“I wanted to create a collection of American Whiskeys that, in their own way, tell a story. I’ve been traveling for decades, and I’ve been able to try some of the best whiskey spirits that the world has to offer. This is great whiskey.” – Bob Dylan
Celebrity whiskeys are a crapshoot. You’d be in the right if you suggested that any whiskey falls under that description. Still, the truth is that, more often than not, celebrity whiskeys are more about money grabs and less about delivering quality whiskey.
And, yet, a few (very few) stellar ones are worth the price of admission.
Heaven’s Door has a good-sized following. It started in 2015 with Bob Dylan. He trademarked the term bootleg whiskey. Dylan wasn’t out to create a whiskey brand. But Marc Bashula, formerly of Angel’s Envy, and Ryan Perry, a whiskey developer for Diageo, wanted to do something with Dylan’s trademark. They invited him to partner with them on their whiskey adventure. He declined. It wasn’t until 2018 that Dylan changed his mind; he was named co-creator, and as a tribute to his 1973 hit Knocking on Heaven’s Door, the new brand was birthed.
Then, in 2017, the development of a distillery in Pleasureville, Kentucky, took hold. In 2018, its custom-made Vendome still was turned on. The annual series, now in its fifth release since debuting in 2019, was meticulously overseen by Heaven's Door’s Master Distiller, Ken Pierce, and Master Blender, Alex Moore.
Heaven’s Door has three core whiskeys: Tennessee Straight Bourbon, Straight Rye, and Double Barrel – an American whiskey blend of Tennessee and Indiana origins. However, Heaven’s Door also has a unique, allocated line called The Bootleg Series. Bottles holding Bootleg Series whiskeys are hand-made ceramic and feature Dylan’s paintings.
The newest release, Volume V, is an 18-year-old Bourbon aged in Spanish Vermouth Rouge casks. Spanish Vermouth is a fortified white wine flavored with caramel, botanicals, and spices. And, despite the fact it is a white wine, the finished product is deep red. The artwork is called No Vacancies from Dylan’s The Beaten Path collection, and painted in 2019.
It doesn’t come easy; the suggested retail price is $599.99. The distiller has been undisclosed and is packaged at 57% ABV (114°). You can pre-order Volume V directly from Heaven’s Door and shipping is due the end of November.
To help understand how off-the-beaten-path The Bootleg Series whiskeys are, here are its previous releases:
- Volume I (2019) – a low-rye 26-year-old whiskey finished in Japanese Mizunara Oak. It was bottled at 55.75% ABV (111.5°).
- Volume II (2020) – a 15-year-old Straight Bourbon finished in Jamaican rum casks. It was bottled at 52.3% ABV (104.6°).
- Volume III (2021) – a 13-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon finished in Vino de Naranja casks. It was bottled at 60.6% ABV (121.2°).
- Volume IV (2022) – an 11-year-old wheated Bourbon finished in Islay Scotch whisky barrels and packaged at 55.5% ABV (111°).
To be clear, until today, I’ve never had an opportunity to try anything from Heaven’s Door despite its popularity. I am grateful to Heaven’s Door for including me in the media sample distribution list for The Bootleg Series Volume V in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and taste what makes this series so coveted.
Appearance: I sipped this Bourbon neat after pouring it into my Glencairn glass. The liquid inside looked like red burnt umber. The medium-thin rim created thin, syrupy tears.
Nose: I smelled mulled wine with cinnamon, plums, cocoa, allspice, and a hefty punch of vanilla. Drawing the vapor into my mouth offered a taste of ancient oak.
Palate: The mouthfeel carried a medium weight and was velvety. Flavors of raw honey, vanilla, and leather caressed the front of my palate. The middle featured caramel, black cherries, and cocoa powder – I could almost feel the powdery texture. The back had French oak, cinnamon, and shredded tobacco.
Finish: The finish was made of layers and layers of flavor that lasted for eons. What remained were old leather, cocoa powder, black cherries, honey, and tobacco. It seemed almost sticky in my mouth and throat.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: One of the things I learned about rating pricy whiskeys is to leave the value statement off of the rating. The pool of available buyers is minuscule as many cannot afford them (you can include me in that group).
Examining the celebrity whiskey aspect, I’d have to try some of the core expressions before I can say Heaven’s Door bucks the trend, but this particular release gives me an idea of the passion Dylan possesses regarding his artistry.
I realize this is a one-off limited release. Still, I’m impressed with the effort and quality that went into Volume V. It is a unique, very well-crafted Bourbon that is an attention-getter. There’s a definite return on investment for both the brand and the consumer. If your wallet is heavy and you want to lighten it, you’ll want to grab a Bottle. If you can’t but have friends or a local watering hole able to pour it, Volume V is a tasting opportunity you won’t want to pass up.
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.