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Taste Test: Like His Songs, Bob Dylan’s New Bourbon Is Deceptively Complex

Our whiskey critic reviews Heaven's Door Bootleg Volume III.

Heaven's Door Bootleg Volume III Photo: courtesy Heaven's Door

What more is there to say about the world of celebrity-backed spirits brands? Not much at this point, so maybe it’s worth looking at each one individually instead of as a group. There are certainly a few that are clear attempts at quick cash grabs, while others are likely a passion project, or at least a passing-interest endeavor. Bob Dylan’s Heaven’s Door whiskey brand seems to fall into the latter category. After all, it’s not like Dylan needs the money, and if you believe the marketing he’s actually something of a whiskey connoisseur. Regardless, the team behind the brand certainly knows what they are doing, and the trio of sourced whiskeys (straight bourbon, straight rye, double barreled whiskey) are some high-quality, if expensive, expressions.

Speaking of expensive, the Bootleg Series, which launched in 2019, is the creme de la creme of high-priced, rarified Heaven’s Door whiskey. Volume 1 was a 26-year-old whisky of undetermined origin (although the lack of an “e” makes Canada a likely suspect) finished in Japanese mizunara oak. Volume 2 was a 15-year-old bourbon finished in Jamaican rum casks. And the brand-new Volume 3 is a cask-strength (121.2 proof) 13-year-old bourbon finished in Vino de Naranja barrels from southern Spain. Now, when you think of Spanish influence on whiskey, it’s usually sherry-seasoned oak that you’re talking about. But this is a very different finishing process. According to the brand, the barrels used for this secondary maturation previously held a sweet white dessert wine that was macerated with bitter orange peel to pick up flavor and color. The bourbon spent almost a year finishing in these casks, more than enough time to have a significant impact on the whiskey.

The color is dark amber, with what could be interpreted as a slight orange tinge. The nose has notes of rich caramel, vanilla and baked apple. But the palate is where things really start to light up. The mouthfeel is almost viscous, with notes of blueberry jam, marzipan, maraschino cherry syrup and fudge coating your tongue. This is an intense whiskey, teetering on the verge of overpowering the inherent character of the bourbon, but pulling back at the last second with more familiar American whiskey characteristics. I’d venture a guess that any more time spent in these finishing barrels would have inexorably altered this whiskey to the point where it might not be as enjoyable. As it stands now, this would make a nice after dinner dram.

There are only 3,949 bottles available of this whiskey, and each will run you close to $600 (or more, depending on the retailer). Each bottle is a handmade ceramic decanter decorated with one of Dylan’s paintings called “Sunday Afternoon” (remember, he is a visual artist too). And the bottle comes housed in a leather journal with details that are supposed to bring to mind Spanish architecture. The Bootleg Series Volume 3 might not blow as many minds as Dylan going electric once did, but this intriguing dessert bourbon will definitely please fans of the brown spirits category.

Score: 92

Pre-Order Now: $545

What Our Score Means

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for 
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet 
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market 
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable 
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this 

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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