Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fall 2011 Barrel Tasting - John J. Bowman Single Barrel

I posted back last year about a group trip to A. Smith Bowman distillery in Fredericksburg, VA.  I remember that day well not only because of the tasting but also because it snowed, and I hate snow.

This particular selection took some time make its way from distillery, through distribution and then finally to retail.  The tasting took place last October, bottling in February and final delivery of the bottles mid May.  Why so long?  Well, the pallet with our barrel selection got......misplaced; or something to that effect.  For a spell there, the bourbon went missing and it took a little while to track it down.  I suspect it ended up in some distribution warehouse and sat there for a bit.

Many of our barrel picks get bottled at proof with the exception of the Old Weller Antique which is 107 proof and the Bowman selection which was done at 100 proof.  As an enthusiast, I like to control the drinking proof because the sweet spot varies from barrel to barrel.

The barrel date for this bourbon was 12/31/97 making the bourbon almost 14 years old when we tasted it in October.  At bottling, it had another 4 months in wood on it but due to the fact that it was in the barrel over the winter probably doesn't mean much happened in the way of change.

The barrel at bottling yielded 210 bottles which once again, fell below the expected yield of about 250.  This has happened with just about every barrel.

Now, to the bourbon itself.  Maybe I'm drunk on my own bathwater but I find this 14 year Bowman to be fantastic.  As one friend put it "this is reminiscent of  the 70/80's vintage bourbon....".  The nose is very compelling giving up aromas of toffee, vanilla, and chocolate.  The entry, well it's fantastic as well.  Big flavor entry, mild to moderate heat that diminishes quickly leaving behind traces of caramelized sugar, vanilla, sweet corn, dark fruit and chocolate all wrapped in a creamy mouthfeel.  Viscosity on this one is very nice.  The finish is moderate to long with a sweet spice profile trailing off.  When I first tasted this at barrel strength, I was skeptical about cutting it down to 100 proof but I have to say, it drinks very fine at that proof.


  1. You've drunk enough bourbon to know a good one when you taste it. I take you opinion 100%. What a fascinating thing to get tasting notes both from the barrel and then from a resulting bottling months later! Excellent work, Greg!

  2. So is the John J Bowman basically the Abraham Bowman proofed down to 100? I gotta tell ya, your original post on Bowman got me interested so I picked up both the Abe and John J. I think they are both phenomenal. I like everything about each from the entry to the finish. Thanks for leading me to this label!

    1. Steve, I'm glad you like it. I think the 18 year and this 14 year are well above average. I'll be on the hunt for the newly released 17 year John J. that is now available at the Bowman gift shop but will wait for it to show up at my local ABC which should be within a couple of weeks.

    2. I'm assuming the Abraham is the 18yr and John J the 14yr? I don't think my local ABC will have the new release since they didnt get any of the last and I've never seen the label here in South Florida at any stores. I sourced from TPS. Will do that again or ask my ABC to special order for me I guess.