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Bob Dylan’s Whiskey Brand Is Opening Its Own Distillery in Kentucky

The original plan of opening a facility in Nashville has been scrapped.

Heaven's Door Distillery Heaven's Door

A few years ago, Bob Dylan’s Heaven’s Door whiskey brand was planning on opening a small distillery and events center in Nashville, TN. But Robb Report had a chance to speak with the CEO Marc Bushala, and he revealed that the brand has changed course and has acquired a distillery in Kentucky where it will be making its own whiskey, in addition to continuing to source from other producers.

Nashville seemed like a good choice for Heaven’s Door to call home, given Dylan’s ties to the city (Nashville Skyline is one of his best albums) and the fact that some of the whiskey in the core lineup comes from Tennessee. On the other hand, Kentucky is the spiritual (pun intended) home of bourbon, and the state in which most of it is produced. So when the opportunity arose to acquire a distillery called Six Mile Creek in the town of Pleasureville, about halfway between Louisville and Lexington, Bushala couldn’t say no. “The distillery was operational for several years before we came in, but they had run out of funds, got a little over their skis,” he said. “So we acquired a controlling stake in the business… We said, let’s make this the Heaven’s Door distillery, and in doing so we will be a de facto Kentucky brand. It doesn’t mean we won’t do collaborations with distillers from around the country, and even some from other countries, but we will be producing all of our own Kentucky bourbon in this location, and also some rye.”

Heaven's Door Master Blenders' Edition
The brand has been making some outstanding whiskeys. Heaven’s Door

The plan is to build a second distillery onsite, which will allow Heaven’s Door to fill up to 50,000 barrels per year. That’s a big change for the brand, which up until now solely sourced bourbon and rye from other distilleries. There are a large number of barrels of aged whiskey already at the distillery that will be added as a new expression to the portfolio, and the brand will continue to distill whiskey there under the management of new Heaven’s Door master distiller Ken Pierce. Pierce previously worked at Barton 1792 and has been involved with Six Mile Creek since its founding. Bushala says that the new Kentucky bourbon will launch as early as Q4 of 2023, and in addition to this the entire lineup is getting a new label and nomenclature. “The bottle is the same, but the look is quite different,” he said. “The existing bottles have a partial image of Dylan’s ironworks. We decided to reduce the image so you have a full gate image on an applied label. It’s got a cool tactile quality.” The new names will be as follows—Revival (Tennessee bourbon), Revelation (double barrel whiskey), Refuge (rye whiskey finished in sherry casks), and Ascension (Kentucky bourbon).

The distillery looks kind of like an old frontier town, according to Bushala, with reassembled cabins brought in from Pennsylvania and buildings constructed to look like they are straight out of the 1700s. He’s also looking into have bison roaming the property—they would eat the spent grain left over from distillation, and would be a nod to Dylan’s Black Buffalo metalwork studio. According to Bushala, the distillery is one of the greenest, most sustainable operations he’s come across, and they are looking at growing heirloom grains on the property to make whiskey in the future.

Rendering of Heaven's Door new visitor's center
A rendering of the new visitor’s center Heaven’s Door

Heaven’s Door is also opening a brand center called the Last Refuge in a converted church in the Nulu neighborhood of Louisville. This space will house an events center, retail store, whiskey bar, and “art experience.” “Dylan hates the word museum and doesn’t like the word gallery,” said Bushala. “So we call it an art experience, where we’ll be able to exhibit his metal work, paintings, drawings, as well as work by other artists.” He says the goal is to have the largest selection of American whiskey anywhere at the bar, which will be located in an old gymnasium with space to hold about 2,000 bottles.

According to Bushala, Dylan is not just a celebrity face for Heaven’s Door, but an integral part of the brand who is involved in the details. “Bob is very involved in every decision and has strong opinions on everything,” he said. “This was something he got very excited by. We still like the idea of sourcing great whiskey from different producers, because I think it gives you a bigger canvas to play with. Our focus has been on barrel finishing and blending, but now we can play with our own distillate, and it doesn’t eliminate the opportunity to do things with other producers.”

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