In 2016, the Swedish Academy awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature, in a move that one commentator at the time called a “misconceived nostalgia award, plucked from the stale prostates of senile, babbling hippies”.
In further proof that those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it, The Nobel Academy can proudly say that they are merely the bestowers of the second most ludicrous award Mr Dylan has ever received.
In 2019, the London Spirits Competition placed the esteemed ‘Spirit of the Year’ award on Bob’s very own Heaven’s Door Double Barrel. Not only that, but they proceeded to chuck in ‘Whisky of the Year’, ‘Best by Value’, ‘Best by Quality’ and ‘Best in Country (USA)’ for good measure.
So, when this reviewer’s holiday in the US saw him come across a $50 bottle of this allegedly peerless beverage in a Memphis Off-licence, and a quick google search told me that one usually needs to splash out in surplus of £100 for this supposed nectar of the gods, naturally my initial thought went along the lines of “don’t think twice, it’s alright”. (Sidenote; not for the first or last time on the trip, I’d forgotten the American fetish for refusing to include the tax on their f*****g price tags, but it appeared to be a bargain nevertheless).
I was certain that once the cashier placed the bottle in the trademark brown paper bag favoured by countless hobos of Hollywood cinema, my first sip would have me truly living the American Dream.
Well, come gather round people wherever you roam, because this whiskey is awful.
To begin, I am confused by the decision to name this product ‘double barrel’. As the label describes it, this whiskey is manufactured (no, I won’t go as far as to say ‘crafted’) by blending two separate Tennessee whiskies with a bourbon. All of these products are presumably made in virgin American Oak barrels before being blended and matured a second time in…well…erm…a second virgin American Oak barrel. Perhaps it is my naivety, but when I read ‘double barrel’, my immediate assumption is that some thought has been given to enhancing the taste by introducing a second flavour during maturation. I suppose ‘basically just the same barrel twice’ didn’t fit on the label.
The nose, palate and finish alike all have the subtlety and nuance of the luminous orange liquid found on budget supermarket shelves. And not the surprisingly good Aldi or Lidl stuff, either. I’m talking about the plain white-labelled concoctions in B&M Bargains that just have ‘Scotch’ written on the front. In fact, an extra point has been awarded because the first sniff alone was enough to clear out a lingering cold that had been bugging me since stepping off the flight.
Price – £79 (plus £5 delivery) (thedrinksbasket).
Nose – The alcohol burn charges out the glass. As I say, the sole redeeming feature is that this has the ability to clear the sinuses better than a Vicks Inhaler, and recovery from the initial shock (plus a little drop of water) will eventually give way to sweeter notes of caramel, vanilla shortbread and custard.
Palate – Again resisting the temptation to write ‘overwhelming taste of bad whisky’, salty sea notes enhance a bouquet of citrus flavours, most notably lemon.
Finish – The best part of the experience; lingering flavours of nuts and sweet maple syrup at least give some sense of classic Americana. But then you take another sip, and the whole sorry process starts again.
Opinion: I suspect my feelings are made clear if you’ve read this far. This one is bad. To be avoided at all costs. The pretty bottle design (based on the wrought iron gates designed by Bob himself) is the highpoint, and it’s all downhill from there. My ambition of living the American dream, cruising the Blues Highway with a sophisticated drop of whiskey in one hand and a supermarket-bought assault weapon in another, lay in tatters after the first sip.
This is clearly a product resting entirely on the prestigious name of its owner. No effort whatsoever has gone into creating a pleasant flavour experience. The bottle was quickly relegated to the realms of the pre-drinking experience diluted with a substantial amount of Coke. To sign off to Bob with a final reference to his more successful career as a songwriter, you’ve just kinda wasted my precious time (and 50 dollars plus tax).
 That was ‘Trainspotting’s’ Irvine Welsh.
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