Of all the major Kentucky distilleries, Lux Row is perhaps the one most likely to slip under the radar at any given time, along with the likes of Barton 1792. Without a large portfolio of different whiskeys and regular limited releases, it’s not a company that receives the kind of attention you see directed toward the likes of Buffalo Trace, or Heaven Hill, or Brown-Forman. But Lux Row’s brands are indeed ubiquitous and widely consumed, especially the likes of Rebel Yell and the Ezra Brooks brand, which has seen a lot of expansion in the last few years. At times, it has seemed like Lux Row was making a play for greater notoriety … but that’s pretty much all up in the air at the moment, given parent company Luxco’s ongoing acquisition by MGP for more than $475 million. Where the pieces will land when that deal is complete, we can’t say.
In recent years, however, one of the most notable Lux Row brands has been its high-end line of sourced, blended bourbons, known as Blood Oath. These releases, each of which is referred to as a “pact,” are sourced and blended by Lux Row Master Distillery John Rempe, who is the “only one who knows what’s in the blend,” as far as the Blood Oath shtick is concerned. Each Blood Oath Pact is a blend of three well-aged Kentucky bourbons, bottled at 98.6 proof (49.3% ABV), with some portion of the blend being partially matured in a unique finishing barrel. Previous Blood Oath releases, for instance, have seen secondary aging in cognac casks, Caribbean rum casks, or California red wine barrels. When they’re gone, they’re gone—no Blood Oath release will ever be made again.
Which brings us to the just-released latest installment, Blood Oath Pact No. 7. As with others in the series, this is a blend of three Kentucky bourbons, all of which are rye rather than wheated recipes. Pact 7 includes “a 14-year extra-aged ryed bourbon that is blended with an 8-year ryed bourbon. The third part of the blend is another 8-year ryed bourbon, finished in sauternes wine casks from the Bordeaux region of France.” MSRP is $99, but the secondary prices on Blood Oath releases are typically far more, and package stores may also inflate prices by directly gouging consumers, as we’ve written about extensively.
Sauternes is a sweet dessert wine from France, which has increasingly seen use as a finishing barrel for whiskey, although it’s sort of difficult to associate it specifically with a flavor profile in terms of how it affects bourbon during secondary maturation. The company’s press release for Pact No. 7 highlights stone fruit notes, caramelized sugars and “the balance of sweetness and spice” as what sets Pact 7 apart, so let’s get to tasting and see how accurate this is. This will actually be my first time sampling something from the Blood Oath lineup.
On the nose, Pact 7 is redolent in both caramelized sugars and barrel spice, with a richness evoking both caramel sauce and molasses, in addition to gingerbread, roasted nuts and licorice. I’m not really getting the stone fruit notes suggested by Lux Row—instead, the fruit character suggests darker hues to me, more in the realm of chocolate covered cherries.
On the palate, I’m getting those chocolate cherries again, counterpointed by somewhat spicy ginger. Molasses cookie sweetness is counterbalanced by heavy spice, some rye pepperiness, roasted nuts and sweeter spices that evoke Christmas wassail. It’s a characterful but unusual bourbon blend, but the level of sweetness is dialed in to a pleasant, moderate level. At MSRP, this represents a fairly unique product, although once again it’s difficult to pinpoint the nature of the sauternes cask’s influence on the final blend.
Still, purely on its own merits, Blood Oath Pact 7 is an enjoyable dram with some spicy nuance.
Distillery: Lux Row (Luxco)
City: Bardstown, KY
Style: Blend of straight bourbons
ABV: 49.3% (98.6 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $99 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.