Some of the most legendary artists found inspiration from their favorite alcoholic spirits -- and unfortunately for several, an untimely death. However, it wasn't until the past decade or two when artists and the creators and distributors of said brands decided to put their (metal) heads together to create something truly unique for the marketplace.
Bands figured out another way to make money off their brand -- by actually helping create a bottle of booze (instead of just chugging it on camera). With spirits like Motorhead vodka, Mastodon beer, and KISS wine, fans could feel even close to their favorite band, while the musicians had an endless free supply of the alcohol they endorsed.
Some have even made a lot of money off the concoctions. Take Marilyn Manson, for example. Back in 2007 he created Mansinthe, a.k.a. nightmare fuel, producing it out of Switzerland. It's a solid absinthe; however, you basically have to realize that you're not getting the real deal unless you to somewhere in Eastern Europe, like Prague. Metal icons Iron Maiden have sold more than 3.5 million pints of their beer as of 2014 -- and I will admit, it tastes pretty damn good.
However, there have been a lot of ups and downs (Kid Rock's Red Stag by Jim Beam, anyone?). But I must say; I kind of love when bands try to capture the essence of rock 'n' roll, or their perception of it, in a bottle. It gives a whole new meaning to the "spirit" of heavy metal.
And as of late there's been some Arizona influence in this market -- and much to my delight, it's all about the whiskey.
One of the Valley's most successful independent rock outfits, Digital Summer, has broken into the whiskey and wine-making sector with Headbanger. Digital Summer has been around since 2006, and for the most part has independently established themselves on the festival circuit, and have had six singles chart on major radio airplay. One day, lead vocalist Kyle Winterstein started up a conversation with a man backstage at a music festival. The man turned out to be Paul Hoffman of Hoffman Cellars in Sonoma. With Hoffman's decades of wine making experience, a mutual passion for rock 'n' roll, and a love for whiskey, they decided to create Headbanger American Gold.
Hard Rock in Las Vegas have developed four signature cocktails by twisting some classics like the Margarita, Sidecar, Long Island Ice Tea, and a Raspberry Mojito all with Headbanger. Other acts that endorse the brand include Five Finger Death Punch's Chris Kael, Sevendust, Adelita's Way, and Dan Johnson.
The Headbanger American Gold whiskey, as described by Hoffman Cellars, is "a unique blend of White Whiskey (a.k.a. White Dog) and aged Whiskey that marries like Plant, Paige, Jones, & Bonham."
With that being said, here's the thing; this whiskey was made to appeal to the masses. So if you are a whiskey connoisseur, give it a chance to swirl in your glass -- but it might not be your cup of tea. Er, whiskey.
Winterstein admits that the goal was to hit the flavors right in the middle, to go down smooth for men and women alike, so you've got those sweet undertones, that light, barely gold hue, and a palatable price.
As a whiskey and scotch lover, when I first tasted Headbanger, it wasn't what I expected -- but not in a bad way. If you like sweeter whiskeys, this is definitely your drink. From the second the cork comes off, you gather hints of maple, cedar and vanilla, and the flavor combines those notes alongside gooseberry and nutmeg. It's smooth and crisp, but for me personally I liked my whiskey a little more smoky and peaty over sweet.
"It's around the same price as Jack Daniels, but it provides more of a party appeal to it," says Winterstein. "It has that party appeal that Jager has, but isn't as heavy and syrupy."
You can get it at Total Wine and More; plus it's distributed at a ton of Valley bars, like The Sandbar, 5th and Wine, House, Giligans, etc. Headbanger also offers an artist sponsorship program, which Winterstein hopes will help nurture the local rock scene.
There's another little brand you may have heard of that has the same mentality: Coldcock Whiskey. One of the original investors in Coldcock is none other than John Reese, the Phoenix-born music executive who built a concert security company from the ground up and has founded or produced such festivals as the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Fest, Uproar Tour, Identity Festival, the Oddball Comedy ad Curiosity Festival, and recently KNOTFEST. Other investors in the brand include Slayer's Kerry King and Disturbed's David Draiman.
Coldcock's whole business model is based around artists directly sharing in the profits of the brand they're helping to build. Bands earn profit-sharing units in the spirit's company, Zeiler Spirits, by just drinking, talking about, and personally promoting the brand. This stands apart from other companies, where it's all about straight tour-sponsorship dollars.
Coldcock's "herbal" blend of aged whiskey, herbs and spices, such as green tea, ginger and eucalyptus, claims to nix the morning-after sugar hangover. Yes, it's 70 proof and has less sugar, but it reminds me of a cross between Jager and Jack Daniels.
So the Phoenix music scene is not only helping develop a mainstream brand of whiskey that metalheads could love; they are trying to make the industry stronger. Just one more thing to love about the Valley of the Sun's true metalheads.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.