Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Luxco. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Luxco’s premium Blood Oath product line is a feature project for blender John Rempe. The “oath” to which the project owes its name is one of independence and secrecy. Rempe eschews commitments to particular distilleries, established styles, or blending philosophies, stating simply that the goal for each bottling is to present rare and deliberately unnamed bourbons in unexpected blends and combinations. The most recent iteration, the eighth in the series, features a blend of mature bourbons, each with a hint of rye and one finished in casks of Calvados.
Don’t be caught assuming that the Cognac region has a monopoly on brandy. Distillation of fruit spirits in Normandy, France, is recorded as far back as the 8th century rule of Charlemagne with specialty Calvados marking a particularly high point in the craft. The process begins with pressing apples for a dry cider. There are over 200 distinctly named varieties of apples known to be used in various productions of Calvados and most of the initial fermentations are performed on the combined juice from several of them. The resulting cider is then double-distilled into an eau de vie and aged at least two years in oak casks before it can be sold as Calvados.
Past releases from Blood Oath have successfully incorporated creative finishes. It is the aging process that is reputed to imbue Calvados with its distinctive aromas, so I’m looking forward to finding out how it will impact a bourbon.
Tasting Notes: Blood Oath Pact 8
Vital Stats: A blend of three ryed bourbons: One aged 14 years, one aged 11 years, and one aged 8 years and finished in Calvados casks. 49.3% ABV, bottles retailing at $120 and climbing.
Appearance: Rich caramel-amber color, clear and medium-to-light bodied.
Nose: Green, herbaceous aromas blend into spiced caramel apple.
Palate: Major notes of pears and dark chocolate, with a hint of maize followed by a big pop of spice–cinnamon and clove–that drops off into a long, mellow butterscotch finish. A bit of water brings the butterscotch forward and draws out the spice clearly into a more clearly defined sweetened cinnamon but, to my palate at least, loses the fine chocolate notes. This trade off is not worth it. I recommend drinking this one straight.
This is a very pleasant sip. The thick and leisurely sweetness of butterscotch is complimented by a smooth feel on the palate and punctuated by chocolate bitterness and rye spice. The combination of bourbons meets the stated goal of a unique, even idiosyncratic pour. That uniqueness, however, is likely to inflate prices beyond what I would personally want to pay. Blood Oath collectors will likely be undeterred by a price jump in the secondary market, but the curious or casual fan may well find the price too steep even for a premium product.