“This rare whiskey shall never again be made.”
The first release of the Blood Oath Pact series was in 2015. Since then, master distiller John Rempe has released a new, limited-edition bourbon each year. The Pact, below, is inscribed on every label.
This rare whiskey shall never again be made. The Blood Oath attests: That every batch of Blood Oath is the undertaking of one man — a student of both bourbon and science. Loyal to no one family, favoring no one distillery and bound by no one philosophy – this bourbon connoisseur has one goal in mind – to seek out bourbons rare and wonderful, famous and forgotten. Then bottle them in combinations previously unimagined for a lucky few. Not to cater to anyone’s loyalties, he has sworn to never reveal where he finds his bourbon, but only to promise to choose and make the best he knows. Loose lips never tasted something so special.
Even after seven releases, Blood Oath Pact No. 1 is still considered the best. It’s well worth a taste, if you can find it.
Blood Oath Bourbon is the brainchild of John Rempe, a certified food scientist. Before blending spirits, he worked creating sodas and fruit drinks. At Luxco, he put his talents to use creating award-winning spirits, including Pearl Vodka and Rebel Yell. (Luxco owns Lux Row Distilleries, Ezra Brooks, Rebel Bourbons, Daviess County, and David Nicholson, among others.)
For Blood Oath, Rempe takes the concept of limited-edition bourbon and ups the ante by adding a note of mystery. Although each contributing bourbon is described by age and flavor profile, its origins are kept secret. This provides Rempe with a lot of room to play. But his tastes tend toward rye bourbons with the occasional addition of a wheated one to add smoothness to his concoctions.
The three mature bourbons for this release were chosen to complement each other. The first is a spicy rye, the second a smooth wheated, and the third, another rye-heavy mash, selected for its oaky flavors.
The distillery tasting notes describe an aroma of vanilla and peppery spices, with plenty of oak and an apricot finish. The palate is rich, with vanilla, cocoa, and smooth honey.
A quick note about the odd ABV: times it by two, and you have human body temperature. It’s an interesting nod to the “blood” of the oath.
Aroma: “Sweet vanilla, cherries, roses [and] light oak.”
Taste: “Soft entry, with a buttery mouthfeel… [the] rye, announces itself with a peppery punch and some mint. The spiciness continues through the slightly dry finish (think nutmeg)….”
“I enjoyed this bourbon neat, and if you have $90 to spend, it wouldn’t be a bad buy. But what Blood Oath really attests to is the remarkable current demand for ‘limited editions.’ I’m sure that, like every limited-edition bourbon these days, Blood Oath’s Pact No. 1 will sell out immediately.”
Our favorite excerpts from his review include:
“The legs are long and I can’t help but think of the ZZ Top anthem ‘Legs.’ ‘She’s got legs, she knows how to use them,’ and so does this bourbon. Frankly, they just won’t quit and I’m not sure I’ve ever observed this length before.”
“It excites the tongue, but the flavor comes primarily towards the back of the mouth. It’s a complex whiskey. There’s vanilla, oak, spicy rye, and pepper which lingers with a long finish. However, there is a flash of flavor mid-mouth after you swallow. You can almost distinguish the three separate bourbons at different times as you swallow. It costs a little too much, but it is very enjoyable.”
In 2015, Blood Oath Pact 1 retailed for $89.99. Currently, bottles sell for upwards of $2,000. If that isn’t in your price range, the other Pacts are worth looking into. Many of the releases, though, due to their limited runs, can still run up to several hundred dollars per bottle.
Pact No. 2, 2016, like its predecessor, is a blend of a high-rye mash bill with a wheated bourbon and port-barrel finished rye.
Pact No. 3, 2017, diverges from its siblings. Rather than aging in charred oak, it has a Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel finish. Barrels were courtesy of Swanson Vineyard in California’s Napa Valley.
Pact No. 4, 2018, is a mix of 12-, 10-, and 9-year bourbons aged in a mix of toasted and charred barrels.
Pact No. 5, 2019, is even more of a mix with a 13-year-old, an 11-year-old wheated, and an 8-year-old finished in rum barrels.
Pact No. 6, 2020, Cognac barrels were used to “rest and mellow” this release—a mix of three rye bourbons, aged 14, 8, and 7.
Pact No. 7, the current release, is finished in Sauternes casks from France’s Bordeaux region. It’s a blend of three bourbons heavy on the rye: two 8-year-olds and one 14.
When Carla Carlton, The Bourbon Babe, reviewed Blood Oath Pact 1 in 2015, she mused, “I’m not sure how long this collective craze for the ‘new and few’ will last…”
It did, and the trend continues to diversify. Some distilleries even offer crowd-sourced mash bills, barreling, and finishing options.
Since the ‘90s, demand for whiskey, in all of its incarnations (Scotch, Irish, and bourbon) has increased. Distilleries couldn’t keep up if they continued to produce only their aged flagship products. This trend, along with changes in the distillation laws in the U.S., opened up opportunities for micro-distilleries. Enter the world of age-less whiskey, barrel finishing, and limited-edition spirits. Distilleries, both large and small, are competing for market share. (Check out our article on Age vs. No Age Statement Whiskeys for more about age and age statements.)
Have a favorite limited-edition bourbon or whiskey you love? Opinions or questions about the new trends in barrel finishing or crowdsourcing? Let us know in the comments.