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a. smith bowman Abraham Bowman Rye Whiskey (45%)

A simple, but enjoyable rye

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nReview by @numen

16th Oct 2012


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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  • Brand: a. smith bowman
  • ABV: 45%

There are, to my knowledge, two Abraham Bowman Rye Whiskies, one that is high-proof, and this one, coming in at 45%. It's about 9.5 years old. I got a sample of the high-proof version and loved it, and then found this at a local store and decided to go for it. I did the tasting notes about a week ago, but never got around to posting them, or taking the photo of the bottle. Oh well!

Nose: Immediately, but lightly, on rye grain, sweet and dry cinnamon. It's pure rock-candy. The clean sugary goodness supplemented with soft, fresh wood and sawdust. A little varnish comes out with air, but it's all very refreshing. There's also some menthol and anise. Not terribly complicated, but it smells delicious.

Palate: A little rye spice and a full dose of the grain with a measure of soft cinnamon. A little sandal wood and cedar - and more of that pure, sugary rock candy. Very brief peppery spice on the entry, but goes more for the sweet: direct and simple.

Finish: Very short, which is a little disappointing, but this is incredibly drinkable. It is liquid candy. Fairly simple and straightforward on the whole, it just does those few things very well and is fun and easy to drink.

For what it is, it's really just loads of fun and is remarkably easy to like. This is really the sweet-spot, in a manner of speaking, for rye whiskies that aren't high-proof. It has that touch of grain and wood, and a lot of sweetness, and the alcohol never interferes. I'm really torn on scoring/grading this because, for what it is, it's just so enjoyable when you want something sweet and non-challenging. If you really want something with complexity, it'll leave you wanting a bit. That is, it's got its place. If simplicity is ok, in terms of what it does, it's a very high B+. If you're looking for something with a bit more complexity and layering, it's a B. Aside from the high-proof rye, this is my favorite bottling from A. Smith Bowman - it's better than the 18 year Abraham Bowman and the John J. Bowman (which is better than the 18 year, I think).


Victor commented

Simple and enjoyable, but basic, just about sums up the 90 proof/45% ABV Bowman Rye. This is one which has been in my to-be-reviewed queue for awhile, and will get that review fairly soon, I think. The 69.4% ABV private barrel version of Abraham Bowman 10 yo Rye is my favourite whisk(e)y which I own.

I cannot agree with you about 45% ABV Bowmah Rye being better than John J. Bowman Bourbon, or the Abraham Bowman 18 yo Bourbon, though. In my first sample of JJ at the distillery almost a year ago, I liked JJ better than the 18 yo Abraham Bowman, and didn't choose to buy a bottle of either. My sister did buy a bottle of the Abraham Bowman Bourbon, though, and I discovered that it just needed a few weeks of the bottle being open to really shine. If you've only had one sample of these two, try a couple of samples more. You might well change your mind.

7 years ago 0

numen commented

I agree with you wholeheartedly about the 69.4% ABV rye. It was really just fabulous. I like the JJ more than the 18 yo Abraham Bowman, and liked both, to be sure. The Abraham is more complex than the JJ or this rye by a wide margin, but I felt that its alcohol was a bit out of balance, and it's hot on the palate even with a bit of water. I went back and forth on the 18 year old AB due to that and the amount of wood, neat and with water.

With letter grades, the JJ, Abraham 18, and the 45% rye are all about a B/B+; I don't think that any of them are, on the whole, better by the others on a scale of magnitude. The 45% rye is the simplest of those three offerings, but it does those few things very well. The others were very good and had some complexity, but they also have their flaws (wood, varnish, balance). I probably just enjoyed them ever so slightly less for them.

7 years ago 0

Victor commented

Someone reading this may not know that none of these Bowman Ryes being discussed are part of Bowman's standard line. Even the 45% Rye was a limited edition issue, and A. Smith Bowman distillery has said that it will not be making any more rye whiskeys in the foreseeable future. These ryes were legacies of the distillate that the distillery had on hand to age at the time of its acquisition by Sazerac Corporation in 2002-2003.

There were several undiluted barrels sold privately, at least 3 that I know of. @Numen, was it the 69.4% ABV barrel which you sampled? There were at least two others as well at different ABVs which were bought by The Party Source in Bellevue, Kentucky. I have bottles from two of these three barrels, but haven't even opened a bottle from one of those two private barrels yet. I am in no hurry, though, since these are bottles I want to enjoy for a very long time.

@Numen, where are you located?

7 years ago 0

numen commented

@Victor, thanks for clarifying (and correcting) on the barrels. The first I sampled was the 69.4%, a sample gifted by a friend, but I did only brief notes of it. I really loved it and tried to find a bottle, but never managed. I met Truman Cox (the master distiller at A. Smith Bowman) during a visit to the distillery a few months ago and he mentioned the same thing about no more Ryes, which is rather sad.


7 years ago 0

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