either great for Metallica’s accountants, or it’s hypocritically and wrongly sending the wrong message.

      The world’s most successful metal act has just announced the latest offering in its Blackened Whiskey line. The band-approved Rye the Lightning features notes of “dried fig, hay, pinewood, pear, and rum cake” when you’re inhaling, and “clover honey, mint, corn husk, sugar cane, walnut, and cinnamon” when it’s time to get to the drinking.

      Whether you’re talking KISS caskets, Mötley Crüe Dr. Feelgood stethoscopes, or GG Allin extra-strength laxatives, every artist needs a hook for their wares. In the case of Rye the Lightning, the big selling point is that whiskey matured in Madeira wine and Caribbean rum casks was exposed to a live recording of the band’s 1984 metal landmark Ride the Lightning. The contention is that low frequencies caused vibrations which increased the amount of exposure the liquid had to the wood.

      Blackened Whiskey master distiller and blender Rob Dietrich blasted the barrels with a 2012 recording of the record, which marked the only time Metallica has ever played Ride the Lightning in its entirety for a live audience. (For those keeping track, and obviously to mess with the minds of those in the audience, the album’s tracks were played in reverse order from last to first).

      What’s the problem here, besides the fact that if someone really wanted to increase the exposure of whisky to wood they could have just kicked, rolled, or punched the barrels. Or cranked the Geto Boys’ “Fuck ’Em All” to 11 for a couple of hours.

      Not to play anti-alcohol advocate, but Metallica singer and guitarist James Hetfield has waged two very public battles with the bottle, checking himself into rehab in both the early 2000s, and again in 2019. That latter stint caused Metallica to cancel a planned tour, after which the COVID-19 pandemic took care of the next year, and the year after that.

      Given that alcohol has been a problem for Hetfield, having him involved in the hawking of booze through Metallica seems weird. Like the estate of Sid Vicious selling legalized heroin. Or Phish selling deodorant sticks.

      It’s not like the issue hasn’t been raised. In 2020 the U.K.’s Daily Star asked guitarist Kirk Hammett about Metallica selling something its singer is probably better off not being around.

      Addressing the band’s Blackened Whiskey line, Hammett said, “You can’t compare the two things. James’s struggle to get dry is a completely personal matter mentally and emotionally. The fact that we produce, bottle and sell alcohol is totally independent of this. It is completely up to you whether you drink or not. And I think I can sell what I want. If I were a diabetic, that wouldn’t mean that I couldn’t sell sweets.”

      Except, of course, the last time we checked, no one ever had to go to rehab to stop themselves from gorging on Wasabi Kit Kats, Tropical Fruit Punch Pop Rocks, or Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobstoppers.

      But that, as Spinal Tap might say, is nitpicking.

      Instead, think of downing a glass of Rye the Lightning to “Fade to Black”, “Escape”, “Creeping Death”, or “Trapped Under Ice”. All of which, inarguably, sound like they were written by somebody lovingly thinking about a glass of whiskey that’s gloriously half full.