Couple things to get out of the way.
First up: Yes, I know my glasses are cloudy. It’s not dirt, I am just really, really bad at polishing my glasses. Also the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of insanity in my life, and if I could tell you, the reader, about it, I would, however I can’t so I won’t.
The TOModera house is quite hectic, at the moment.
Second, thank you to /u/Randimosity for the chance to finally try out this distilleries’ offering. Seriously, this is one of the American Whiskies that I suspected would slip through the cracks.
Finally, (yeah, I know I said couple, sue me) this is my 50th whiskey review here on /r/bourbon, so I’ll be taking my full flag please.
Let’s get into it then.
A. Smith Bowman distillery is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Not exactly the typical place, it was the only distillery there from 1934 to the 1950s. Currently owned by Sazerac, it’s a microdistillery that pops up here every so often.
Today I’ll be looked at Abraham Bowman Very Rare releases. Named after Colonel Abraham Bowman, who commanded the 8th Virginia Regiment, and was the great granfather of Abraham Bowman, founder of the distillery.
But enough history, let’s get to the booze!
Price: Not Available in Ontario
My wife picked out the order of whisky, and each of these were given their own “tasting” times.
Up first, the one that caught our attention the most, the Abraham Bowman Gingerbread Beer Finish. Why bury the lead? It’s my 50th review, I’ll cry if I want to.
This is the result of a barrel swap with Hardywood Brewery. They make a Gingerbread Stout, using ex-Bourbon barrels from A. Smith Bowman. Then they are used in a finish on this under 8 year old bourbon.
And then I guess someone cackles, there’s a storm, they raise it up to the lightening, and then there’s yells of “It’s Alive” over and over again.
Well, let’s see how this monster tastes.
Colour: Copper Gold
Nose: Ginger, orange peel, lemon tart, cardamon, BBQ sauce, cranberry
Very fruity. Also quite spritey.
Also really fucking weird nose on this one. Nothing that screams “Hey, I’m an American whiskey, look at me!” at all.
Taste: Ginger candy, mint, icing, lemon candy, mineral water, grapefruit
Do you like sweet whiskey? Because if not, you’ll want to let this breathe for awhile. Eventually there’s some earth/tart notes to balance out, however before that happens it’s flavour country, and that flavour is pure fucking sugar.
Which makes me happy.
Finish: Cherry, nutmeg, lemon, charcoal, sea air, rosemary, woody, sesame, hops
What in the heck is going on here? At the end it has more of a traditional bourbon finish mixed with a bunch of flavours I wasn’t ready for. At all.
The hops come out a little too hard. Like, way too hard. Like proving to your parents that you’re a man in a woman’s body by showing up topless after getting size DDD boobs too hard.
You gotta ease people into that Steve, come on!
Conclusion: This is fucking weird.
Oh, were you expecting more than that?
Well it starts out with a lot of citrus and ginger. Then goes to a grab bag of sweets, eventually balanced by some tartness. Then it finishes in a bunch of crazy flavours that taste good however don’t exactly jive. It doesn’t taste like whiskey. It’s crazy, and probably the craziest whiskey I’ve ever had, including Brora 18, which tasted like Purple Doughnut Filling.
I enjoyed it, however I couldn’t see myself drinking it all the time.
For all you apple fans, we have Abraham Bowman Apple Cider Finish next, because my wife is one of those “eat your dessert and meat first” kinda people.
So, A. Smith Distillery has a 9.5 year bourbon sitting around, and then the moon goes full, they grow hair in places they shouldn’t (unless you’re like me, then that means the top of your head), and badda boom, they wake up 6 months later with a massive hangover, oddly full, and a 10 year old Bourbon with 6 months in the cider barrels.
Couldn’t find out where they received the barrels of cider, which would have made a difference. And why you ask?
Well I’ll tell you why. I’ve seen some shit man!
I stood at a local UK square and watched the royal wedding. And then went to a Cider and Cheese pub festival. Oh yeah, I’m scarred for life knowing that the UK not only has better cheese than us (sometimes), but also that they have palatable (to me) cider! And perry!
So I don’t know if the cider was a dry or a sweet, or made in a specific place, or what. But I know it was Apple Cider, so.. that’s something, I guess.
Let’s just see how this tastes.
(Also, thanks to /u/fungiside for the image, couldn’t find any other)
Nose: Rose Brown
Nose: Stewed apples, cloves, anise, grape, violets, caramel, pear, vanilla custard
It smells like fall. Oh, and cider. Every so often I get pips of caramel or vanilla, which tells me that this may be whiskey.
However I’m not 100% on that. Could be Calvados for all I know.
Taste: Cinnamon, apple crumble, blueberry, blackberry, mangosteen, oak
Took awhile to get past the fall Farmer’s market taste, however I’ve found some spice and oak notes. Still not sure it’s really whiskey. May need additional time with it.
Additional time note: Still confused.
Finish: Anise, blueberry, toffee, nutmeg, cotton candy, coconut flakes, honey butter
Alright, the final little bit has some notes that I could consider a whiskey.
Joking aside, the finish is the best part, because it ends up being more than sweets and spices.
Conclusion: I had some trouble scoring this one, and I’ll explain why:
On the one hand, I score all booze based on the idea of how much I enjoy it. So if I were to ever review Curacao, for instance, I’d probably review it poorly, because I’m not the biggest orange fan.
On the other hand, this is a whiskey subreddit, and we read here and not /r/brandy, for instance, because we like whiskey. And this tastes like Apple Schnapps with spices.
At the end of the day, I enjoy sipping it alright, but you should dock marks if you’re looking for that really “bourbon” flavour.
So interestingly enough, my wife is a little sick of this American Whiskey adventure for the flag, so she’s guessing on the one that she just wants done next: Abraham Bowman Double Barrel
Simply enough, for this limited edition, the folks at A. Smith Bowman took a 6 year whiskey and put it in a new cask for 5 months in a new warehouse.
On a new planet.
Wait, no they didn’t, it’s just 5 months, different warehouse, new cask. Taking a note from Scotch makers, I see. It could end up interesting, it could end up a woody mess (which is normally when you stick an action figure in one of your orifices, but you already knew that).
Well, anal splinters aside, let’s see how this tastes.
Colour: Rose Brown
Nose: Ginger, vanilla, icing, carrot cake, umami, little woody, lemon
Uh oh, ginger again… now I’m worried.
At first this reminds me exactly of carrot cake. And after being a waiter for 7 years and serving carrot cake almost every day of summer (and one fall), I wasn’t too happy. Eventually there’s some nice notes that balance out the sweet, cream cheese smell, which I’m happier about.
Taste: Chili, wood, caramel, lemon rind, butter cream, cherry
A little hot at first, eventually this cools down, and has some nice, bold flavours to it. Good mixture, and well balanced flavours too. I’m liking this.
Finish: Butterscotch, wood, black tea, birch sap, vegetal, lime
Very herbal flavour at the end, with some sweetness. If you were turned off the cider finish due to sweets, don’t worry: This has more balanced notes in it, which is needed.
Conclusion: Better than any other virgin oak finish I’ve had before. Which isn’t saying much, as I’ve never really been with that many virgins.
Joking aside, I think this has taken what may have been an everyday bourbon and elevated it to an interesting dram. I’d actually consider buying a bottle of this, if I could.
Finally we have Abraham Bowman Port Finish, probably because my wife is sick of trying sips of American Whiskey, and probably because she and I both love port finishes.
And we get older and older as we go on (great, now I feel as creepy as Matthew McConaughey), this one starts out as a 12 year old bourbon.
After shipping the 4 year aged ex-Bourbon barrels to a winery in Potomac Point Va., it’s filled with ruby port for 2 years, and then emptied, shipped back, and then finishes for 4 months in the port goodness.
So, a port finish bourbon. That sounds neat. My bias: I am a sucker for port finishes, so if you aren’t, take some points off my score.
I believe the wine aged is Rabelo Virginia De ert Wine from Potomac Point Vineyard, given the name, the fact that they point out they use the barrels from Bowman, etc. But could be another one. So this isn’t true Port in that it came from Portugal, rather it’s port-style wine.
Oh well, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Colour: Honey Brown
Nose: Treacle, plum, allspice, lemon, muffin, funk, floral
Exactly like Xmas dessert. Very much notes of plum and what not. Yet the bourbon still shines through, as there’s some funk and cake-y notes that I don’t associate with port.
Taste: Mint, tarragon, passionfruit, nutmeg, lemon, peanut, eucalyptus
Wow. Herbal is a word that is thrown around, but seriously, this is like eating a herb garden. Nice amount of lemon and peanut in there too, I’m liking this pairing with the bourbon more than others.
I think it’s because the barrels originally held Bowman’s juice as well that’s helping. Or I could just be making that up, who knows.
Finish: Brown sugar, lavender, anise, cardamon, pepper, poppyseed
More of the same, and I’m not complaining. Spicy, sweet, floral, and just a little bit of seeds.
Yeah, I wish I had a bottle of this.
Conclusion: So I’m biased as all fuck, how about you?
This is the right amount of finish. Something that tastes good, has a nice amount of spice and good contrasting flavours, and doesn’t overpower. Not the most complex of the bunch, yet it’s the best one to sip.
It may not taste like most American Whiskey, yet it’s still quite good.
Bourbon reviews #50-53, Virginia reviews #1-4, Whiskey Network reviews #353-356