So there I was, sitting at my local death metal club trying hard to figure out why Necrophagia’s album Seasons of the Dead has remained so underrated. After all, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s just as much of a powerhouse as Cannibal Corpse’s more widely acclaimed opus Tomb of the Mutilated. As the fury of injustice rose in me, I decided to beat it back into quivering submission with a couple of shots of whiskey. But what whiskey should I get, I wondered, that wouldn’t burn going down? For while I enjoy thrashing wildly to songs with titles such as “Painful Discharge” I find the burn from whiskey to be, well…a bit too much.
Luckily for me, a bottle of Coldcock was in arm’s reach. If you take Kentucky bourbon and flavor it with a mix that includes green tea, hibiscus, eucalyptus, ginger and fennel, you’ll discover a unique flavor profile that also happens to take away the burn. “I created the flavor profile in my kitchen after blending a variety of herbs that I thought made sense in taste,” says Coldcock co-founder Sarah Zeiler. And while it’s not being touted as the next new fad in cleanses, she adds that “all of the herbs have some type of anti-inflammatory or detoxifying benefit on their own.”
Flavored whiskeys are quickly rising in popularity, and the search for a way to make straight liquor more accessible to the drinking public is not a new one. Zeiler came to the whiskey trade with a background in publicity, and she and her husband (and co-founder) Rick have marketed their brand in a way that I found surprising for this sort of spirit. A smooth-shooting whiskey full of detoxifying herbs but with less sugar than its competitors may seem like the new drink of choice for sorority girls everywhere, but Coldcock is trying hard to associate itself with a more decidedly hardcore set.
The Zeilers brought an impressive list of investors and promoters together when starting their brand, ranging from metal rockers (like Kerry King, guitarist for thrash band Slayer) to tattoo artists and athletes. And yes, I know, it’s arguable that Slayer is more death metal than thrash, but let’s leave that debate for another time, otherwise I may require another shot of Coldcock.
Last year, the 2014 Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival featured Coldcock as its second stage sponsor, where Cannibal Corpse performed such classics as “Hammer Smashed Face” and “Make Them Suffer.” This year, Coldcock is hosting a Battle of the Bands where aspiring rock, hard rock and metal bands compete for a year of agency and management representation. Aspiring bands must first earn points for promoting the whiskey. For example, you might autograph bottles at a store and post the location to social media (3 points), mention the whiskey in your song lyrics (5 points), or include Coldcock Whiskey bottles in a music video (10 points). The bands who earn the most accumulated points get to perform before a panel of judges who determine the grand prize winner.
Here’s the sum-up (done in my best death growl):
Color: a brightly-rusted nail.
Nose: Dank forest floor densely saturated with a kicked-over vat of Lux soap. For me the smell was the most intriguing part of the experience.
Mouth: This whiskey has been described by its promoters as smooth and herbal, and I agree, smooth and herbal— like hand soap. Based on the nose I was anticipating a floral taste, as well, but for all its talk of less sugar the fragrant element was entirely replaced by the syrupy medicinal, and I wondered if perhaps they would do well to parallel market it as a patented elixir after all. It took me a few sips to get past the cough medicine, but once I did I got a pleasant jolt of cinnamon and finished up with a vague reminder that underneath it all was indeed bourbon (aged 3 years, 70-proof and sourced confidentially).
Take note: I tried this whiskey with two friends, both of whom find whiskey off-putting to drink neat because of the burn. And while I had the experience of my mouth being coated in something Lydia Pinkham would have once proudly hawked and which blackened my taste buds until they skittled off my tongue, my drinking companions looked pleasantly surprised after downing their drinks and said things along the lines of “It’s quite nice, actually!” and “I really like it!” and “It’s surprisingly subtle!”
The bottle’s design and labeling are perfectly in line with their marketing approach. Entirely coated in matte “hot rod” black, with neon-yellow lettering and the outline of a fist coming in for a strike, it screams bad-ass yet holds within it the secret promise that no one will ever suspect you shudder at whiskey burn.