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Harry in WashDC

A Smith Bowman Distillery F'burg, VA

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Harry in WashDC

ASB makes Virginia Gentleman and several special and limited releases. I went through their distillery today. I spent two hours typing and editing notes in SB only to have them disappear when I tried to post. Rather than recreate and re-enter the stuff and risk another loss, I put it in a WORD doc but can't figure out how to cut-&-paste into a thread post. Forty minutes of trying is my limit. SO, if you want to read my notes on the distillery and on the new Abe Bowman unfiltered double barreled 100 proof 7 yr LE, please open the PDF attachment.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention that I asked about the occasional BT shortages. ASB as a subsidiary of BT is only affected indirectly. They don't redistill all the time so take spirit when it is available. Adding a 2nd still won't change that because they don't have the ability to store & process grain. It will allow for expanded shipments from BT which I took to mean they will expand when BT's current mashing/distilling expansion is done.

One more thing, I found an "It's that should be"Its" and a "There's" that should be "Theirs". Hey. I'm retired. It's after one AM and I'm usually asleep three hours by now.

AS Bowman tour in pdf.pdf

Edited by Harry in WashDC

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HP12

Good notes on a distillery that I've visited a few times. It's worth mentioning that they currently store no rye and there are no older barrels than 10 years old in the warehouse.

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Harry in WashDC

Yes, that is true re: no rye and age under 10. I don't think ASB ever made a rye; at least I've never seen a reference to it. I think it made only VG and The Fox and even then, I only remember seeing VG in Virginia & WashDC bars in the 1970s. Also, in one of my retypings, I left out comments on their mash bill. They don't use a basic BT spirit. Rather, BT uses ASB's traditional yeast and mash bill to do batches - yet another reason the occasional shortages of basic BT don't affect it.

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TunnelTiger

Thanks for the notes Harry. I found it very interesting.

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HP12
Yes, that is true re: no rye and age under 10. I don't think ASB ever made a rye; at least I've never seen a reference to it. I think it made only VG and The Fox and even then, I only remember seeing VG in Virginia & WashDC bars in the 1970s. Also, in one of my retypings, I left out comments on their mash bill. They don't use a basic BT spirit. Rather, BT uses ASB's traditional yeast and mash bill to do batches - yet another reason the occasional shortages of basic BT don't affect it.

Indeed there has been AB Rye, some of which are regarded as epic juice. In VA, there was only the 90 proof AB Rye which was Version 1...the first AB release. Then there were the barrel proof private barrel picks that only TPS sold.

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Harry in WashDC

Thanks, HP. Always something new to learn. And next time when I visit, I'll take a written list of questions instead of just wondering about answers after I leave. If I can only remember where I put that notebook . . .

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VAGentleman

Nice notes. Its a really nice tour A couple things though, Mary was built by Vendome when they moved to Fredericksburg in the late1980's. They used column Stills when they were in Reston (they are now "art" and can be seen standing as a gateway over by the Blue and Grey Brewery right down the street). I've also been told that when they get the second still that they will be fermenting on site. They have several copper fermentation tanks from the old distillery that they will be using. They're hoping to get the second still around September if all goes according to plan.

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Harry in WashDC

Thanks for the corrections and additional information.

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The Black Tot

Great information about a brand I'm curious about.

The barrel shortage potentially taking two years to resolve is particularly interesting to contemplate.

I was sorry to read that the next AB is going to be double-oaked. The only double-oaked product I have tried so far has been the Woodford Reserve. The second oaking turned it from a bourbon I enjoy into a "sweetness bomb". About half of the people on the tour liked it, though, so there certainly is a market.

Looks like I'll have to wait for another standard AB bourbon release. I've got a gingerbread one, but am saving that for Xmas.

tbt

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Harry in WashDC
. . . I was sorry to read that the next AB is going to be double-oaked . . . I've got a gingerbread [AB release], but am saving that for Xmas.

tbt

One reason I visited the distillery was to taste the double-oaked (released 26Mar2014). The ASB press release (http://www.asmithbowman.com/News.aspx) for it has tasting notes (by Brian Prewitt, Master Distiller, who, incidentally, spent time at New Belgium, a favorite craft brewer of mine) that pretty much matched my experience at the distillery, and my thoughts haven't changed after starting the bottle I brought home. It only spent 5 months in the second barrel after spending a little over 7 (edit - that's years) in the first so it avoids woody overtones. I was surprised, really, at how well the flavors blended - no one characteristic stood out but I still had fun trying to taste them all. Sweetness? Hhhmm. I don't think it's as sweet as either the ginger finish or the port finish ASB released last year (both described in PRs on the ASB news page). I liked the port finish enough to seek out additional bottles (but not enough to borrow money to buy it all). That said, $70 is a lot to spend on a 750ml if you aren't sure you'll like what's inside.

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bearmark

I visited the distillery yesterday afternoon while in Williamsburg for the week (about 90 minutes away). It was a nice tour and I picked up a bottle of their bourbon liqueur (mixes nicely with bourbon… KCSB in my case). Interesting that they age their barrels vertically and that they have a unique custom still with the coils directly above a ball mounted above the still. Their JJB Single Barrel is good but the Small Batch is nothing special.

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kjbeggs

I think the $30 Small batch is a better value, and tastes as good, if not better than the $50 Single Barrel.

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smokinjoe
I think the $30 Small batch is a better value, and tastes as good, if not better than the $50 Single Barrel.

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mbroo5880i
FWIW, I am of the same opinion. The Small Batch is a wonderfully drinkable whiskey that is priced very well. The Single Barrels have struck me as unpleasantly hot, more times than not. I have given up risking the 50 bones on them.

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HP12

The JBB is a hit or miss. Some really, really good, others meh. Roll the dice. Can't wait for their JJB private barrel program to start up again.

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VAGentleman

JJB is one of my favorite bourbons. I must be lucky in that I haven't had a less than stellar one yet

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TunnelTiger

Methinks I need to give this one a try. I've been looking at them but just never pulled the trigger. Right now I can't recall pricing but if the Smb is $30 I'll give a ride home.

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bearmark

For my money, I would pass on the SmB. The SB is also a bit pricey when KCSB is so good at $20 less and Bookers is $10 less. I'll play around with some of their special releases instead. Just picked up a Double Barrel as a starter.

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smokinjoe

I too, have participated in and have enjoyed some of the special releases. Upward price creep, has me questioning that going forward, however. I won't purchase them "just to have it", as one will have to offer something about it that I really want to try. For instance, I passed on the double barreled over the weekend for this same Premium level QPR reasoning.

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Harry in WashDC
I too, have participated in and have enjoyed some of the special releases. Upward price creep, has me questioning that going forward, however. I won't purchase them "just to have it", as one will have to offer something about it that I really want to try. For instance, I passed on the double barreled over the weekend for this same Premium level QPR reasoning.

If I hadn't been able to taste the Dbl bbl at the distillery (which is where I bought my one bottle, VA giving distilleries no flexibility on state prices), I would have passed. I can get 90 proof Bowman Bros SmB (formerly The Fox) at less than half the price, and that's what I usually have on hand. The one Dbl bbl will do me just fine.

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VAGentleman

New still, mash tun, hammer and roller mills and fermenters are now in place. they are awaiting final permitting before firing them up (should be end of March at the latest). Pretty excited for them. Tried to add some pictures but it keeps failing on me.

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squire

Pictures would be great but words will do, thanks for keeping us posted.

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VAGentleman

Tonight A Smith Bowman had their 80th anniversary party. They had a real nice setup with a band, dinner, toasts, tours, tastings of the new Abraham Bowman release and their other bourbons and a ribbon cutting for the new still George. They were supposed to have George running for the first time tonight but permitting from the city of Fredericksburg got in the way and they'll fire it up another time. They did have a barrel for everyone to sign that they will fill with the first distillate from the new still and age for 20 years for their 100th anniversary celebration. For the first run they will be pulling the original yeast out of cryogenic storage and use it along with the original mash bill they used in Reston. Joe Dangler was there (the Master Distiller before Truman) as well as the daughter and Son in Law of Tom Leahy (the Master Distiller before Joe). I got to talk to both for quite a while and heard a lot of great stories. It was a really cool night at the Distillery!

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marshbound
On 4/25/2014 at 9:58 AM, Harry in WashDC said:

Also, in one of my retypings, I left out comments on their mash bill. They don't use a basic BT spirit. Rather, BT uses ASB's traditional yeast and mash bill to do batches - yet another reason the occasional shortages of basic BT don't affect it.

I toured today and asked about their mash supply, she indicated that they had just leased an adjacent warehouse and were considering (planning?) moving the entire fermentation process back to Virginia.  She also said that, in addition to your observation above, that the equipment used was Bowman's original equipment, not just the yeast and mash bill.  

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marshbound

I want to add another comment worth making in response to Harry's quote on mash bill above - our tour guide indicated they use 71% corn, 23% Virginia rye and 5% barley (not sure why 99%, rounding?) and reiterated that they have their own yeast strain for fermentation.  

 

One will often see blogger comments around the bourbonshpere as to how Bowman's products are really "Kentucky based" and just finished in Virginia, and bloggers are even guessing which BT mash bill they use at Bowman, but this is clearly erroneous unless Bowman is flat out lying, which I doubt.  Bowman uses its own yeast, it sources the grains including a Virginia rye, and it has BT make the distillate in accordance with its own recipes and process.  They absolutely do NOT deserve the derogatory implications of "sourced" distillate.  I'm sure on the other hand that BT provides many benefits - deep pockets, great manufacturing process consistency and reliability, more scale-able infrastructure and probably long term planning support as well, but the benefits are more on the business side than on running simply a low cost distillate production model (one juice makes many whiskeys).

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