There’s no doubt about it: The sea of celebrity-owned alcohol brands is ever growing. But in the midst of the many, Heaven’s Door stands out. That’s because it’s not solely celebrity owned, but rather a collaborative effort between three artists.
Heaven’s Door’s origins began in 2015, when American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan trademarked the term “bootleg whiskey.” To Dylan, the term referenced a series of his “bootleg” recordings that had previously been unreleased. But to two longtime whiskey professionals, the term birthed the idea of crafting a premium American whiskey with the musician.
By 2018, Heaven’s Door Whiskey was batched, bottled, and available for sale. Though the road was a bit rocky — the brand having entered into a legal dispute in 2017 before releasing its first bottle — the three craftsman-turned- owners delivered on their goal to produce a quality American whiskey. Intrigued to learn more?
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Here are eight more things to know about Heaven’s Door.
Heaven’s Door is a young brand with old whiskeys.
Whiskey has such a long and rich history in America — so much so that many American brands feature the word “old” in their names. But unlike many legacy whiskey brands that prize their historical origins, Heaven’s Door is new to the scene and instead embraces its aged whiskeys through special releases. Each of the limited-edition bottles of the brand’s Bootleg Series is supremely matured, with bottles aged for 13, 15 and even 26 years before their release. Even at the brand’s tender age of 4, it’s safe to say that the years distilling and crafting each of its whiskeys has been well spent.
Heaven’s Door is not just Bob Dylan’s whiskey brand.
Heaven’s Door is the fruition of two well-known mavens in the whiskey industry: Marc Bushala, former founder of Angel’s Envy Bourbon and current founder of Spirits Investment Partners (SIP), and Ryan Perry, a whiskey developer at Diageo. After finding out Dylan had trademarked the term “bootleg whiskey,” the pair approached him to collaborate with them on a new line of American whiskeys. Three years later, in 2018, Dylan signed on — becoming a co-creator of the brand.
Three is Heaven’s Door’s lucky number.
Currently, Heaven’s Door offers three main expressions: Heaven’s Door Straight Bourbon, Heaven’s Door Double Barrel, and Heaven’s Door Straight Rye. Also known as Tennessee bourbon, the Straight Bourbon expression is aged seven years in American oak, which results in a taste that has distinct notes of both caramelized pecans and stone fruits. The double barrel whiskey is a blend of three whiskeys aged for six years separately — and then aged together for an additional year in American oak. Thirdly, there is the straight, hand-toasted rye expression aged in French oak cigar barrels for a spirit that has notes of orange peel spiced with coriander.
The Bootleg name lives on with Heaven’s Door’s limited-edition bottles.
Stemming from Dylan’s initial trademarked term, Heaven’s Door launched a collection of limited-edition cask strength whiskeys called the Bootleg Series. Each release also features a special bottle bearing a painting by Dylan and comes housed in a luxe leather box. Volume I was released in 2019 with a 26-year-old whiskey that had been finished in Japanese Mizunara oak barrels. Volume II, released in 2020, was a 15-year-old straight bourbon that was aged in casks previously used to hold Jamaican rum. The most recent release came out in December 2021 and is a 13- year-old Kentucky bourbon finished in Vino de Naranja casks.
The brand’s name stems from one of Dylan’s biggest hits.
Although “bootleg whiskey” was the trademarked term that sparked the creation of Heaven’s Door, both Bushala and Perry felt it was not the right fit for their vision of this premium whiskey. They instead settled on a reference to the musician’s 1973 hit “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
Heaven’s Door fought hard for its name.
In August of 2017, Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc. became aware of the formation of Heaven’s Door Spirits LLC — and it didn’t take long for the well-known whiskey conglomerate to react. In April of the following year, the brand filed a trademark infringement lawsuit, sending Heaven’s Door a cease-and-desist letter stating that both the Heaven’s Door name and brand logo were much too similar to its own. Though the brands declined further media involvement, it’s safe to say that the case fizzled out, as the Heaven’s Door name remains and production continues.
Each bottle is a work of art.
Aside from his music, Dylan is a skilled welder well known for his iron gates artwork. In fact, in 2016, Dylan was commissioned to create a permanent piece for the MGM National Harbor casino resort in Washington, D.C. That 26-by-15-foot gate, named “Portal” — along with Dylan’s other fascinating gate pieces — became the basis for the Heaven’s Door brand’s design. The bottles were custom created to best showcase the artwork, with each bottle displaying one of the artist’s designs.
Heaven’s Door will soon have roots in Nashville.
Heaven’s Door whiskey is currently sourced from several different producers in the Midwest, but the brand has always planned to one day operate from its own distillery. Heaven’s Door sought locations in Nashville, Tenn., home of one of America’s favorite spirits and the location where Dylan recorded three of his albums. In 2019, the brand announced plans to renovate a 160-year-old church located on Elm Street to house its new distillery and brand center.