"Holy shit, Bob Dylan's doing a whiskey!"
That was the initial reaction of Marc Bushala – who co-founded the spirits company behind Angel's Envy bourbon – when he heard that one of his favorite singers was entering the booze business. "It's the last thing you'd ever expect," Bushala says. But he was eager to help Dylan realize his vision, and together they created Heaven's Door, a new line of spirits that initially includes a rye, bourbon and double-barreled whiskey.
Dylan's not the only musician with a spirits brand. Building your own booze is a popular hobby for rappers (Jay-Z, Drake), rockers (Sammy Hagar), and country singers (Toby Keith, Florida Georgia Line). "Celebrities bring incredible scale to a spirits brand – from their loyal, engaged following to their broad reach and appeal," says Dan Cohen, senior director of PR and Social Media for Beam Suntory, producer of Jim Beam. "Conversely, spirits brands allow a celebrity to expand their own reach and to express themselves in new ways." And, in some cases, to make major money – Jay-Z recently became the wealthiest man in hip-hop, and Forbes attributed his rise to the top spot in part to the increasing value of his alcohol brands, Armand de Brignac champagne and D'Ussé cognac. George Clooney and his partners stand to make a billion dollars from the sale of their Casamigos tequila brand.
Dylan's move into whiskey is a savvy one, because whiskey, brandy and cognac "have experienced a boom" recently, according to one industry report. But to capture potential drinkers, Cohen believes spirits like Heaven's Door need something extra. "The brand and celebrity should ideally share similar values," he says. Bushala agrees, so the Heaven's Door portfolio will keep evolving over time, "not unlike [the singer's] music has over the years." "We like to think of Bob as a restless spirit," Bushala says. "That idea of constantly changing – that's our underlying M.O."