taste tests

Is Bob Dylan’s New Whiskey Any Good?

Bob Dylan. Photo: Heaven’s Door Spirits

When you’re a celebrity of a certain caliber, it becomes necessary to launch your own liquor brand. George Clooney has Casamigos, Drake has Virginia Black, and now — somewhat shockingly — Bob Dylan and a team of whiskey producers and marketing experts are introducing Heaven’s Door. The brand will release three new products: Tennessee Bourbon, a Double Barrel Whiskey blend, and a straight rye whiskey. The news caused quite the splash (in part because of the WTF-ness of the entire endeavor), but Grub, as always, is here to answer the tough question: How does it actually taste? To find out, we called in some sample bottles, then got New York’s food critic, Adam Platt, and Vulture music editor Sam Hockley-Smith to give the line’s three debut bottles a try. Here’s their verdict on each of three:

Tennessee Bourbon
Sam Hockley-Smith: This doesn’t seem like something he would do. I was very surprised.

Adam Platt: It ain’t bad.

SH-S: Yeah, it ain’t terrible.

AP: This, to me, tastes like a decently constructed bourbon. Like, they’re very common. It has a lot of sugar, some depth, some smoothness at the end. It tastes like a very professional, middle-bottom-top bourbon to me.

SH-S: If I saw this in the store without any context, I would be like, Yeah, this is fine. It’s almost like a Bulleit Bourbon; like, it’s not awful, but I can get this at a bar and it’s not too expensive.

AP: I will say, there isn’t anything, like, Bob Dylan about this.

SH-S: No.

AP: It’s not weird and curly-haired and sinewy. Spiky and sort of gathering stones and moss. It’s pretty much straight down the middle of the road.

SH-S: It’s very like Bob Dylan now. It’s not weird Bob Dylan. It signifies something that your parents really like, as opposed to what he used to be.

Straight Rye Whiskey
AP: I have a feeling this will be more Bob Dylan–y.

SH-S: I hope so. It’s a rye.

AP: Bob’s a rye. He’s not an interstate bourbon.

SH-S: Tastes like a rye. Doesn’t taste like a Bob Dylan rye to me.

AP: It tastes like a mixer to me, like for a Sazerac or an Old Fashioned. It’s not blowing me away.

SH-S: I would hope that this would be the one that would evoke some kind of Dylan-ness, instead of just middle-of-the-road rye. I think Bob Dylan’s go-to drink is probably red wine. Or nothing. To be honest, when I saw this I thought, You don’t really hear much about Bob Dylan’s drinking habits or know much about them.

AP: We don’t know much about Bob Dylan, period. He’s an old poet, minstrel. Bob Dylan to me says “brown spirit.” As to what kind that would be, I don’t know.

Photo: Michael Persico

SH-S: I would be less surprised if this was a Neil Young whiskey. Not this specific kind, but if Neil Young had a whiskey, that feels more on brand.

AP: Neil Young would be crazy-ass mezcal, some hallucinogen, some tequila. I’d buy a Bob Dylan mezcal by the way. Anyway, this is much like the other one. Rye usually has a sort of distinctive, medicinal quality, and I don’t mean medicinal in a bad way. It doesn’t taste engineered, which is what that bourbon tastes like. This tastes more like what you’d pour and make a decent Old Fashioned out of. Again, it’s not a bad thing. It’s just not Bob Dylan.

SH-S: I have some questions about the branding, which feels not at all like Bob Dylan. It’s super generic, like one of those bars that’s trying to act like a stand-alone bar, but is actually a chain.

AP: Clearly, it’s not driving us to fits of fancy. We’re not like twisting in wacko Bob Dylan now. There are better ryes than this, more distinctive ryes.

Double Barrel Whiskey
AP: Maybe this will be a little more hallucinogenic, a little weirder. Before I even taste it, if I were going to buy a Bob Dylan whiskey, this is probably what I’d buy. Depending on the price point, it’s probably a little harsher, a little weirder, a little more Bob Dylan–y.

SH-S: It’s a little peppery. I just tried it.

AP: It’s more Dylan-y.

SH-S: It’s the most Dylan-y of the three.

AP: Rougher-edged, but it’s got a little sweetness, a little vanilla, berries to it. Definitely a little bit of depth to it. Whatever the crap they say. It goes down your throat like, “I’ll have another sip.” I wouldn’t say it’s a great Bob Dylan song, but it’s certainly an imitation of an okay Bob Dylan song.

SH-S: He had that album that was Bob Dylan essentially saying, “I know what you want from me.” It was the late ’90s. It’s pretty good. Time Out of Mind.

The Verdict
AP: What are all the Bob Dylan periods?

SH-S: Well, he’s got the period when he was just doing standards over and over again, and then he started breaking out and doing his own stuff, which was fine enough folk music. Then he has a motorcycle accident. Then he has the electric period. Then he has the religious period, which was also the electric period. And then he has the sort of weird ’80s, kind of like almost pop music.

AP: What’s his greatest period, do you think?

SH-S: I would say the electric period. That was the greatest run of solid Bob Dylan albums.

AP: There’s no Blood on the Tracks here.

SH-S: No.

AP: But, I would choose the Double Barrel.

SH-S: Yeah, me too.

Is Bob Dylan’s New Whiskey Any Good?