John J Bowman Background
John J Bowman Single Barrel is made at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia. John J Bowman was a 1770’s Kentucky settler and patriarch of the Bowman lineage that started the distillery in northern Virginia. Abraham Smith Bowman is the great, great nephew of John Bowman and opened his distillery in 1933. He was a farmer and what as was typical he would distill excess crops into a more shelf stable and profitable product as whiskey. In 1988 A. Smith Bowman Distillery opened at its current location and taking on this name and legacy. They began distilling in 1991.
What’s interesting about A. Smith Bowman is while they distill, they don’t do their own mash. Sazerac is their parent company, which is also parent for Buffalo Trace. In some corporate synergy, A. Smith Bowman gets distillate from Buffalo Trace and distills it a third time. Then they barrel it and age it in Virginia. Also interesting is the two distilleries are about the same latitude, but Fredericksburg is on the other side of the Appalachia Mountains and closer to the east coast. It’s said they use the Buffalo Trace #2 mash, so it’s interesting to see differences with that extra distillation and aging locations.
A. Smith Bowman Distillery makes three different Bourbons. There’s the Bowman Brothers Small Batch, John J Bowman Single Barrel, and an annual special release Abraham Bowman.
No Age Statement. Bottled at 50%. Buffalo Trace Mash #2 of about 13-15% Rye. Paid $49.
Caramel. Some fruitiness of cherry, apple. Vanilla. Leather. Some nice charred oak.
Buttery. Cherry syrup. Toffee and vanilla. Moderately rich sweetness with some charred oak. Cocoa. A little drying and mild spice in the finish. Water brings out more sweetness and a caramel, but this is nice right out of the bottle.
I’m impressed with both my bottles from A. Smith Bowman. They’re doing something right. John J Bowman is a pretty nice pour and I thought Bowman Brothers was a particularly good deal. For me, John J Bowman is $20 more than Bowman Brothers and that might be a bit of a tough sell. That’s not a knock on John J Bowman, but just that Bowman Brothers might be under priced in my book. As I’m editing this I’m sipping on a glass debating the $20 thing. Yeah, I say it’s worth it.
Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 Rating
(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)
Buying Options and Further Research
John J Bowman is a standard bourbon with a moderate rye. In this price range some other standard Bourbons worth checking out include Baker’s, Angel Envy, Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, and Dickel 9 Year Barrel Selection. A little higher on the price range worth checking out is Blanton’s. You also can’t lose with the mentioned Bowman Brothers Small Batch.