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Until I got into whisky, music was the one true passion in my life. Due to an absence of any actual talent, or at least, a lack of the patience needed to acquire it, I became a DJ. I spent many nights in bars and clubs playing music I loved and thoroughly enjoyed myself along the way. Before that though, before my life was hijacked by turntables and 12-inch records and house music, my life revolved around a different soundtrack.
Like many before me, I always felt a bit out of place in school. Like I never quite fit in. The other kids in my class seemed to enjoy the music that was in the Top 40 at the time but the vast majority of it sounded total pap to me. On the very odd occasion however, something would break through that sounded different. It was angry and aggresive and anarchic and I bloody loved it. Yup, I was a rock fan and even a bit of a metalhead in my youth.
You can’t really talk about the heavy rock / metal genre without some kind of acknowledgement to Motörhead. The band was founded by Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister after he had been dismissed from his previous band Hawkwind for doing, what in his words, were “the wrong drugs”. Lemmy wanted his new band to focus on music that he described as “loud, fast, city, raucous, arrogant, paranoid, speedfreak rock n roll…”
Lemmy recruited guitarist Larry Wallis and drummer Lucas Fox and they began to tour. After just ten gigs, they were chosen to support Blue Oyster Cult at the Hammersmith Odeon. A record deal with United Artists followed and an album recorded. The label hated it however and the project was shelved.
In 1976 “Fast” Eddie Clarke replaced Wallis on guitar to form the classic Motörhead lineup of Lemmy, Clarke and Phil Taylor on drums. Success eluded them until 1978 when their cover of Louie Louie reached the singles chart. They recorded a session with BBC Radio One icon John Peel in September and appeared for the first time on Top of the Pops the following month. A year later they were back at the BBC performing “Overkill” to promote their new album. It would be their first to break the top 40, peaking at 23. Their next album “Bomber” reached number 12.
In August 1980 the band were back in the studio, recording the album that would define them. The Ace of Spades was released as a single on 27 October and the band were back on Top of the Pops in November. The single reached number 15, the album number 4. It was an impressive achievement for such an uncompromising sound. VH1 named Ace of Spades No 10 on their Top 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs of All Time.
In a biography of the band Stephen Thomas Erlewine, wrote: “Motörhead’s overwhelmingly loud and fast style of heavy metal was one of the most groundbreaking styles the genre had to offer in the lat ’70s. (Motörhead) wasn’t punk rock (but) they were the first metal band to harness that energy and, in the process, they created speed metal and thrash metal”.
Lemmy himself would go on to become an icon in every sense of the word. He was well known for alcohol and drug abuse and stated that he drank a bottle of Jack Daniel’s every day since he was 30 years old. He referred to his continuing drug use as “dogged insolence in the face of mounting opposition to the contrary”. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) once wrote: “Fuck Elvis and Keith Richards, Lemmy’s the king of rock ‘n’ roll—he told me he never considered Motörhead a metal band, he was quite adamant. Lemmy’s a living, breathing, drinking and snorting fucking legend. No one else comes close.”
Lemmy passed away in 2015, four days after his 70th birthday. His loss was felt across the world by millions of fans. His lasting legacy is perhaps best summed up in the 1994 cult film Airheads. Someone is asked “who would win in a fight between Lemmy and God?” which is, of course, a trick question. Lemmy IS God.
In 2019 the remaining members of the band partnered with Swedish distillery Mackmyra to produce a Motörhead single malt whisky. Matured for five years in new American oak barrels and bottled at 40%, it retails for the rather hefty price of £67.
*Full disclosure: I was sent this sample free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Lots of cask character, despite its relative youth. Lots of vanilla and caramel. Toffee. Cinnamon. Honey. Figs. Orange peel. Charred oak.
Taste: More of that big bourbon character. Toffee apples and vanilla ice cream. Chocolate and caramel. Currants. Cinnamon and clove. Lots of dark oak. After a while, there’s a sweet raisin and sultana note that lifts it to another level.
Thoughts: £67 for a five-year-old whisky at 40% is a bit on the steep side. Although, I guess there’s a lot of people to be paid when a band teams up with a distillery. The quality is high certainly, just don’t expect much of the Mackmyra character as this is much more akin to a bourbon. Which, to be fair, you suspect Lemmy would probably have approved of.
I think I went into this expecting a bit more Mackmyra but I admit now that that didn’t make sense. To all intents and purposes, Mackmyra is contract distilling and maturing to someone else’s specifications. What they have produced is a big robust whisky with a good depth of flavour, especially given its low bottling strength and while the price isn’t all that appealing to me, I doubt diehard fans would feel the same way. It is them, at the end of the day, that this product is aimed at. In truth, even I have to admit that there’s something very attractive about having the Motörhead logo snarling out from my drinks cabinet. You would need to be pretty keen to pay the price but at least the people who do will be rewarded with a good dram.
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Buy Motörhead Whisky here