*Sincere thanks to Common Ground PR and Luxco for the sample.
Another year, another Blood Oath bourbon release from Luxco. And another year where I find myself desperately, frantically searching for some blood oath related factoid or anecdote to help ease us into the review. You just can’t dive right in, immediately bleating on about mashbills and cask types – that fails to set any kind of mood. You what doesn’t fail to set the mood? MANOWAR!
That’s right – Manowar! As you can tell by their conservative attire and happy-go-lucky demeanor, Manowar is a longstanding heavy metal institution that’s made a name for themselves by oiling up, wearing Medieval bathing suits and singing bombastic songs about Norse gods and probably casual swordplay. I mention Manowar not because they’re big bourbon fans, though I mean, they might be. Hell, you wouldn’t catch me slathering on the baby oil, hutching up some tighty-whities and sticking my hand in mangy pelt without having a couple first. No, I mention the band, because they are rumored to have signed one of their record contracts…in blood. There’s a picture of the event, but it seemed a little off-putting to add that here right before discussing some delicious whiskey. And yeah, a contact might not be quite the same thing as an oath, but I think we can all agree that when you sign a contract in blood, that contract pretty much becomes an oath right there on the spot.
So now that we’ve gotten my yearly mention of some kind of blood oath out of the way, we can get to the whiskey. Blood Oath Pact No. 4 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is, as the name implies, the fourth pact in this limited annual series released by Luxco. This time around, the expression has been made up of three bourbons: A 12 year old bourbon and a 10 year old bourbon, and then a 9 year old bourbon that’s been finished in barrels that were toasted rather than charred. Bottled at a sanguine and body temp-ish 98.6 proof, the fourth Blood Oath once again features some fairly brilliant packaging thanks to David Cole Creative. This limited edition was a relatively large edition, with 36,000 bottles landing on those harder-to-reach shelves.
The Nose: Quite sweet on the nose with an almost candied edge to it. Lots of honey, orange juice and a bit of orange crush soda, dusty marshmallows right out of the bag, and banana creme pie. Behind that, peanut M&M’s, Good n’ Plenty candies and just a hint of sharp rye. On the wood and spice end of things, there’s shellacked oak (and I should know as I’ve shellacked a fair amount of oak) that’s a little solvent-y along with warm cinnamon, vanilla bean, star anise, and a little nutmeg.
The Palate: Slightly oily mouthfeel with much of the continued sweetness from the nose. There’s also some cherry cough syrup with the honey and juicy orange now. After that, I found dark chocolate, toasted grains, candied nuts, and a hint of tobacco leaf. Strong, tannic oak notes lead to the finish with vanilla bean, clove, nutmeg, star anise, and black pepper.
The Finish: Some briefly lingering residual dark sugars give way to moderately grippy oak, fine ground pepper, clove, and star anise.
Thoughts: This is pretty darn good, but I don’t think it’s as good as the pretty darn excellent Pact 2 and Pact 3 Blood Oaths I’ve tried. I enjoyed the sweetness of this one but felt it was missing a bit of both the mashbill and the oak. The sweet, candied profile needed a bit more balance on the nose for me. The palate fared better, but, tasting them side by side, I think I prefer the Blood Oaths when there’s a more complex blend of grains and finishing involved. This remains a beautifully packaged whiskey that’s definitely enjoyable. It also remains a fairly pricey whiskey (~$100) when one considers how big the limited edition really is.