Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Abraham Bowman Rum Cask Finish Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


The A. Smith Bowman Distillery is Virginia's oldest, tracing its roots before Prohibition. Initially distilled in Sunset Hills on the family dairy farm and granary, the Bowmans used their excess grain to distill spirits. In 1934, the Bowmans built a state-of-the-art distillery at Sunset Hills Farm. Then, in 1988, a new distillery was constructed near Fredericksburg, about 60 miles away.


A. Smith Bowman doesn't do large-scale distilling. If you visit the campus, you'd consider it a micro-distillery more than anything else. Owned by Sazerac (Buffalo Trace and Barton), Bowman uses the relationship to craft its art.


This month, A. Smith Bowman has released a brand new, limited edition Bourbon called Abraham Bowman Rum Finished Bourbon, named for the commander of the 8th Virginia Regiment in the Revolutionary War. Abraham Bowman is considered the experimental line for the distillery, and in this case, it is one heck of an experiment.


It starts with a nine-year Bourbon aged in American white oak. That’s transferred to rum casks, where it is aged another six, bringing the total to 15 years, which, according to the distillery, might be the oldest rum-cask finished Bourbon ever brought to market.


“Our Abraham Bowman series allows the flexibility to experiment and discover unique new expressions, permitting us to gain new insights along the way. The age on this rum-finished release is unparalleled and resulted in one of our favorite finishes to date.”Brian Prewitt, Master Distiller


Packaged at 50% ABV (100°), you can expect to pay $69.99 for a  750ml. The trick is, you have to hit up the distillery gift shop or win a draw on the Virginia ABC Board lottery to acquire one.


Before I get to the whole #DrinkCurious thing, I’d like to thank A. Smith Bowman for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  I poured this Bourbon neat in my Glencairn glass. The color was an enchanting, deep, reddish-orange. I purposefully chose enchanting because I became lost just staring at it. When I was able to break my gaze, I noticed a medium-thick rim yielded fat, sticky tears.


Nose: Molasses, spiced vanilla, caramel, and candied orange peel formed an enticing aroma. It sounds almost like a cheat, but rum-soaked fruitcake rolled across my tongue as I pulled the air into my mouth.


Palate:  Engage the US Coast Guard because there was a massive oil spill in my mouth! English toffee, leather, and pipe tobacco on the front gave way to vanilla, orange zest, and brown sugar at the middle. Charred oak, white pepper, and toasted coconut formed the back.


Finish:  An exaggerated finish of dry leather, pipe tobacco, vanilla, brown sugar, char, and white pepper parked on my tongue and hard palate. It warmed my throat and kept my attention.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is only a $69.00 Bourbon? Yes, you’re probably looking at secondary just to obtain a bottle. I disapprove of the black market, but I can tell you that I’d buy this at retail all day long and never look back. A Bottle rating for sure, cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Monday, June 21, 2021

A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


The A. Smith Bowman Distillery is Virginia's oldest, tracing its roots to before Prohibition. Originally distilled in Sunset Hills on the family dairy farm and granary, the Bowmans used their excess grain to distill spirits. In 1934, the Bowmans built a state-of-the-art distillery at Sunset Hills Farm. Then, in 1988, a new distillery was constructed near Fredericksburg.

A. Smith Bowman doesn't do large-scale distilling. In fact, if you visit the campus, you'd consider it a micro-distillery more than anything else. Owned by Sazerac (the parent company of Buffalo Trace and Barton), Bowman takes advantage of the relationship to craft its art.

This month, A. Smith Bowman is releasing a brand new, permanent expression to its lineup:  Cask Strength Bourbon.  This will be an annual release, likely limited in availability, it starts with a blend of Buffalo Trace's Mashbills #1 and #2, which is then sent to the distillery in Virginia, where it is distilled a third time on-site, using one of its two copper stills named Mary and George, honoring the Bowman Brothers' parents.  The Bourbon is then aged for a decade and bottled at, as advertised, cask strength.  In the case of this first batch, that's hazmat, weighing in at a tremendous 141.1°!  Suggested retail is $99.99, but my guess is you'll pay more than that if you buy anywhere aside from the distillery.

"We're excited to add another offering in the A. Smith Bowman line of bourbons, especially a Cask Strength, which we're sure will be really popular with our fans. This first release in this annual series contains barrels selected from the lower tiers in Warehouses A1 and A. We thought the flavor combinations resulted in a delicate sipping bourbon that drinks like a much lower proof. We hope you agree!" - Brian Prewitt, Master Distiller

I'm going to #DrinkCurious and explore this in greater detail, and plan to hold Prewitt to his words. But first, I'd like thank A. Smith Bowman for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, A. Smith Bowman was the a serious reddish-amber that could pass itself off as cherry juice. It created a medium-thick rim on the wall, and that produced husky, slow legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  Not to be mistaken for the firecracker, this was a cherry bomb on the nose. Cherry crushed my olfactory senses and it took true effort to get past it. I eventually came across vanilla and cocoa. When I breathed in through my lips, apple and pear came from nowhere and raced across my tongue.

Palate:  My first sip slid across my palate with an oily mouthfeel. I tasted brown sugar, praline pecan, and toated coconut on the front. Plum, cherry, and fig then took over at the middle. The back featured charred oak, cocoa, and cherry syrup.

Finish:  Char and plum stuck around for the encore, and then the spotlight went to black pepper and dark chocolate. If you like long finishes, this was one of those unstoppable freight trains that went on for several minutes before eventually retreating.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This Bourbon was one heck of a treat. It was warming but I'd never guess it was 141.1° - Prewitt was correct, this one drinks way below its stated proof. It was amazingly approachable. The problem with that, however, is that as you're sitting there sipping this with a smile on your face, this bad boy is sneaking up behind you with a 2x4, ready to smack you in the skull. Or, at least that's what happened to me. 

Another problem is that I enjoyed A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength so much, it would be an easy contender for Bourbon of the Year,  except for the fact that it is immediately disqualified for being an allocated whiskey. If you see this on the shelf, just shut up and grab it. It is an excellent representation of a Bottle rating and you will be happy to hand over your money. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit, but begs you to do so responsibly. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Catoctin Creek "Life's A Peach" Barrel Select Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


I gravitate to the unusual. Anyone can enjoy something mainstream, but it takes a true #DrinkCurious attitude to wander into the unknown. There is something almost magical about it, the feeling that you're in a population of, if not just yourself, then something small.

Recently, the folks at Catoctin Creek Distilling Company (pronounced Ka-TOCK-tin) sent me a bottle of their new, limited-edition Life's a Peach Barrel Select Rye. That's certainly an unusual name for a whiskey - I'd think that was something more appropriate for, say, brandy. Lo and behold, this is a Virginia Rye finished for a year in their Short Hill Mountain peach brandy casks. I found that captivating - I've had plenty of barrel-finished whiskeys, I've had brandy-finished whiskeys, but I can safely say that, until today, none has ever been finished in peach brandy casks.

If you've never heard of Catoctin Creek, it was founded in 2009 by Becky and Scott Harris. Becky is the chief distiller, Scott is the general manager. The distillery is located in Purcellville, Virginia at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Catoctin Creek is the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since Prohibition.

Life's a Peach is distilled from a mash of 100% rye. It doesn't carry an age statement, but we do know that means it is at least four years old. Before finishing in the peach brandy casks, it spent however long in new, charred oak barrels. This whiskey is non-chill filtered and bottled at 80°.  Becky indicated she tried this at several different proofs before settling on 80°. Life's a Peach yielded only 540 bottles, and a 750ml will set you back $45.90.  Aside from the distillery and its website, Catoctin Creek distributes in AZ, CA, CT, DC, FL, ID, IL, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WY, as well as a handful of other countries. Considering the limited number of bottles, I'm going out on a limb and assume that most of what's available is from the distillery and its website.

We know this is unusual, but does that mean it is any good?  We'll find out now.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Life's a Peach offered a dull, brassy color. It didn't really leave any sort of rim on the wall, and the whiskey just crashed back into the pool with thick, watery legs.

Nose: You'd think peach would be obvious, but it wasn't. Oh, it is there, just much more subtle than I would have guessed. It was joined by oak, mint, and bubble gum. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the peach became more dominant but was married with sawdust.

Palate: The mouthfeel was creamy and full-bodied. With the proof, I expected it to be thinner. Oak was strong on the front of my palate, along with vanilla cream. At this whiskey crossed the middle, I tasted stewed peaches, rye spice, and almond. On the back, it was clove and cocoa.

Finish: The tasting ended with dry oak, clove, and peaches. It went on monstrously long, and it took a while, but mocha phased in out of nowhere and rounded things up before fading.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I said I gravitate to unique, and Life's a Peach is definitely that. In my experience, 80° tends to work well with malted barley, less so with corn or rye. Life's a Peach deviates from that line of thought. Because this is so unusual, I can only imagine what this would taste like at a higher proof but I'm willing to trust Becky's judgment that 80° worked best. 

If you're looking for a standard rye whiskey, Life's a Peach isn't going to make you happy.  But, if you are adventurous, I believe $45.90 will provide an enjoyable experience and give you something to talk about (and share) with your friends. I found it fascinating, and as such, offer my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, November 9, 2020

Reservoir Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

I respect distillers that do things differently and try to make a whiskey their own. Oh, I may not enjoy the whiskey itself, but I have a ton of respect. There's something to be said for risk-taking, and I mean risk beyond simply opening up a distillery. 

Enter, stage left, Reservoir Distillery of Richmond, Virginia.  Founded in 2008 by childhood friends Jay Carpenter and Dave Cuttino, they wanted to do something unique. They source their grains from farms within a 50-mile radius from the distillery. They use quarter-casks (13-gallons) instead of standard 53-gallon barrels and apply a proprietary alligator char to them. 

But, that's not what's really divergent. The distillery only makes single-grain whiskeys. Their Bourbon is 100% corn. Their Rye is 100% rye. Their Wheat Whiskey is 100% wheat. Everything from the mashing to the bottling is done in-house. Co-Head Distillers Mary Allison and Nick Vaughn utilize a pot still to create their elixir after open-top fermentation runs more than a week. Reservoir's wares are distributed in VA, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, MD, PA, and SC.

Today I'm reviewing their Bourbon. I was provided 2020 Batch 7 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. After aging at least two years, it was packaged at 100°.  Available in either 375ml or 750ml bottles at a cost of $41.99 and $79.99 respectively.

How did Allison and Vaughn do?  The only way to know for sure is to crack it open and #DrinkCurious. Let's get that done, shall we?

Appearance:  This is a two-year Bourbon that is aged in quarter casks. I had to be mindful of that when it looked at it in my Glencairn glass. The photo above has not been manipulated. That deep, dark mahogany in the picture is the same thing as what's in my glass. I was shocked. I've seen plenty of small-barrel whiskeys before, and I don't recall seeing anything this dark.  It created a thicker rim which gave way to medium-thick legs that slowly fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  A fairly uncomplicated nose of corn, chocolate, and cherry pie filling were all I picked up. The hardest thing to identify was the latter. It wasn't cherry, it wasn't dried cherry. It was the stuff you get out of a can and use your fingers to scoop out every last bit. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, I tasted vanilla.

Palate:  Initially, the body started thin, but it became more viscous with additional sips. Despite the age, despite the 100% corn content, there was no ethanol punch. On the front, flavors of coffee and tobacco leaf gave a spiced opening. As the whiskey crossed my mid-palate, I found vanilla and coffee, which was almost a latte experience. Then, on the back, black pepper and oak drove everything home.

Finish:  Cherry, barrel char, and clove left a medium-to-long, warming ending.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I began, I have a ton of respect for folks who take chances and do things differently. Reservoir Distillery definitely does that. I was impressed with the color of a two-year Bourbon. I really enjoyed the nose, despite how simple it was. The palate was decent, but weighed heavy on spices and lacked any sweetness, which is strange considering the mashbill, however, it didn't seem unbalanced. This is priced at the higher echelon of craft whiskey, and my recommendation is to try this one before you buy it. As such, it takes my Bar rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It