Whisky Connosr

A. Smith Bowman Abraham Bowman Bourbon Bottled 9-12-2011

Abraham Bowman Bourbon 1st Release

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@VictorReview by @Victor

25th Apr 2014


A. Smith Bowman Abraham Bowman Bourbon Bottled 9-12-2011
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: user

  • Brand: A. Smith Bowman
  • ABV: 69.3%

The reviewed bottle is from the very first release of Abraham Bowman Bourbon, produced at the A. Smith Bowman distillery located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The whiskey was distilled 1-18-1992 and bottled 9-12-2011, making the whiskey 19 years, 7 months old. The three Bowman-named brands, i.e. Bowman Brothers Small Batch, John J. Bowman Single Barrel, and Abraham Bowman all originated in 2011. The A. Smith Bowman distillery had previously been known mostly for the brand Virginia Gentleman. Sazerac Company purchased the A. Smith Bowman distillery, which had previously been a family business since the 1930s, in 2002-2003. The reviewed bottle is my sister's bottle, has been open for 2 1/2 years, though gassed and decanted over much of that period, and the bottle is now approximately 50% full. I've been sampling from this bottle since it was first opened, and have my own unopened bottle of this whiskey for future reference

Colour: dark, but not as dark as many old bourbons

Nose: extremely intense vanilla, maple sugar, natural caramel, and piquante edged spices from rye grain. Air contact makes this nose huge. @paddockjudge, you would smell this and say that this reminds you of some of the best Canadian whiskies, and, indeed, they are very similar to one another. A little water makes the nose similar but less dense and more expansile

Taste: excellent translation of the nose flavours to the palate; this is intense and delicious. Water brought out black licorice flavours which for me detract somewhat from the effect

Finish: long, clean and intense. Both the oak flavours and the rye flavours offer a long sharp crescendo, with the death offering a little bit of sourness not previously in evidence. Water provided more licorice into the finish, which to me is not desirable

Balance: Well, I like the Big Flavours, and I ALWAYS smile when I get a chance to drink a bourbon or rye over 68% ABV. They are few and far between

I've observed this bottle over its whole history, and have to conclude that a good bit of air exposure has shown this particular whiskey at its best. This is a standard, i.e. rye-containing, bourbon without non-traditional embellishment, such as wine-cask influence. When the bottle was first opened, I thought, "Ok, but expensive and unremarkable." With air, the whiskey bloomed. This is the sort of old age-statement whiskey which is becoming increasingly scarce. This particular release of Abraham Bowman, and those to follow, were in their own ways a series of "one-offs" resulting from Sazerac Company's inheritance of the A. Smith Bowman aging stock. My suggestion to you is: if you like bourbons and US ryes, and see an old age-statement release from a reputable distillery, consider buying it. These special products have been getting scarcer and more expensive


Magnus commented

Excellent review, @Victor! I've been reading your takes on US bourbons for quite awhile now and as a bourbon lover myself (my Dad lives in Maryland, after all), I can't get enough. It was especially interesting for me to get to know with your experience with the oxidation being not only a bad thing, but also playing a good role in some whisk(e)ys' development. Thanks!

10 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Magnus, thank you for your kind words. If you look through the Connosr archives you'll see a lot of discussion about the air effects on whisky, pro and con. Most whiskies "open up" and improve/blossom with some initial air contact, ranging from a couple of days to long periods of time, even of over a year in some cases. The whiskies, and even batches of each whisk(e)y, are quite individual in their characteristics.

I've devoted a lot of my attention on Connosr to pointing out the subtleties of whisky, especially the reality and frequency of batch variations and the great changes in whiskies which occur with exposure to air over time. The human mind likes simplicity, and enthusiasts would like to pronounce all-encompassing absolute statements about whiskies, but the realities are such that we at any one time are looking at just a few facets of a reality which is multi-faceted. The same-named whisky can show you 20 different faces depending on batch or bottle reviewed, and amount of air exposure. I am as enthusiastic as anybody in enjoying whisk(e)y of all styles, but I do not believe that we do whisky justice by oversimplifying it out of ignorance and lack of attention to the details of its great variability with respect to circumstances such as the individuality of the batch reviewed and the reviewed bottle or sample's history of exposure to air, heat, and sunlight.

10 years ago 0

paddockjudge commented

@Victor, I would gladly nose this Bowman expression; I'd gladly nose the whole line-up.

Nice review, as usual, and enjoyable opening notes.

10 years ago 0