Bob Dylan – iconic singer, legendary songwriter, and Nobel laureate – is now a maker of whiskey.
Called Heaven’s Door, it comes in three varieties: a “double-barreled” American whiskey, a seven-year-old bourbon, and a rye finished in French Vosges oak barrels.
It began in 2015 when Marc Bushala – former co-owner of Angel’s Envy bourbon – noticed that Dylan had applied for the trademark of the term “bootleg whiskey”.
Intrigued, Bushala contacted Dylan, and together, they poured over the idea of creating small-batch whiskeys. They raised $35US million from investors, and today the 76-year-old Blowin’ in the Wind singer isn’t merely lending his name; he’s a partner in Heaven’s Door Spirits.
“We both wanted to create a collection of American whiskeys that, in their own way, tell a story,” Dylan said to The New York Times. “I’ve been travelling for decades, and I’ve been able to try some of the best spirits that the world of whiskey has to offer.”
Dylan is in fact very much a long-time and dedicated devotee of whiskey.
Having raised his glass on the topic, he recorded Moonshiner in 1963, and Copper Kettle (The Pale Moonlight) in 1970 – which describes the distilling process.
Bushala learned of the singer’s discerning palette during meetings at the minstrel’s Los Angeles metalworking studio, whence the label design of crows and wagon wheels is inspired.
“Dylan has these qualities that actually work well for a whiskey,” Bushala told the New York Times. “He has great authenticity. He is a quintessential American. He does things the way he wants to do them. I think these are good attributes for a super-premium whiskey as well.”
The times they are a-changin’ in their favour: sales of American whiskey bumped up more than fifty percent since 2013, today is a $3.4 billion industry according to the Distilled Spirits Council.
As for the name Dylan initially played with – it won’t evaporate like the angel’s share; rather, the Bootleg Series will be an annually limited edition 25-year-old bottle, adorned with his original paintings. Expect to see it in 2019, retailed for about $300US.
In terms of the current batch, The New York Times said that the 90-proof bourbon tasted like “a classic, no-fuss bourbon, though with more oak-derived notes — think caramel, vanilla and wood char” with a smell of “sandalwood, leather and linseed oil.”
The double barrel whiskey, at 100-proof, “smells of cake batter, fresh berries and children’s cough syrup… with a hint of sweet fortified wine lurking in the background… with a thin mouthfeel and notes of tobacco, allspice and wood smoke, resolving in ground pepper.”
The straight rye, at 92-proof, has “dill and herbal notes. There’s also a sweet grassiness, cocoa powder, tobacco and a slap of leather.”
Though not yet available in Canada, a bottle of Heaven’s Door retails for $50-$80.