distilling whiskey

Fifty Years After Releasing ‘Nashville Skyline’, Bob Dylan’s Whiskey Brand Will Become a Part of It

We Break Ground in September in SoBro during Bourbon Heritage Month.

Fifty years ago this month, Bob Dylan released “Nashville Skyline,” a critically acclaimed upbeat country crooner of an album that Rolling Stone dubbed “the artistically impossible.” He helped to pave the way for countless other folk and rock artists to record in Music City, ultimately changing the course of the city forever.

Nashville Skyline was actually the third album that Dylan recorded in Nashville, though it was his first and most ‘country’ record. It was a bold stylistical foray. At the same time, the shift was incredibly natural, because of the musical bonds he forged with the talented studio musicians who played on ‘Blonde on Blonde’ and ‘John Wesley Harding.’

Given that history, it feels almost pre-ordained that Nashville will soon be home to the Heaven’s Door Distillery and Brand Experience Center. All of our whiskeys have some tie to Tennessee and Bob’s deep connection to Nashville made it our natural home in the Volunteer State. Each expression of our whiskey has a direct tie to Tennessee, in distillation, aging, barrel finishing or bottling. 

We are scheduled to break ground during Bourbon Heritage Month in September in the city’s downtown SoBro neighborhood, though ‘break ground’ may be a bit of a misnomer. In Bob’s spirit of reinvention and re-discovery, we will be thoughtfully transforming a 160-year-old former church that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Our distillery visitors will be easy walking distance from the Country Music Hall of Fame, which recently paid tribute to Dylan’s contributions to the city’s musical life in Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City. The exhibit, which catalogued the transformative late-60s-early-70s period, was supposed to be open for one year but was so popular it ended up being held over for three. (It closed in February of this year.)

“Dylan’s embrace of Nashville and its musicians—the Nashville Cats—inspired many other artists, among them Neil Young, Joan Baez, Paul McCartney and Leonard Cohen, to follow him to Music City,” the museum noted in its exhibit announcement.

The Country Music Hall of Fame commissioned several concerts in connection with the exhibit, and during one of them Nashville singer-songwriter Ketch Secor said this: 

“[Bob Dylan] has informed every songwriter in our city. He is at the heart of what Nashville is all about.”

In ‘The Lasting Impact of Bob Dylan’s ‘Nashville Skyline,’ writer Thomas Mooney described Bob as “a shape-shifting chameleon who never painted himself into a perceived corner or let anyone typecast him as a certain kind of artist.”

We are grateful to have Bob’s artistic sensibilities as a partner and co-creator of our whiskeys. We look forward to meeting the public in a city that he helped shape, and to calling Nashville our home.

Acclaimed Whiskeys Created to Tell Their Own Story

For over fifty years, Bob Dylan has confounded the expectations of both his critics and fans, who have tried again and again to put him in an artistic box of their own design.  

Dylan’s foray into spirits was to try his hand at the art of craft whiskey, collaborating with some of the best distillers from across the country. Together, we knew we could offer something special, something inspired by the idea of determining one’s own path despite what anyone else said. Bob Dylan pushes himself towards his creative conviction, unconcerned about acclaim or external validation. For decades, this restlessness has pushed him beyond just making music and into painting, welding, and now, whiskey. 

When the opportunity arose to partner with the legendary musician and cultural icon, to help him create a unique collection of whiskeys, it was both exhilarating and daunting. Dylan, after all, can be a relentless perfectionist and, some might say, inscrutable at times. It was clear that this was a passion project for Bob and that the only thing that mattered was to create whiskeys that had their own unique flavor, or as Bob puts it, each tell their own story.   

As with most things born from passion and imagination, initial cynicism often turned to unreserved praise when the Heaven’s Door trilogy was tasted.

Each of the four Heaven’s Door expressions has medaled in key competitions internationally, including the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the 2018 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and the 2018 New York World Wine & Spirits Competition. Heaven’s Door has also earned compliments from some of the most heralded whiskey experts in the world. 

“If a new Dylan album was this critically well-received, you’d expect it to go platinum,” Forbes Contributor Larry Olmstead noted in his piece, “Bob Dylan And Whiskey: Music Icon Wins Rave Reviews For His Luxury Spirits.”


Heaven’s Door Tennessee Straight Bourbon

Our Tennessee Straight Bourbon is perhaps the most heralded of our award-winning whiskeys, since it was named the second-best bourbon at the 2018 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, beating out more than 80 competitors, many with long and storied pedigrees. With an unusual mash bill of thirty percent “small grains” and aged seven years in American oak, it also took home Double Gold in the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition and Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Our bourbon also earned five stars and a highest rating from F. Paul Pacult, who wrote of it in his influential Spirit Journal: “A succulent, harmonious bourbon that hits all the right notes at the right moments for the category; a study of equal parts elegance and power.” 

Heaven’s Door Double Barrel Whiskey

When we were fine tuning this unique blend of three whiskeys, Bob remarked that he wanted it to “feel like being in a wood structure.” That led us on a journey of experimentation that culminated in our double-barrel whiskey, which earned Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It also picked up a Silver at the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition and earned 93 points and an “Excellent” rating at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.

Our Double Barrel also earned five stars from Pacult’s Spirits Journal, whose review noted its “immaculate clarity. The richness of the vanillin and lipids imparted by the barrel are obvious and welcome, in that, the buttery texture underlines the gustatory power.”

Heaven’s Door Straight Rye Whiskey

We sacrifice up to twenty percent of our rye to the “angel’s share,” the portion consumed by the cigar-shaped French oak barrels that we use to finish our rye whiskey. The wood is porous, but also highly aromatic, adding a smooth but spicy complexity, with hints of orange peel and coriander.

Our Rye struck Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits, earned 94 points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge and took Bronze at New York World Wine and Spirits. 

Reviewing it for the New York Times, Clay Risen, author of “American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit,” wrote “It opens deceptively smooth on the palate, but builds to a sweet spiciness before finishing with a burst of spicy, bittersweet chocolate.”

Heaven’s Door Limited Release 10-Year Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey

So far Heaven’s Door hasn’t distilled any of its own whiskey. We’ve acquired, applied finishes, blended and further aged barrels we’ve been able to source on the market. That’s why we were so excited to come across a limited supply of ten-year-aged Tennessee whiskey that we were able to buy and bottle. (Unlike our flagship bourbon, this one did go through the “Lincoln County process” of maple charcoal filtration.)

‘After spending ten long, hot summers in a Tennessee rickhouse, this bourbon was so perfect that we felt any tinkering would have been a disservice,' said Perry, Head of Whiskey Development. And in the limited amount of time our 10-year has been on the market, whiskey critics have agreed with him.

It earned five-of-five stars from F. Paul Pacult in his influential Spirit Journal, took Silver at the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition and provoked reviewer Dave Wondrich at Imbibe magazine to declare it “a wonderfully balanced bourbon, rich and chewy and dangerously drinkable.”