Spirit Of The Week: A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon Batch #2
This 144.5-proof straight bourbon whiskey is delightfully intense.
The Bowman family long made whiskey from the extra grain they harvested at their Sunset Hills, Virginia farm. When Prohibition lifted Abram Smith Bowman moved the operation to a new, more modern distillery in Fairfax County. Until 1988 that is, when the label moved near Fredericksburg, a scant 60 miles away from the original barn.
Today the tradition continues, with the small Virginia distillery stacking over 100 awards in the past 5 years alone, including back-to-back “World’s Best Bourbon” crowns from the World Whisky Awards in 2016 (Abraham Bowman Port Finished Bourbon) and 2017 (John J. Bowman Single Barrel).
This winter A. Smith Bowman hopes to continue that level of recognition with only its second unproofed expression. The rich, full-bodied Cask Strength Bourbon Batch #2 is aged for 10 years (at the very least) in barrels hand-selected by ASB Master Distiller Brian Prewitt and his Distiller David Bock.
“We don’t always set out with a specific taste profile in mind—the beauty of creating an uncut, unfiltered whiskey is balancing the flavors that come through right from the barrel,” explains distiller David Bock.
“Careful attention throughout the barrel aging process and blending expertise comes into play. Our challenge—and one we are thrilled to tackle—is making those individual liquids work together harmoniously, and I think we’ve done that with this one.”
Bock points out this ethos stems from when A. Smith Bowman himself gave a deposition to US Congress shortly after opening the distillery. They questioned the goal of Bowman’s bourbon business versus his other farm businesses, for which the master distiller vowed that he didn’t give a rat’s ass about the cost and “just wanted to make quality liquor.”
And so the tradition continues.
A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon Batch #2 boasts the last barrels of whiskey poured by ASB’s former Master Distiller Joe Dangler, who held rein over the stills for over 30 years. Although not quite a passing of the baton from Dangler to Prewitt, the use of the former’s last whiskey made is still momentous.
“Joe’s influence left an undeniable mark on our distillery,” argues Prewitt. “We’re honored to have the great responsibility of continuing his work by picking up where he left off, focusing on innovation and pushing the American whiskey category forward.”
Prewitt goes on to recall that when Joe came back to dump his last barrel he said it felt like his second retirement.
“When he concluded his time at A. Smith Bowman Distillery, Joe’s barrels made up our entire inventory,” notes Prewitt. “Having used the last of what he laid down is bittersweet—but also a testament to the outstanding products we made and continue to make at A. Smith Bowman. We use them all up to meet consumer demand!”
When asked what characteristics of Batch #2 blow him away, Prewitt points out the caramel char aroma. “At 144.5 proof, Cask Strength Bourbon #2 is delightfully intense, but the aroma hides some of the robust pepperiness of the actual bourbon you are about to taste,” he continues.
Other sweet colors like apple, cherry and vanilla add to the composition. A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon Batch #2 can be found with some scouring—just don’t expect to find it for the $99 SRP.
Follow Contributing Spirits Editor Nicolas Stecher at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.