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BLACKENED American Whiskey

Press Release

New York, NY (August 31, 2021) - Today, BLACKENED American Whiskey unveils its new “Masters of Whiskey Series” with the inaugural release, BLACKENED x Willett Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Madeira Casks. The expression is a result of the collaboration of two of today’s most innovative distillers, Rob Dietrich of BLACKENED and Drew Kulsveen of Willett Distillery.

BLACKENED was born from the masterful collaboration between legendary Master Distiller Dave Pickerell and Metallica. It’s this core tenet of collaboration behind the “Masters of Whiskey Series” - a convergence of passionate master craftsmen who combine their talent and skills to create a distinctive expression. This series will combine strengths of Master Distiller and Blender Rob Dietrich and renowned whiskey makers to re-imagine craft whiskey and create more complex expressions.

The BLACKENED x Willett Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Madeira Casks starts with a base of low rye and high rye whiskey recipes that were hand-picked by Rob Dietrich and Willett Distillery’s Master Distiller, Drew Kulsveen, from the Willett Family Estate Reserve Selection. The two tasted and experimented with a number of whiskeys before landing on the recipes that would create the perfect flavor profile. Aged for an average of 6.5 years in white American oak casks, the complexity of the whiskey balances perfectly, gracing the nose with hints of sweet rhubarb, brown sugar, corn husk, cigar box, and vanilla. The first sip liberates the palate with notes of buttery caramel, earthy mint, and fresh-cut hay, rolling into a superb finish with vanilla, cinnamon butter, and dark walnut.

After the rye whiskeys are married together, they are finished in Madeira casks for up to 14 weeks. Madeira is a fortified wine made on the Portuguese Madeira islands and receives its unique taste from repeatedly heating the wine. The casks impart subtle dark fruit notes, overtones of honey, and slightly sweeter flavors of caramel and cinnamon that pair perfectly with the spicier notes of the rye. The expression is bottled at cask strength.

During finishing, the whiskey undergoes the proprietary BLACK NOISE™ sonic enhancement process in which the finishing barrels are pummeled by the low hertz frequencies of Metallica’s music. The sound waves visibly shake the finishing barrels, causing a greater interaction between the whiskey and the wood, thereby extracting more flavors and colors.

The 11-track playlist for the BLACK NOISE™ process was chosen by both Rob Dietrich and Drew Kulsveen and sequenced by Metallica Co-founder and Drummer, Lars Ulrich.

The full playlist includes:

  1. For Whom The Bell Tolls
  2. Master of Puppets
  3. King Nothing
  4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  5. Dyers Eve (Remastered)
  6. Broken, Beat & Scarred
  7. The Thing That Should Not Be
  8. Atlas, Rise!
  9. Of Wolf and Man
  10. One (Remastered)
  11. Enter Sandman

While the “Masters of Whiskey Series'' is part of BLACKENED’s future, the collaboration between Rob Dietrich and Drew Kulsveen also provides an homage to the past. Both brands were profoundly impacted by late Master Distiller and whiskey luminary, Dave Pickerell. Known as the “Johnny Appleseed'' of craft distilling, Dave Pickerell used his expertise to help dozens of entrepreneurs start or restart small craft distilleries, one of which was Willett Distillery. He had been a longtime friend of the Kulsveen family and bonded with them over a shared passion of whiskey making. In 2011, when the Kulsveens were looking to bring the Willett Distillery back online, Dave lent his insights and helped with logistics to get the distillery up and running. When BLACKENED was looking for a location to shoot its brand video, the Kulsveens graciously lent their distillery. It was then that Dave introduced the BLACKENED team to the Kulsveens, setting the foundation for this collaboration.

Metallica met the Kulsveens and the distillery team when the band was in Louisville for its WorldWired tour. The band received a first-hand look at Willett’s production, christened the distillery’s new restaurant with a delectable meal, and bonded with the Kulsveens over fine cigars. The rest, as they say, is history.

“We couldn’t think of a more impactful first release for the series than a collaboration with Willett Distillery,” said Rob Dietrich, BLACKENED’s Master Distiller and Blender. “I wanted the first expression in the series to be a rye, and as a huge fan of Willett and everything they produce, I felt it was the obvious first choice. I couldn’t be more honored to work with Drew and the great team at Willett Distillery. Our connections to Dave brought everything full circle, and when I was working with Drew and the Kulsveens, it was almost like being welcomed back. I’m extremely excited by what we’ve accomplished, and I hope our fans and the whiskey enthusiasts of the world will enjoy this whiskey as much as Drew and I have!”

“We are thrilled to congratulate Rob and the BLACKENED team on this inaugural release of what will certainly be a unique series of whiskeys,” said Drew Kulsveen, Willett Distillery’s Master Distiller and Chief Operating Officer. “Frankly, I have had a good time collaborating with Rob on this project. We realized early on that we both shared a vision for the flavor we hoped to achieve in the blend and we are eager to share what we have come up with.”

Metallica Co-founder and Drummer, Lars Ulrich said, “The original idea with BLACKENED was to create something new, exciting, and unique that connected with both our fans and whiskey enthusiasts — something that stood on its own and was hopefully respected. The next step was to expand on BLACKENED's foundation, to push the possibilities of the marriage of music and whiskey even further. When we visited Willett Distillery in 2019 and saw the passion and craftsmanship that goes into every drop they produce, we knew we had found kindred spirits. Teaming up with the Kulsveen family to kick off the Master… Series with Willett was the natural next step in BLACKENED’s evolution."

BLACKENED x Willett Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Madeira Casks is available in limited quantities for a suggested retail price of $139.99. It is the first in the brand’s new “Masters of Whiskey Series,” which will feature new collaborations and unique expressions for years to come.

To find local retailers or gather more information, visit BLACKENED American Whiskey’s website and follow on social at @BlackenedAmericanWhiskey. For more information on Willett Distillery, please visit and follow on social media at @WillettDistillery.


Established in 2018, Sweet Amber Distilling Co. is a producer of hand-crafted spirits. Helmed by spirits industry veteran John Bilello, Sweet Amber launched with the creation of BLACKENED® - a masterful collaboration between late whiskey luminary Dave Pickerell and rock icons Metallica, which is now available in more than 36 states and expanding rapidly. Sweet Amber is a nimble, dynamic organization that is completely virtual, allowing a greater flexibility, efficiency, and geographic coverage across the U.S. with depth of experience in the spirits and music industries.


Rob Dietrich is the Master Distiller & Blender of BLACKENED® American Whiskey, and the former Master Distiller for Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. Rob has more than 13 years in the industry and is well-regarded for his unique limited-release, cask finish expressions such as Snowflake, Sherry Cask, and more. Rob is responsible for every aspect of production and is committed to maintaining the original recipe, artisanal methods, and handcrafted approach to creating world-class whiskey.

Rob Dietrich initially learned the art and science of distilling from legendary distiller Jess Graber whom he proudly calls his mentor. His passion for music was honed across 10 years spent in the music business 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 tours in Somalia and relief operations in Haiti helped shape his life-affirming philosophy.


Formed in 1981 by drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield, Metallica has become one of the most influential and successful rock bands in history, having sold nearly 120 million albums worldwide and generating more than 15 billion streams while playing to millions of fans on all seven continents.

The band's several multi-platinum studio albums include Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets, … And Justice for All, Metallica (commonly referred to as The Black Album), Load, Re-Load, St. Anger, Death Magnetic, and most recently Self-Destruct, released in November 2016 and charting at #1 in 32 countries. Metallica's awards and accolades include nine Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, multiple MTV Video Music Awards, and a 2009 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  In June of 2018, the band was awarded one of the most prestigious musical honors in the world: Sweden’s Polar Music Prize.

For 40 years and counting, Metallica has forged an unwavering bond of mutual loyalty with its legions of fans, as represented by the more than one million strong Fifth Member fan club. During the Covid-19 pandemic, this connection has only been reinforced: The band offered up six months’ worth of free weekly “Metallica Mondays” concerts from its archives on YouTube, released the S&M2 album and film in August of 2020, and followed S&M2 a day later with the showing of a full concert shot exclusively for the Encore Drive-In Nights series, a one-night-only event that took place at hundreds of drive-in and outdoor theaters across North America.

Metallica’s second Helping Hands Concert & Auction — and its first ever PPV event — was live-streamed November 14, 2020, raising more than $1.3 million benefitting the band’s All Within My Hands Foundation—funds used to work with partners at Feeding America and the American Association of Community Colleges, as well as various COVID and disaster relief efforts. All Within My Hands was established in 2017 as a way for the Metallica family to give back to communities that have supported the band. All Within My Hands expenses are covered entirely by the band, the board, and friends who have worked with the band over many years, ensuring that 100% of proceeds go directly to help those in need. To date, All Within My Hands has donated over $4 million to critical local services and the fight against food insecurity, working with partners around the world to feed more than 10 million people.  In addition, their Metallica Scholars Initiative has pledged a total of $4.1 million in grants benefiting 23 community colleges across the USA.


The Willett family distilling legacy began in Kentucky shortly after the Civil War. John David Willett was the Master Distiller and part-owner of Moore, Willett & Frenke Distillery in Bardstown, KY. John David’s son Lambert Willett walked 5 miles each way to his distilling job at the current site of Barton’s. It wasn’t until Lambert began working at the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville that he purchased a car for his commute so he could come home to his family every night. Lambert worked 6 days a week for nearly a decade at Bernheim.

During prohibition, Lambert raised cattle and hogs to support his family and community. The effects of prohibition were devastating to the Bourbon Capital of the World®. Immediately following the repeal of prohibition in December of 1933, Lambert’s son Thompson began learning the distilling trade apprenticing alongside his father at the age of 25.

After 80 years, Willett remains independently family-owned and operated, currently under the leadership of parents Even and Martha Willett Kulsveen. The fifth generation of family distillers, siblings Britt and Drew Kulsveen, are continuing the family tradition of spirits excellence, generosity, and southern hospitality. Drew’s wife, Janelle, hosts visitors from all over the world for tours and tastings. The over 55,000 annual visitors have necessitated a number of expansion projects on the Willett property including the addition of a premium cocktail bar.


If Drew were a whiskey, he would be Willett Family Estate Rye. The elegant exterior honors a long-storied family history marked by courage and generosity while the liquid inside has a fresh forward flavor that is youthful yet mature. Drew is a native of Bardstown, KY, and a graduate of Western Kentucky University where he exemplified a commitment to school spirit by wooing the star of the dance team to marry him. After graduating with degrees in marketing and economics, Drew returned home for a complete education in the family business. Initially, Drew spent much of his time studying the careful precision of co-mingling whiskey but soon Drew’s knack for all things engineering would land him in the distillery. Over the years, Drew has developed additional mash bills to expand the company’s bourbon and rye portfolio earning him three nominations for James Beard Awards in the outstanding spirits professional category.

When he is not making whiskey, Drew travels the country sharing his passion with bourbon newcomers and seasoned enthusiasts alike. Drew and his wife, Janelle, live in Bardstown, KY, with their endearing children, Baron and Bridjette. They are known to welcome guests with the most generous and authentic variety of southern hospitality.

published by: BBTEAM

August 31, 2021
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