By Randy Mastronicola
Bob Dylan is a musical icon. He is one of the most influential and groundbreaking artists in recorded music history. What most people do not know is that he is also a metalwork artist with his own brand of whiskey.
The Bob Dylan musical dossier is, of course, legendary. He was an essential guiding spirit of the musical zeitgeist and countercultural movement of the 1960’s. The masterful and socially trenchant lyrics he wrote as a young man-child-poet were revolutionary. Early on, landmark songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” from this new musical force were picked up on as rallying cries by legions of disenfranchised youth. His career has seen glorious heights and moments that weren’t as glorious. Nevertheless, he has been in rarified air in the pantheon of popular music since World War II. Only Elvis and The Beatles occupy that air space with him. His songwriting and lyricism has cemented him as one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, and those songs will be revered and recorded long after the deal goes down.
Bob Dylan’s unmistakable voice and artistic soul have informed his music for over fifty years. He is a creative polymath and his contributions arguably place him beyond any other American in musical history. He has sold more than 125 million records, won numerous Grammy awards, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Nashville Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was awarded a special citation by the Pulitzer Prize jury for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, and he is the first and only musician to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 2016.
Bob Dylan, iconoclast, has always stretched beyond the confinements of any one art form. He has been able to avoid buying into his own early press as the “voice of a generation.” And while he is mainly known for his songwriting, he is also an actor, author, illustrator and renowned visual artist. He has received accolades for his work with water colors and large-scale acrylic paintings since his first public exhibition in 2007, The Drawn Blank Series, opened at the Kunstsammlungen Museum in Chemnitz, Germany. He has had exhibitions in prestigious galleries and museums from that point forward.
With all this, some fans may not know that he is also an accomplished metalwork artist. They may also not know he has an award-winning trio of American handcrafted whiskeys— Heaven’s Door Spirits—named after his highly acclaimed and widely covered 1973 song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
There is no shortage of celebrity brand ambassadors out there in the spirits universe (insert eye-roll here). Some are legitimately vital to the creation and continued development of their elixirs, others not so much. Spirits connoisseurs are a savvy lot, and seem to know when a company is just slapping a pretty face on an ad and that’s the extent of the celebrity’s involvement. They also take note when a brand has a legitimate “face of the franchise,” like George Clooney or Sammy Hagar. Respectively, their Casamigos and Cabo Wabo tequilas were born from real passion for the liquid. Likewise, Dylan’s affiliation with Heaven’s Door Whiskey is no buzz kill.
Heaven’s Door Spirits (Spirits Investment Partners—SIP) is the first brand partnership of any kind for Dylan. This series of blends is the culmination of the art of Dylan, and his partner and SIP CEO, Mark Bushala. The iron creations appearing on the whiskey’s labeling showing the different expressions of the Heaven’s Door whiskey collection is eye-catching. The art is dynamic, and contributes gracefully to the branding. Evidently, this craft keeps Bob Dylan busy. We wondered how long he’s been passionate about working and welding in the metalwork medium. He told Cigar & Spirits Magazine, “I’ve worked with it in one form or another for decades. I was born and raised in iron ore country, where everyday you could breathe it and smell it.” In fact, he’s created and given these works to personal friends and family for the past 30 years. Bill Clinton owns one of his pieces.
Bushala is the former President and CEO of the heralded Angel Share Brands and owner of Angel’s Envy Bourbon. He went on a mission to connect to Dylan when he learned the artist had registered a trademark application for “Bootleg Whiskey” in 2015. They met through a mutual friend and the idea was born that blending Dylan’s art in with the whiskey’s branding would work well. Bushala felt Dylan had qualities that translated well for a whiskey brand. “He has great authenticity,” Bushala said. “He is a quintessential American. He does things the way he wants to do them. I think these are good attributes for a super-premium whiskey as well.”
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