Metallica rocker Kirk Hammett has defended the group's decision to launch their own whisky, despite frontman James Hetfield's long battle with alcoholism.

The Enter Sandman rockers scrapped plans to tour Australia last year, as Hetfield had returned to rehab to cope with an addiction he first publicly battled back in 2001, before going sober for a long period.

Back in 2018, the group launched Blackened, a whisky that used their music, played through a subwoofer to disrupt the whiskey inside its barrel, a decision lead guitarist Hammett is still comfortable with despite his bandmate's relapse.

"You can't compare the two things. James's struggle to get dry is a completely personal matter mentally and emotionally," he tells Britain's Daily Star newspaper. "The fact that we produce, bottle and sell alcohol is totally independent of this.

"It is completely up to you whether you drink or not. And I think I can sell what I want. If I were a diabetic, that wouldn't mean that I couldn't sell sweets."

Updating fans on Hetfield's situation, he adds: "We hold a virtual meeting once a week to keep in touch. James is working his way out of his situation. We can really only try to support him."

The rocker went on to assert that the band would emerge stronger from their latest setback.

"We've definitely survived so much and have become ­brothers," he explains. "We love one another, even if we sometimes hate each other as well. But that's the way it is with brothers. We realise that we are bound to one another for the rest of our lives. I could say I'm leaving Metallica. And then what? Everyone would look at me and say: 'Hey, that's the Metallica guy.'"