Neil Giraldo’s Three Chord Bourbon Is Inspired by Rock N’ Roll Sounds

There’s nothing but good vibrations for this Michigan-made spirit
three chord bourbon
Three Chord Blended Bourbon Whiskey is a sweet spirit with hints of oak and citrus. $40, for retailers. // Photograph courtesy of Three Chord Bourbon

The idea likely surfaced over adult beverages. If music sounds more mellow when drinking, could the beverage itself taste better if exposed to the right notes?

Three Chord Bourbon cofounder Neil Giraldo knows a bit about sound. He joined forces with now spouse Pat Benatar, forging 1980s hits like “Love is a Battlefield” and “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”

Giraldo’s current best shot comes in a bottle. His Michigan-based Steel Bending Spirits’ Three Chord Bourbon is getting national attention and awards. Credit part of the attention to cofounder Brian Canning, whose resume includes several promotional campaigns for Lincoln-Mercury and Corona. Their idea was to have rhythmic disruption enhance bourbon’s flavor profile while it aged in wood barrels.

The search for someone to test the concept found Ari Sussman, who Canning deems a “mad scientist.” The master distiller had the chops: a stint in winemaking in France; consulting gigs with 15 distilleries.

Three Chord teamed with Grand River Brewery in Jackson. They blend bourbons from other producers and age them in No. 4 char barrels (also known as alligator char) made of White American Oak staves. Then comes the sound process. They call the result bourbon with “perfectly tuned taste.”

A gimmick? Not so fast.

Sound and spirits aren’t strangers. The band Metallica partnered with the late master distiller Dave Pickerell to launch Blackened American whiskey, which is exposed to “low-hertz sound waves.” And South Carolina-based Terressentia Corp. claims their sound technique speeds the aging process.

Does this make way for other musical possibilities? Elvis-infused Vodka? Journey-free Gin? Tchaikovsky Tequila? Kidding aside, it may sound crazy (pun intended), but the proof is in the sipping. Three Chord’s entry-level blend (81 proof) doesn’t have the nasty bite of some bourbons. It also excels in a refreshing, summery concoction by Farmington Hills’ Sidecar Sliders staff — an Old Fashioned with muddled strawberries, lime, and simple syrup.

The 12 Bar Reserve (107 proof) blend of Kentucky and Tennessee 12-year-old bourbons is super-smooth — neat, with a splash of water, or on the rocks.

Our verdict: If you see Three Chord at your local watering hole, give it a listen … er, taste.