How Involved Is Bob Dylan With His Whiskey Brand?
We asked Heaven’s Door about the musician’s “inscrutable tasting notes”
“He gives me Bob-like feedback.”
That’s the best way that Master Blender Ryan Perry can describe the creative process that goes into the Heaven’s Door whiskey brand, a co-creation of the 80-year music legend and Spirits Investment Partnership (“SIP”).
Now three years old, Heaven’s Door has won numerous accolades for its American whiskey releases, including a Double Gold at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition for the limited-edition, just-launched Master Blenders’ Edition (it’s a ten-year low-rye bourbon from Heaven’s Door finished in Redbreast 12-Year Old Irish Whiskey casks, imparting dried fruit, marzipan and walnut notes to the bourbon … it’s fantastic and definitely should be on your Father’s Day gifting radar).
The core releases of Heaven’s Door include a Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Double Barrel Whiskey and Straight Rye Whiskey finished in cigar barrels from Vosges, France. As well, there are a number of limited editions and a “Bootleg Series” of releases.
As we noted back in 2019, Dylan is a full partner in the brand, and the singer is featured prominently in marketing campaigns. As well, the bottle’s artwork is derived from Dylan’s sculptures crafted at Black Buffalo Ironworks, and the singer provided the brand with … well, some inscrutable tasting notes during the whiskey’s creation.
That said, he was pretty straight forward but light on details during the brand’s launch, when he offered this quote about Heaven’s Door via a press release: “We wanted to create a collection of American whiskeys that, in their own way, tell a story. I’ve been traveling for decades, and I’ve been able to try some of the best spirits that the world of whiskey has to offer.”
So when I asked Perry earlier this month about how involved Dylan really was with the whiskey-making process, he had a pretty entertaining answer.
“This was all created with Bob Dylan,” he says. “Our intent was to use his creative genius in every sense. Outside of music, we wanted to focus on his art and his masterful approach to everything he does. We brought the whiskey expertise, and he brought the creativity. And he’s a decently well-known guy, to say the least.”
Besides the ironwork artwork, different Heaven’s Door expressions will arrive with, say, a printing of Dylan’s hand-typed lyrics to “Maggie’s Farm” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Last fall, the Heaven’s Door The Bootleg Series II featured a cask strength 15 year-old Straight Bourbon finished in 30 year-old Jamaican Pot Still Rum Casks, which arrived in a handmade ceramic bottle featuring Bob Dylan’s painting, Sunset, Monument Valley.
Another whiskey project is the delayed opening of the Heaven’s Door Distillery and Center for the Arts in downtown Nashville, which will include the craft distillery, a whiskey library and restaurant, a 360-seat live performance venue and an art sanctuary; it’s all part of a renovation project to 160 year-old Elm Street Church in the SoBro neighborhood. The venue will also display pieces of Dylan’s paintings and metalwork sculptures.
(Why Nashville? Besides referencing the Nashville Skyline album — one of four albums Dylan recorded in the city — each of the three core whiskey expressions have a direct tie to Tennessee, either through distillation, aging, barrel finishing or bottling.)
But the new Redbreast collaboration looks outside of the U.S. “Our co-founder Bob has a long-tendered history in Ireland, so it was just a natural fit,” Perry says. (The president of Ireland just gave Dylan an 80th-birthday shout-out this week, too.)
And yes, Dylan will provide tasting notes during the creative process. “He’s our number one sample consumer,” as Perry tells us. “He is involved in the creation process — not leading it, but he approves the final product and has feedback on every milestone part of our process. It’s because of him we launched with a double barrel release. He’d say, ‘I want it to taste more like a wooden structure.’ I’ve never had that kind of feedback.”
Perry adds: “I’d say, ‘I don’t know what that means, Bob.’ But he pushes me to do things differently. And he’s a good guy and fun to work with.”
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