Heaven's Door Exploration Series I Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


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, and Heaven’s Door was birthed; its name as a tribute to his 1973 hit song.


Then, in 2017, the development of its Six Mile Creek distillery in Pleasureville, Kentucky, took hold. In 2018, its custom-made Vendome still was turned on.


Heaven’s Door has kicked its production into full gear. In the last few months, several releases have hit the market. I’ve been impressed with what the brand offers, including its newest core release, Ascension, the first to include whiskey off its own still.


Heaven’s Door has introduced various limited-edition whiskeys to its portfolio, including Homesick Blues and Bootleg Series V. Its newest is the Exploration Series.


“Heaven's Door Exploration Series #1 Calvados Casks Straight Bourbon is the inaugural offering in the esteemed Heaven's Door Exploration Series. This series is a testament to the art of whiskey craftsmanship, presenting limited-time offerings that are meticulously crafted under the guidance of a master distiller. These expressions are a celebration of experimentation and innovation, featuring distinct finishing methods that enhance the whiskey's complexity, depth, and character.” – Heaven’s Door  


Exploration Series I begins with Revival distillate, a Tennessee Straight Bourbon distilled from a mash of 70% corn and 30% malted barley. Instead of aging in new, charred oak barrels, maturation occurred in freshly dumped two-year Calvados casks, which included medium-heavy toasted French oak staves. Heaven’s Door does not disclose the distiller. A 750ml package weighs in at 54% ABV (108°) and has a suggested price of $79.99.


I must thank Heaven’s Door for providing me with a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, let’s, um, explore what Exploration Series I is all about and #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: I poured this Bourbon into my Glencairn glass to sip neat. It presented as a rusty-colored liquid and formed a thin, jagged rim with slow, sticky teardrops.


Nose: Upon sniffing the vapor, there was no doubt that Calvados brandy was involved; the smell of apples was unmistakable. Joining it were honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, and oak. When I drew that air into my mouth, I found baked apples.  


Palate: A full-bodied texture coated the entirety of my mouth. The front consisted of baked apples, caramel, and brown sugar. French oak and clove boldly took over the mid-palate. The back was sweet with what could easily be an apricot Danish pastry, with the icing and all.   


Finish: While the French oak staves remained on the finish, it wasn’t the dominating flavor. Instead, the Danish remained, with the baked apples and apricots doing the tango. At the same time, caramel took the final bow of the performance. Overall, the duration was long-lasting.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: One of the things I find disheartening with limited-edition whiskeys is that they’re limited. If you fall in love with one and the shelf is cleaned out before you can obtain another, that’s the end. The critical point is that you fell in love with it. Such is the case with Exploration Series 1. It ticks off all the checkmarks for a Bottle rating and is well worth the price. Cheers!


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.