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Is Music the Secret Ingredient to Your Next Favorite Drink?

Blackened Whiskey-Metallica with Dave PickerellBlackened Whiskey-Metallica with Dave Pickerell
Metallica with distiller Dave Pickerell.Courtesy of Blackened

Would you play a song specifically for the listening pleasure and perfect pairing with a cocktail? Though a variety of factors make a quality product, a recent study examining music’s impact on cheese suggests food and beverage makers might want to consider purchasing a Spotify Premium account.

Switzerland’s Bern University of the Arts recently released a study which found exposing Emmental cheese to different musical genres impacted its aroma and flavor. Out of the songs and sounds tested, the wheel of cheese repeatedly exposed to A Tribe Called Quest on a continuous loop for 24-hours a day during a six and a half month period produced the strongest, fruitiest taste when compared to other samples.

Nine wheels of cheese were tested in total, with one wheel resting in total silence. Other samples were exposed to Led Zeppelin, Mozart, and soundwaves at different frequencies. Though further research is needed to explore these initial findings, the idea that music can play a role in a product’s taste has already piqued the interest of producers across the globe—especially when it comes to making a better tasting booze.

“I think music can be impactful at any production stage. For example, some progressive wineries are playing music—as well as sound frequencies—in the vineyards,” says Jordan Salcito, sommelier and founder of canned spritz maker Ramona. “World-renowned Domaine Huet in Vouvray, in the Loire Valley, has been using sound frequency to halt mildew growth for over ten years.”

The way in which music is delivered varies depending on the location and the product itself. In Montalcino, Italy, a recording of Gregorian monks chanting serenade the grapes of San Giuseppe Winery. In Louisville, Ky., the cellar at Copper & Kings includes sub-woofers which pulsate playlists during the aging process for its brandy and absinthe. Additional distilleries that have incorporated distinct sounds into their production process for select products at one point or another include Tuthilltown Spirits and Dark Island Spirits in New York, as well as Spirit Works in California.

Because wood is where most spirits pick up their flavor profiles, the aging process is where many, if not most, of these musical interludes take place. While the methods vary as to how these distilleries make music and molecules interact, the collective efforts of these businesses to experiment with sound technology demonstrates this practice is anything but a one hit wonder. Some distilleries like Dark Island Spirits are even going so far as to patent their own equipment designed to assist in the musical aging process.

blackened whiskey bottle
Each batch of Blackened whiskey has a unique playlist that was used to sonically-enhance the whiskey.Courtesy of Blackened
Courtesy of Blackened

Even rock stars are getting into the act. Metallica’s rendition of Whiskey in a Jar excluded, the band’s latest endeavor, Blackened Whiskey, might be the most notable example of what happens when music and alcohol collide. Conceived by the band along with the late distiller Dave Pickerell, Metallica songs—chosen by the band members themselves—are delivered to the whiskey through a proprietary sonic-enhancement process known as Black Noise.

“We’re not trying to cheat time,” says John Bilello, CEO of Sweet Amber Distilling Co., the company that bottles Blackened Whiskey. “When you play music within a certain frequency range, it causes the molecules to vibrate. If you get the frequency low enough, it can cause additional extracts to release from the wood and get into the whiskey in a really interesting way.” For consumers of Blackened Whiskey, that likely means tasting notes of caramel, spice, and apricot at various points before the glass is empty.

However, even the mesmerizing voices of Grammy-award winning artists might not be able to cover up the tasting profile of a product made with less than stellar ingredients. “The most directly impactful decisions on taste involve raw ingredients and production methods, but ultimately in my experience, all of the other decisions are important—if subtle—too,” says Salcito. Adding a musical layer to food and beverage production might create mixed results, but for some drink purveyors, experimentation in an effort to create a better tasting experience is absolutely worth a listen.

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