Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Truman Cox Tribute with Some Bowman Bourbons

The whiskey world suffered a huge blow recently with the death of 44 year old A. Smith Bowman Master Distiller Truman Cox.  Tributes to Cox and his work by John Hansell and Sam Komlenic at Whisky Advocate are worth a read.

The A. Smith Bowman distillery was a sleepy distillery that made Virginia Gentleman bourbon before Buffalo Trace let Truman Cox and his predecessor Joe Dangler wake it up, releasing premium bourbons and ryes under the Abraham Bowman label. 

In memory of one of the whiskey greats, I'm going to sample two of the most recent limited releases from Truman Cox's A. Smith Bowman Distillery.

Abraham Bowman Port Finished Bourbon, 7 years old, 50% abv ($70)

This most recent Bowman limited edition bourbon was finished for 8 months in a bourbon cask that was refilled with port for two years before it was used to finish this bourbon.

The nose on this is really nice with a balance of sweet candy notes and wood with some fruit and wine noes in the mix as well.  The palate is very sweet, with caramel and maple syrup, but lacks some of the balance of the nose.   It's quite hot for being 100 proof.  Adding water produces some sour, acidic notes.

I've never been much of a fan of finished bourbons, and this one doesn't convince me otherwise.  The nose is beautiful, but the palate doesn't quite keep up with it.  It's good, but not exceptional.

Abraham Bowman Limited Edition 1994, 73.75% abv ($70)

This is another limited release Bowman, the third in that series.  It was distilled in 1994 and aged over 17 years; it's hard to find outside of Virginia and Maryland.  At 147.5 proof, this is Stagg level stuff.

The nose is very similar to a Stagg (which makes sense given that it's the same mashbill and a similar age and proof), with huge polished wood notes and some candy sweetness.  It also has some good rye type notes with some light mint and spice.  The palate has a lot going on; there's wood, vanilla, anise, mint and some rye; the only flaw is an acidic note that pushes some of the other flavors to the background around mid-palate.  The finish is sweet mint and spice, like a good mint julep.  It's very hot, of course, but once it's diluted and airs out a bit, it's very nice.

Despite it's high proof, this isn't quite up to Stagg quality, but it's good stuff with lots of complexity. 

The willingness to experiment with these limited releases is a real tribute to all of the folks at Bowman, including the great Truman Cox.


sam k said...

Neither of these was available at the distillery during my recent visit. No surprise on the port finish, as there was only one barrel that sold out within a couple of weeks. They did have their standard bourbons, however.

I have not opened the Bowman Brothers small batch I bought, but tasting at the distillery made me think it was a good entry level bourbon.

The John J. Bowman I'm sipping at home, however, really impresses me, and tastes much like bourbons I've tasted that were distilled in the 70s and 80s.

Lots more to anticipate from ASB as time passes and their long-term plans come to fruition.

Anonymous said...

I loved everything Truman did at Bowman but to be fair I believe it was Joe Dangler who started the new premium Bowman's for BT/Sazarac. Truman took over in October of 2011 and the new Bowman's were out in 2010 I believe

sku said...

You're right Anon and it was never my intention to slight Joe Dangler. I'll put something up in the post.

SteveBM said...

Sam K - the Bowman Brothers is a nice entry level bourbon. Totally agree with you on the John J Bowman. It was my favorite bourbon of 2012.