What Goes into a Blood Oath?

The Whiskey Gentlemen of Chicago made this April’s outing an occasion to sample Blood Oath Kentucky Straight Bourbon at The Berkshire Room located at 15 E. Ohio Street in Chicago. Creator John Rempe’s hand-blended and bottled bourbon enjoyed a lively launch in the comfortable and classy lounge, where we were able to learn how this very limited release was conceived. We were pleased to accept the invitation to attend the tasting event and for the complimentary samples provided on which to base our review.

Rempe is the Director of Corporate Research and Development at Luxco, a company based in St. Louis that produces, imports and markets a variety of spirits. And while vodka, tequila and cordials are part of Luxco’s portfolio, it should come as no surprise that the Gents were primarily interested in the never-to-be-repeated Blood Oath release, which topped out at 15,000 bottles.

After being greeted by our hosts, we were offered our first pour of Pact No. 1. Each Pact is one in a series of unique annual variants to be developed, and this introductory batch is a blend of three different Kentucky straight bourbon whiskeys. The resulting product represents over a year of Rempe’s efforts seeking, sampling and experimenting with different bourbons in search of the perfect profile. (It should be clear, at this point, that Luxco is sourcing bourbons for this product and is not the distiller of the bottle’s contents.)

Rempe explained that his goal was to create a blend with a balanced and approachable character that could be enjoyed neat, but which also served as a respectable contribution to a well-crafted cocktail. As he navigated a path with an open mind, he ultimately identified a key factor to attaining the desired balance. Specifically, he found the addition of a wheated bourbon provided a milder, sweeter aspect to the mix, and smoothed out the rye-based oaky, woody dimensions. This final selection resulted in a combination of bourbons aged 6 to 12 years that together yield a 98.6 proof whiskey that is perfectly drinkable neat – no dilution necessary.

In fact, when we learned of the slightly higher proof, it came as a surprise. Rempe’s objective was clearly achieved, as the extra heat typical of higher alcohol content was subdued, manifesting as a pleasant warmth rather than a burn. Following a peppery and vanilla opening, a honeyed sweetness defines the finish. The Gents’ unanimous opinion was that Blood Oath hit the mark as a flavorful and well-balanced blend.

During the course of the evening, we were treated to a conversation with friendly promotional staff and a bit of trivia on the new product’s name. The parallel between Blood Oath’s proof and the normal Fahrenheit blood temperature of the human body at 98.6 inspired the “Blood” portion of the name. “Oath” is a reference to the guarded secret sources used in the blend that Rempe keeps close to his chest.

Although we prefer to know who the distillers are and more details about the formulations, the flavor and quality provide the basis to determine the product’s value. A press release notes a suggested retail price of $89.99 per 750ml bottle, which may be comparatively high given the less complex youthful bourbons in the blend when compared to more “seasoned” options available. That said, with a scarcity built into a limited run of Pact No. 1 and an admittedly piqued interest generated around 2016’s Pact No. 2, we doubt there will be any unsold stock.

By all counts, it became clear to the Gents that care and thoughtfulness were poured into the development of Blood Oath. As such, beyond the golden spirit itself, a few words must be dedicated to the packaging of this creation. The styling of the label and bottle convey an “old timey,” weathered, masculine feel. The wooden three-bottle box bears lettering looking as though rendered by fire-branding, casting the name “Blood Oath” in adventurous mystique.

So, if you find great appeal in the experience of cracking open a well-designed package of whiskey, lifting the bottle from its case while gazing upon the flourished text of the label, and pouring a proportionate Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey into your favorite glass to enjoy, then Blood Oath is worth picking up – if you can find any bottles left for sale.

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