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A. Smith Bowman John J. Bowman Virginia Straight Bourbon Single Barrel

Bourbon for Easter

2 592

@talexanderReview by @talexander

30th Mar 2018

1

  • Nose
    24
  • Taste
    22
  • Finish
    22
  • Balance
    24
  • Overall
    92

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Distribution of ratings for this: user

  • Brand: A. Smith Bowman
  • ABV: 50%

Here's a whisky named after someone who really does have quite a legacy. John J. Bowman was an explorer who went through Kentucky in 1775. He then moved there with his family a few years later, eventually presiding over Kentucky's first county court and becoming the first military commander and military governor of Kentucky County. He was the great-great-uncle of Abram Smith Bowman, founder of this distillery (which is in Virginia, not Kentucky).

John J. Bowman is the name the A. Smith Bowman distillery gives to their single barrel bourbon (although no barrel number is given). Unusually, it is triple distilled.

The colour is a coppery gold. Oaky on the nose with contrasting fruity notes of lemon pith, green apple and sultana. Thick caramel. Lots of cinnamon. Roasted almonds. Wet leather. Light hint of wood smoke. Though no age statement is given, this does seem very wood-dominated. More wood smoke with water, but really water is not necessary here. Very complex and well-balanced between wood and lighter fruit notes.

Even fruitier on the palate with dates, papaya, blackberry and ripe banana. Not too hot in the mouth, with baking spices and unusual herbs (lavender, tarragon). Creamy mouthfeel. Sweet toffee (maybe a bit too sweet). More herbal with water. Again, the balance between complex and contradictory notes is impressive.

The long finish has oak char with baked apples and sage. This is a surprisingly rich yet delicate bourbon, with all the wonderful notes you could ask for (perhaps that delicacy is a result of the triple distillation?) I've had a couple of whiskies from this distillery and they never disappoint. Jim Murray scores this a 94, and it won World's Best Bourbon at the 2017 World Whiskies Awards.

5 comments

@Victor
Victor commented

@talexander, thanks for your very nice review.

A. Smith Bowman distillery was a family business founded in the 1930s. In 2003 it was purchased by Sazerac Company and became a part of their empire, along with Buffalo Trace Distillery, and the 1792 Ridgemont (Barton) Distillery. A. Smith Bowman calls itself a "microdistillery", but I would describe their size as small intermediate. A. Smith Bowman is the home of Virginia Gentleman bourbon, their long-standing mass market brand. The Bowman named brands, Bowman Brothers Small Batch, John J. Bowman Single Barrel, and Abraham Bowman (special releases) just came into being in 2011. As far as I know all A. Smith Bowman bourbon is currently given its first distillation at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, then is tanker-trucked to the Bowman Distillery, re-distilled, and aged at Bowman. The A. Smith Bowman Distillery used to be in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C., until the 1980s when land value (taxable value) got to be too great and it was moved to its current location of Fredericksburg, Virginia, half-way (50 miles) between Washington, DC and Richmond Virginia. Where the Bowman Distillery stood previously became the planned community of Reston, Virginia.

about one year ago 1Who liked this?

@talexander
talexander commented

@Victor Wow - thanks for all the info - fascinating, and I didn't realize they were currently owned by Sazerac. So you are saying that, although it clearly states "Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey" on the label, it's first distillation is in Kentucky? Also, I did read in my (slim) research that this is triple-distilled (so maybe two distillations in Virginia, after the first one in Kentucky?) And why don't they just do all the distillation in Virginia (is it due to capacity)?

about one year ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@talexander, yes, A. Smith Bowman distills first in Kentucky at Buffalo Trace. I am pretty sure that it is a capacity thing, which is to say that their production goals outstrip their current distillation capacity at the Fredericksburg, VA distillery.

I've toured the distillery 3 times, the first of which was in 2011 when your Whisky Fest NYC banquet table mate Master Distiller Truman Cox gave a private tour to a very high-budget bourbon club, 1789b. Such a shame that he only lived one more year after that. Those guys in 1789b have been buying multiple barrels of their own for many years now, and our group that day was auditioning prospective barrels for one of their buys. I think they decided against buying any that day because for some reason the distillery would only sell it to them dumbed down to 50% ABV. Nonetheless the head guy at 1789b said that Truman Cox gave by far the best distillery tour he has ever had, "and he's toured them all". The last time I was there, on @Nock's birthday in October 2015 @Dramlette and I met @plattevillepeat and his wife there.

about one year ago 1Who liked this?

@talexander
talexander commented

@Victor Wow, very interesting! I had forgotten that you've been to the distillery. And I have very fond memories of his conversation over lunch. It's too bad WhiskyFest has eliminated the seminars and lunch part of the show.

about one year ago 1Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

@talexander, A very nice review for a very nice whiskey. Good fortune smiled on me when you brought this bottle to our recent gathering hosted by @Nozinan. Two bottles of John J. Bowman Single Barrel found their way to my home when my daughters returned from a Sam Hunt concert in Manhattan a couple of years ago. They brought back one for me and one for my son. My bottle is long gone, but my son has his and I continue to negotiate with him...@Victor, I have on my shelf the bottle of Abraham Bowman Port Finished Bourbon (distilled 03-30-01, bottled 08-17-13) from our trade (in 2014 ?).

about one year ago 1Who liked this?

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