I posted recently about a group trip down to A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, VA. During the tour, Master Distiller Truman Cox brought out three bottles of Bowman bourbon; Bowman Brothers Small Batch, John J. Bowman Single Barrel and Abraham Bowman Limited Edition 18 year exhibiting a whopping 138.6 proof.
The Bowman Brothers was a nice pour but average overall and not very captivating. The John J. was more appealing and overall an above average bourbon and I ended up purchasing two bottles. The Abraham Bowman was fantastic. To quote a friend after trying it "Big, huge, sweet, delicious!!!"
The color is golden amber and in the glass is viscous producing slow, well placed legs. The nose is very inviting showing little heat, dark fruit, caramel, cooking spice (clove, cinnamon). What's lacking that I fully expected is a woody profile, at least in some fashion, but it's not there. For a bourbon this old, this is unusual.
The entry is big on flavor, showing minimal heat, no oak or woodiness at all which reinforces the nose. The mouthfeel is very nice, thick with a syrup quality showing flavors is caramel, spice, sweet fruits of plum, dark berries with some barrel char popping up at the back of the palate. The finish is long, long, long. Transitions on the back of the palate start with those dark fruits and moves on to dark chocolate like quality and then very slowly diminishes. At the very tail end, the barrel strength heat numbs the palate ever so slightly. A full two minutes after the last sip, the finish is still present.
If you let the bourbon sit in the glass for a period of time, say 20 mins or so, the spice and berry flavors come forward a bit and the nose opens up and exhibits age like an old leather bound book.
Truman was asked about the various provenance of Bowman bourbons and he succinctly stated "Kentucky". Well, that doesn't narrow it down very much. At 18 years old, this bourbon pre-dates the purchase of Bowman by Buffalo Trace so where this bourbon came from is a bit of a mystery. It could be Ancient Age but who knows where Bowman was sourcing their bourbon from in the early 1990's.
This bourbon is fantastic. At barrel strength, it's way too easy to drink right out of the bottle and it does handle water very well and right around 107 proof, it opens up very nicely exhibiting a flavor profile that includes burnt brown sugar and dark chocolate.
I know that The Party Source has done two barrel picks of the 18 year making both of those single barrels over this bourbon which is a small batch. If you're traveling through Virginia and near Fredericksburg, stop off a ASB and pick up a bottle or three.