Expression Session — Tasting Four Whiskies In The Heaven’s Door Portfolio

Finding a good bourbon has never been easier. But that also means it’s never been easier to find a bad bourbon. There are so many expressions on the shelves these days that reaching for the wrong bottle and wasting your hard-earned cash is a real possibility. That’s why we’ve taken to breaking down entire lines of whiskey in our UPROXX Expression Sessions. And this week, we’re breaking down the three mainstream bottles from Heaven’s Door, with one extraordinary bottle tacked on at the end.

For those who don’t know, Heaven’s Door is Bob Dylan’s signature whiskey from Tennessee. It’s not a “Tennessee Whiskey.” It’s just produced there. The idea behind the whiskey is to “tell a story,” according to Dylan. The company achieves this by sourcing some serious juice and giving it great finishing touches and then bottling it in legitimately cool bottles (each one has an overlay of Dylan’s famed iron farmstead gates).

This week we had a slightly shorter Expression Session, as we only had four bottles to taste. Still, it was illuminating and both David Duran and I found a bottle that truly stands out in the line. (Spoiler: It wasn’t the priciest one!)

Heaven’s Door Tennessee Straight Bourbon

ABV: 45%
Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This “high-rye” bourbon has a mash bill of 70 percent corn supported by 30 percent “small grains.” Basically, that’s mostly made up of rye with a dash of malted barley. The juice is then aged in new American oak for eight years before the barrels are blended into the bottle.

Tasting Notes:

This feels like a classic bourbon with notes of vanilla, bread, and oak upfront and is too basic to truly stand out. The sip edges towards a creamy vanilla essence with hints of stone fruit, like cherries, next to a slight spice. It’s very straightforward and drinkable with a long finish that leans into the spice, fruit, vanilla, and maybe a hint of chocolate.

Heaven’s Door Double Barrel Whiskey

ABV: 50%
Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This is the most “Tennessee” whiskey of the line. The expression is a blend of two bourbons and a rye that then goes through the Lincoln County Process — sugar maple charcoal filtration — that makes Tennessee whiskey what it is (still, since this is a blend, it’s defined as “American whiskey”). The juice is first aged for six years in new American and second-use bourbon barrels before blending and additional aging of new American oak for up to a year, hence the “Double Barrel” moniker.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of red berries with a slight tartness alongside a very clean nose. The sip edges those berries into chocolate territory, with an almost cinnamon bread feel, touched with plenty of oak. There’s a slight hint of herbs on the short finish.

Heaven’s Door Straight Rye Whiskey

ABV: 46%
Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

This was the clear winner of the Expression Session this time around. The juice is a classic rye that spends seven years in new American oak. It’s then transferred to French “Cigar” barrels which are dried in the French sun and then lightly toasted, not charred.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear pepperiness alongside bright florals up top. Cherries, more florals, citrus, and sharpness of ginger follow. The depth of the sip really shines through as the matrix of florals, fruits, spice, and oak slowly fades and leaves you ready for more.

Heaven’s Door The Bootleg Series 2019 Edition

ABV: 55.75%
Average Price: $495

The Whiskey:

This bottle is going to be hard to find outside of private collections. The 26-year-old whiskey is finished in Japanese Mizunara oak barrels. These barrels are made from trees that have to be at least 200-years-old and impart something truly unique into the juice that touches the wood.

Tasting Notes:

This whiskey is shockingly easy to sip. First, we have to talk about the color. There’s a dark green (almost black) hue to the yellow liquid that’s unlike any whiskey I’ve ever seen. The nose is a mix of herbaceous, fruity, and spicy without any one element overpowering. The sip surprises with coconut, clove, and a hint of fresh coriander. The end is short-lived but sort of beautiful in how subtle it brings all the oak and flavors to the fore, leaving you eager for another sip almost immediately.

Check out our LIVE tasting of each bottle below with food and travel writer David Duran and UPROXX Life Deputy Editor Zach Johnston!