This is sponsored content provided by the WhiskyX.
In the beginning, there was Billy Dee Williams and Colt 45.
It’s the early 1980s. Picture Billy Dee in a cable-knit sweater, lounging on a sofa in a softly lit, swank bachelor pad. He’s got that look on his face. You know the one. The half-smirk of complete confidence, the same one he flashed Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back as he told her she belonged with him among the clouds. Pulled that shit right in front of Han Solo, too. It’s the facial-expression equivalent to Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet in Pulp Fiction — the one that says “Bad motherfucker” on it.
And in Billy Dee’s hand? A can of Colt 45.
“There are two rules to remember if you want to have a good time,” he coos. “Rule #1: Never run out of Colt 45. Rule #2: Never forget rule … number … one.”
Allow me to introduce Rule #3: Never underestimate the impact of the celebrity endorsement. From the moment I saw that commercial, I never have.
These days, lots of famous people are involved with the booze business. Drew Barrymore, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are among the many actors who own wine brands. Ryan Reynolds, Walton Goggins and The Pogues have all gotten into the liquor game in recent years. Hell, even George Clooney took time out of his being-the-dopest-dude-in-Hollywood schedule to turn a billion-dollar profit on Casamigos Tequila.
In January, at a raucous event called the WhiskyX in Santa Monica, pretty people lined up a hundred deep for the opportunity to sample the wares of the liquor biz’s latest luminary. And who might that be? The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. A brand development company came a-knock-, knock-, knockin’ on Bob Dylan’s door, and the Voice of a Generation answered.
Heaven’s Door Spirits officially launched in April 2018, but the story begins in 2015, when spirits entrepreneur Marc Bushala discovered that Dylan had registered a trademark application for “Bootleg Whiskey.” Bushala managed to arrange a meeting with one of the world’s most influential and groundbreaking artists, and the pair hashed out a plan a for a whiskey collection that would blend art and craft, and incorporate Dylan’s artwork in the packaging.
“Rather than make a single whiskey or work with one master distiller, we thought it would be far more interesting to work with various master distillers and blenders to make whiskies that would each have their own unique signature,” Bushala explains. “By working with different whiskey artisans for each new expression, the portfolio would be more diverse and eclectic.”
“We both wanted to create a collection of American whiskeys that, in their own way, tell a story,” Dylan says. “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.”
Attendees at the WhiskyX certainly seemed to agree with Dylan’s assessment of his hooch (as if the Nobel Laureate who penned “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Desolation Row” would ever steer us wrong). By night’s end, the Heaven’s Door stock was completely tapped out; an inventory that included the brand’s initial trilogy — Straight Tennessee Bourbon, Double Barrel Whiskey and Straight Rye Whiskey.
Another big hit that night was Heaven’s Door’s latest expression, a 10-year-old Tennessee Straight Bourbon (suggested retail price $130), rife with pleasant aromas of cherry pie and warm nuts. In the mouth you get a mix of sweet tropical fruit and spice, balanced with lingering notes of honey and dried apricots. The bottle is a work of art itself, embossed with the distinctive iron gates welded by Dylan at his studio, Black Buffalo Ironworks. It’s presented in a beautiful case with a reprinted lyric sheet featuring the hand-typed words to the Dylan hits “Maggie’s Farm” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
Now, I haven’t tasted every celebrity-endorsed booze brand on the market, but I’ve tried enough to put together a decent report card on whether these guys are Billy Dees or wanna-bes. Take Vince Neil, for instance. He may be the frontman for Mötley Crüe but his signature tequila — Tres Rios — tastes like Poison.
Dylan’s Heaven’s Door, on the other hand, is the genuine article. Take the Straight Rye, finished — unconventionally — in toasted oak cigar barrels from France. The wood imparts notes of ginger and dried fruit. There’s ample pepper flavor, too, courtesy of the grain. The finish seems to last forever and can be a bit unruly — that, of course, is pure Dylan. A great whiskey indeed … and for that, Bob Dylan’s Heaven’s Door rates a full Billy Dee.