Bob Dylan’s Heaven’s Door whiskey brand is one of the standouts in the saturated world of celebrity-backed spirits brands for one reason—the whiskey it releases is pretty damn good, and sometimes really damn good. This new high-end entry into the limited-edition Bootleg Series falls more into the former than the latter category, but this cask-finished bourbon is definitely one worth trying.
The new whiskey in question is Vol. IV in the Heaven’s Door Bootleg Series, a wheated bourbon that was aged for 11 years. The Bootleg Series is an expansion upon the core lineup of straight bourbon, double-barreled whiskey and rye whiskey. All of the whiskey from Heaven’s Door is sourced from other distilleries and blended by the team there and not Bob Dylan himself, which you probably already knew. Every now and then, the brand comes up with some liquid it deems to be more special or rare than what goes into the core lineup, and sometimes that whiskey is put into other types of barrels for a secondary maturation.
For Vol. IV, this wheated bourbon (meaning wheat is used as a secondary flavoring grain instead of rye, like Maker’s Mark or Pappy Van Winkle) was aged for 11 years and then finished in Islay scotch casks. Islay is, of course, known its peated single malt scotch, ranging from gentle backyard fire pit level to scorched earth wildfire. The exact source of the casks used is not revealed, only that they were purchased from “a rare goods importer,” but the whiskey was finished for nearly a year in these smoky barrels and the results are subtle but definitely noticeable.
The nose reveals aromas of caramel, apple cinnamon and a bit of blood orange with the first whiff. Then the palate opens up in some interesting ways. The whiskey immediately jumps out as sort of a hybrid, like if Maker’s Mark Cask Strength and Highland Park single malt somehow managed to procreate and have a baby. There are cherry and chocolate notes, and whiffs of soft smoke curl through the back end of the palate with just a touch of astringency. At 111 proof, there is a bit of burn here, so a few drops of water really softens and opens up the whiskey in a nice way.
Here’s the thing. Some of the recent Heaven’s Door whiskeys have really impressed me—the Master Blender’s Edition finished in Redbreast casks, the 10-year-old Decade Series bourbon, even last year’s Bootleg Series III finished in Vino de Naranja casks. This is a good whiskey, but it doesn’t quite reach those levels. And yet, I’ll be going back for another sip, particularly with a splash of water or perhaps over a large cube of ice.
The Bootleg Series Vol. IV comes in a ceramic decanter decorated with a rendering of Dylan’s 2017 oil painting “Lighthouse in Maine,” and the bottle comes ensconced in a large leather case with a quote from Dylan inscribed on the inside. You can find this whiskey for sale now at ReserveBar, but expect to pay more than the $499.99 asking price. That’s a hefty price tag for a bourbon just over a decade old, but this one is for the hardcore, dedicated fans—of Dylan and his whiskey.
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