Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by A. Smith Bowman Distillery. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
A. Smith Bowman Distillery is located in Fredericksburg, VA, and is currently owned by Sazerac Corporation. By today’s standards, it is a micro-distillery. Today we are reviewing their very limited edition Abraham Bowman 15yr. Rum Finished Bourbon. According to the distillery’s website “Abraham Bowman Rum 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. “
Bowman family is one of the oldest families in Virginia (and back then, Kentucky which was part of Virginia) and is a storied family. A. Smith Bowman was a frontiersman, and an American Revolutionary war military officer. He and his brothers were expert horsemen, known as the “Four Centaurs of Cedar Creek”. His grandson, John Bryan Bowman, is the founder of Kentucky University (now University of Kentucky).
A. Smith Bowman Distillery is the oldest distillery in Virginia. Their distilling roots date back to before Prohibition. The family had bought a granary and used the excess grain to distill. After the Repeal of Prohibition, Bowman family built a more modern distillery in Fairfax County, Virginia called Sunset Hills which then was moved in 1988 to Fredericksburg. In 2003, Sazerac bought the distillery which allowed them to focus on creating more premium and small batch products.
In an interview with Bourbon Pursuit, Master Distiller Brian Prewitt explains that Abraham Bowman started distilling in New Orleans with rum and bourbon, at one of the biggest distilleries in Algiers Point, Louisiana. A. Smith Bowman’s Master Distiller Prewitt says “one of the really interesting parts of his heritage as a distiller is that Kentucky used to be part of Virginia.
“If you look at it like that, it’s where American whiskey really started. Being that we’re the oldest distillery in Virginia, that was what we started with right off the bat – that history.” He also explains that Bowman was a grain to glass distillery back in those days, growing the grain, and harvesting the trees to make their own barrels.
Coming back to the whiskey we are reviewing, this particular whiskey was distilled in 2006 with only two barrels made, both aged in American Oak for nine years. The whiskey was then transferred to Caribbean rum casks for another six years of additional aging. The distillery states that this might be the oldest rum finished bourbon ever produced. As mentioned, Abraham Bowman line of A. Smith Bowman Distillery is their experimental line, where they “regularly experiment with mash bills, aging techniques, and production methods to create new bourbons and push the limits of our distilling expertise.”
I reviewed this limited edition whiskey at room temperature with a Glencairn glass.
Tasting Notes: Abraham Bowman Release No. 21 Rum Finished Bourbon
Vital Stats: 50% ABV, 15 years old with nine years in American Oak and six years in Caribbean Rum Casks. Mash bill is undisclosed. SRP $69.99.
Appearance: This is a lovely whiskey in the bottle and glass with deep brown color and hints of rust.
Nose: I get gentle notes of vanilla, tropical fruits, and molasses.
Palate: This whiskey has a lovely balanced mouth feel – it is oily, chewy, and yummy. The finish is medium to long, and towards the end spice lingers on. There is nice hints of brown sugar mixed getting along nicely with the present but not overpowering oak tannins, and you definitely get some of the wood influence; but it is well balanced with all the other notes on the palate. Interestingly, six years of aging in rum casks is not overpowering at all, but gently makes its presence felt. There is delicious dark chocolate in the background along with earthy notes as well. This whiskey makes me think of a dense not overly sweet chocolate rum cake in some ways.
This is a beautifully crafted rum finished bourbon, without rum overpowering the delicate whiskey. The mouth feel is fantastic – nice, chewy, and not too sweet, not too oaky but also complex and balanced. I think it would also pair very well with a cigar, if you are in to that. I advise sitting with this whiskey for a while. Every sip opens up a new dimension, and it lingers on beautifully. A well done “experiment” by A. Smith Bowman Distillery.