Bob Dylan has officially announced that he is launching a new whiskey company dubbed Heaven’s Door. The company is a partnership with Marc Bushala, a lifelong fan and liquor entrepreneur. According to a feature on the new endeavor in The New York Times, Heaven’s Door will sell a collection of three whiskeys including a straight rye, a straight bourbon and a “double-barreled” whiskey, retailing for $50 to $80 a bottle. Notes the Times, “They are Mr. Dylan’s entry into the booming celebrity-branded spirits market, the latest career twist for an artist who has spent five decades confounding expectations.”
The business partnership blossomed after a trademark for the term “bootleg whiskey” was filed under Dylan’s name in 2015. Bushala’s own brand of bourbon, Angel’s Envy, had just sold for $150M, and he reportedly began “obsessing over this concept of what a Dylan whiskey could be.” Busala made contact with and was vetted by Dylan’s reps, and after a reaching a compromise over the name (“bootleg whiskey” was an appropriate nod to the oft-bootlegged artist, though not quite right for the top-shelf spirits market), Dylan agreed to Bushala’s business proposal.
As The New York Times notes, Dylan is not simply licensing his name to the product: “He is a full partner in the business, Heaven’s Door Spirits, which Mr. Bushala said had raised $35 million from investors.
“We both wanted to create a collection of American whiskeys that, in their own way, tell a story,” Dylan recently shared with The New York Times. “I’ve been traveling for decades and I’ve been able to try some of the best spirits that the world of whiskey has to offer. This is great whiskey.”
“Dylan has these qualities that actually work well for a whiskey,” Mr. Bushala said. “He has great authenticity. He is a quintessential American. He does things the way he wants to do them. I think these are good attributes for a super-premium whiskey as well.”
The Times story goes on to explain the characteristically Dylanesque nature of Bob and Bushala’s partnership on Heaven’s Door:
Mr. Bushala said that over four or five meetings — always at Mr. Dylan’s metalworking studio in Los Angeles — and a number of phone calls, he had learned that his partner has a sophisticated whiskey palate. … Yet communication was still a challenge. Mr. Bushala and Ryan Perry, the chief operating officer, struggled to interpret Mr. Dylan’s wishes. Often they came in the form of enigmatic comments or simply glances.
“Sometimes you just get a long look,” Mr. Bushala said with a laugh, “and you’re not sure if that’s disgust or approval.” … He and Mr. Perry recalled Mr. Dylan’s tasting a sample of the double-barreled whiskey and saying that something was missing. “It should feel like being in a wood structure,” he said.
The regular bottle labels are each inspired by Dylan’s ironwork sculptures. In order to maintain Dylan’s original name for the whiskey, the company will issue an annual Bootleg Series in limited editions, in ceramic bottles decorated with his oil and watercolor paintings. The first, a 25-year-old whiskey, will be released next year and cost about $300.
Read the full New York Times feature on Bob Dylan’s new Heaven’s Door whiskey here.