Coming Soon: Isaac Bowman Port Finish Whiskey

I’m always interested in new whiskeys. And I have a particular interest in new Virginia whiskeys. So this one definitely caught my eye.

“This bourbon is aged for a number of years in new charred white oak barrels, then finished in used port barrels, many of which come from Virginian wineries. Caramel and spice notes from the charred white oak are elegantly combined with flavors of jam to create a deep taste. A smooth finish is attained from resting in the port barrels.”

Price in Virginia is $39.99. I’ll definitely have to pick up a bottle, assuming it actually makes the shelves. (There’s no indication that this is a limited-edition product. But you never know.)

Assuming this works like the other Bowman bourbons, it’s distilled by Buffalo Trace in Kentucky, then redistilled and aged at Bowman’s facility in Fredericksburg. Bowman has a solid reputation for good whiskeys, especially those released under the Abraham Bowman name.

isaac bowman port finish whiskey


A. Smith Bowman Distillery Releases Limited Edition Gingerbread Cocoa Finished Bourbon

A. Smith Bowman Distillery announces the latest release in its Abraham Bowman line of expressions, the Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Gingerbread Cocoa Finished Bourbon.

Marrying two Virginia gems, this limited edition bourbon was aged in a special batch of barrels used by A. Smith Bowman Distillery and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Virginia.  The barrels originated at A. Smith Bowman in 2010, where they aged bourbon for four and a half years.  The barrels were emptied and sent to Hardywood Park Brewery to be filled with two special beers: six barrels aged Gingerbread Stout and four barrels aged Foolery Imperial Milk Stout. 

Both of the beers aged inside these barrels for eight months before being emptied again and sent back to A. Smith Bowman in December 2015. They were then finally filled for the last time with bourbon that had aged for nine years inside of new charred white oak barrels. This bourbon was distilled in December of 2006 and was allowed to finish for 17 months inside these special barrels. Master Distiller Brian Prewitt determined through periodic tasting evaluations that the rich caramel and oak flavors of the bourbon had intermingled with the spice notes of gingerbread and hints of cocoa in an extraordinary way.

“This bourbon tastes of ginger, vanilla, and cinnamon topped off with notes of cocoa. The gingerbread spice aroma gives way to caramel and toasty oak and finishes with a smooth and pleasant finish,” states Prewitt. 

The Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Gingerbread Cocoa Finished Bourbon is part of a series of limited edition whiskies, named after Abraham Bowman, the commander of the 8th Virginia Regiment in the American Revolutionary War. Each edition of the Abraham line is a different expression and a new release is offered a few times a year.  This is the 15th release in the Abraham line.  The Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Gingerbread Cocoa Finished Bourbon will be available for Virginia residents to purchase through the VA ABC Lottery on Thursday Sept. 29th, and in the A. Smith Bowman Distillery Visitor Center starting Oct. 1st. It will also be available in limited amounts in other states starting in mid-October. Quantities are very limited and most product will be available in Virginia. The Abraham Bowman series aims to release new and different expressions of innovative whiskey for each release, so it is unlikely this exact bourbon will be repeated. The age of this bourbon is 9 years and 8 months and it is 90 proof. It is available in a 375 ml only and suggested retail pricing is $39.99.abraham-bowman-gingerbread-cocoa-finish

Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Abraham Bowman High Rye Bourbon

Abraham Bowman bourbon is made in Kentucky by the Buffalo Trace Distillery and then redistilled, aged, and bottled at the A. Smith Bowman facility in Fredericksburg, Virginia. (This is what is generally believed to happen anyway. Sazerac, the owners of Buffalo Trace, are quiet about some of the details of this whiskey.)

The Bowman company has been using the Abraham Bowman brand in recent years to release experimental versions of the company’s whiskey. (I reviewed one of their standard bottlings, the John J. Bowman bourbon, a few years back.) The Abraham Bowman line has included such things as bourbon with a coffee or vanilla bean finish, and even whiskey aged in barrels previously used to hold Gingerbread Beer.

Does it work? The verdict is usually mixed (isn’t the verdict with whiskey almost always mixed?), but these limited edition bottlings have become highly desired among bourbon fans.

The latest is a “High Rye” bourbon, which means a bourbon that contains a high percentage of rye as the “flavor grain,” along with the requisitie majority of corn. (For more of the specifics about what makes bourbon, see the Professor’s Bourbon 101 post.) According to the distillery, this contains “five times more rye” than their standard recipe, which means this must clock in at something close to 50% corn, 45% rye, and 5% malted barley.

My particular bottle is Release #12, Bottle #1256. It was aged for 8 years and 10 months and bottled at 100 proof (50% abv).

The bourbon has a dark color in the glass — darker than I was expecting at under 9 years of age,  and has a strong smell of sweet fruit. (It made me think of bubblegum.) It also has strong ethanol vapors which prevented me from discerning much else.

The taste was equally fiery. I would have guessed this was higher than 100 proof if pushed. There is a lot of rye spice, some vanilla, and dry, almost bitter oak. Hardly any sweetness. Again, it seems older than its stated age; woody, and not necessarily in a good way.

The Abraham Bowman High Rye Bourbon felt somewhat thin in the mouth, although it did have a long, hot finish. The downside here is that I had to add a splash of water in order to appreciate more of the flavor, but that just made it even thinner.

I’m torn about this one. Looking at it as a bourbon, it doesn’t really match the profile I prefer. (I tend to go for wheaters like W.L. Weller, or just lower-rye bourbons like Elijah Craig.) But that doesn’t mean it’s bad — it just means it’s not for me. It certainly has a lot of flavor, even if I found it somewhat one-dimensional.

And if you look at it as a rye whiskey…Well, there are certainly a lot of ryes out there that I prefer for less money. (Like High West Double Rye or Templeton Rye, or just good old stand-by Rittenhouse Bonded.) Although I suspect that given the strength of this whiskey, it would make a very nice Manhattan.

Ultimately, I’d saw that the Abraham Bowman High Rye Bourbon is an interesting whiskey and worth trying, but I’m not sure I’d pay $70 for it again.

News Whiskey

R.I.P. Truman Cox, Master Distiller

Truman coxThere was some sad news for the whiskey world yesterday. Truman Cox, 44, master distiller at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery, died suddenly. He leaves behind a wife and daughter, as well as a lot of people who respected and admired him.

Truman was the lead chemist at Buffalo Trace before moving to Fredericksburg to take over Bowman in June 2011. It had long been his dream to be a master distiller, and he was by all accounts overjoyed at his job.

I didn't know Truman personally, although we were Facebook friends. Just a few days ago he was making jokes about how he was sick and the doctor didn't know what was wrong with him. And then he was gone.

He was outspoken and funny, a friendly guy who knew his bourbon. I imagine he was a great fellow to sit down and enjoy a glass of whiskey with — preferably whiskey he himself had made.

Truman was doing some great things at A. Smith Bowman, guiding them to a place of growing respect and prominence among bourbon drinkers. (I reviewed the John J. Bowman bourbon and liked it.)

He'll be missed.

Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Bourbon

John Bowman BourbonJohn J. Bowman Single Barrel

Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Grade: three stars(Above Average)
Price: $50 (750ml)

I've been a resident of the Old Dominion for the past ten years, so I have a particular interest in Virginia spirits. This is especially true when it comes to the products made by A. Smith Bowman, since I lived just a few miles from the site of their old distillery for a big chunk of that decade.

The Bowman distillery was founded shortly after the end of Prohibition in a part of Northern Virginia that at the time was still very rural. Despite being less than twenty miles from Washington, DC, the area consisted mostly of farms and forestland.

Abraham Bowman and his sons began making whiskey there in 1934, and the company continued doing so for over fifty years, most of it sold under the Virginia Gentleman label. Although it is commonly believed that bourbon must be made in the state of Kentucky, this is not true. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. In fact, when settlers first started making bourbon in Kentucky, it was still part of Virginia.

As Northern Virginia became increasingly developed, and property taxes climbed, the Bowman distillery had to move sixty miles south to Fredericksburg. Eventually it was sold to the Sazerac company, owners of Buffalo Trace and many other brands of fine whiskey.

John J. Bowman bourbon is triple-distilled — the first two times at Buffalo Trace in Kentucky and the last time in a copper pot still at Bowman. It is then aged in barrels in the Bowman rickhouse in Fredericksburg. The climate of Northern Virginia is similar to that of Kentucky, but more variable, which has an effect on the aging of the whiskey. (Although I couldn't tell you what that is.)

This bourbon has a sweet, lively aroma of caramel and chocolate. The taste is dry and bold, more spicy than sweet. It's moderately hot at 100 proof, but not unpleasantly so. John J. Bowman has lots of flavor and a kick that will warm you down to your cockles. The finish is long and oaky with hints of vanilla. The bottle doesn't have an age statement, but it definitely has some years on it, probably north of ten.

I tend to prefer my whiskey a little less dry, but this is a very interesting spirit. It has a big, bourbon taste that I think a lot of whiskey drinkers are going to love, along with elements that remind me of aged Barbados rum like Mount Gay Extra Old. It's great to see the tradition of fine Virginia bourbon continuing, over two centuries after the colonists first began making it.