Stranahan’s master distiller Rob Dietrich recently announced that he will join the team at Metallica’s (yes, that Metallica) American whiskey brand Blackened. While Dietrich’s name has become synonymous with the Colorado brand — his 13-year tenure having significantly shaped the direction of the spirit — the news of his exodus can be viewed as a natural progression for an artisan at the height of his craft. His decision to leave came with many reservations, but ultimately he decided he would be a good fit, having been a lifelong fan of the American rock band. The position opened after the untimely passing of legendary distiller and Blackened cofounder Dave Pickerell last fall.
Dietrich has become something of a rockstar in his own right — his annual Snowflake releases have drawn throngs of dedicated whiskey fans to the distillery for day-long bacchanals in celebration of the limited release. Supporters could be routinely sighted flocking to the man hoping to absorb some of his knowledge, or simply share a drink. His sociable nature and desire to share his understanding helped establish a reputation that became a major part of the Stranahan’s story.
Blackened — currently a blend of straight ryes and bourbons — has been carefully crafted to be a quality spirit. The band has been vigilant in making sure that the drink can stand on its own and avoid the pitfalls of being a gimmick. The decision to add Dietrich to the team is a clear show of commitment to ensuring that the quality of the product can outshine the group’s considerable reputation.
Dietrich, who will become the Master Distiller, is excited to dive into the field of blended whiskey, having firmly established his palate creating his coveted special releases. Each Snowflake release has been carefully concocted by hand and nose — a process the distiller likens to crafting a good chili. At Blackened, Dietrich will continue the process established by Pickerell as well as work to create new, original expressions.
The legacy Dietrich established at Stranahan’s is a considerable one. His goal to establish American Single Malt as a reputable spirit in the global whiskey community — one dominated by Scotch and Bourbon — has largely been viewed as a success. While he will be sorely missed, his move is a triumph not just for him and his career, but for whiskey lovers everywhere. No word yet on who is set to replace him.
All photography by Brittany Werges and Alden Bonecutter.