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- Brand: A. Smith Bowman
- ABV: 73.75%
Last night, Truman Cox, Master Distiller at A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia, died unexpectedly after a short illness at the young age of 44. At last year's Whisky Fest NY, he and his wife joined us at our lunch table - they were both incredibly engaging, he talking about his education in biochemistry, and his previous life as an environmental chemist before joining Buffalo Trace in 2004, and sharing with all of us his love of distilling; she riffing off of his jokes and bringing an incredible warmth to the table. He became Master Distiller at A. Smith Bowman in 2009. Our deepest sympathies go out to his wife and daughter.
At WhiskyFest he presented the new Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Port Finished Bourbon, which I enjoyed very much. However, today, in remembrance I'm looking at another Bowman LE, this one a 17 year old bourbon, distilled Dec 14 1994, bottled May 11 2012, bottled at a staggering 73.75% ABV, certainly the highest proof whiskey I've ever had (and I think the oldest bourbon I've ever had)! God knows what the strength of the new spirit was when it went into the cask, since after 17 years it only got down to 73.75! Thank you to @Victor for helping me acquire this bottle.
A dark mahogany colour, as you would expect from 17 years in virgin oak. As you can imagine, the nose is deep rich oak, with buckets of vanilla and caramel. Sharp alcohol singes the nose, with burnt sugar and menthol. As the alcohol evaporates, more dark fruits become apparent. With water, more herbs (mint, sage), blueberries and plums.
This whiskey is instantly mouth-drying at that strength but full of rich espresso, dark maple syrup, and Robitussin. Obviously, this needs some water - you still get incredibly rich oak but blackberries and stone fruits, which overcome the caramel and vanilla. I tasted this with @thecyclingyogi and I think he eventually ended up adding almost as much water as there was whiskey, and it just got better and better.
The finish is very hot, long and deep, evolving into crispy burnt bacon and smoke from a wet campfire. Sawdust and barnyard. Each element of this is incredibly huge yet they all work together to create something beautiful in its immense size. This is a totally ass-kicking bourbon, unlike any I have ever tasted. Obviously, this is not easy to drink - it is dark, wet smoke, rich, overpowering and absolutely incredible. Not for the faint of heart, and a fitting tribute to a Master Distiller who has left us far, far too early. Rest in peace, Truman Cox.