We’ve skipped a few beats recently with A. Smith Bowman’s annual Abraham Bowman experimental releases. The 2019 bottling was reportedly even more limited than usual (which is really limited) and last year’s release, an intriguing sounding bourbon finished in Virginia Port wine and Sauternes casks, managed to also elude us. But not this year (err, last year)! At the tail end of 2021, Bowman released possibly the oldest rum cask finished bourbon ever produced, a whiskey that spent a full six of its healthy 15 years aging in rum casks (that presumably once held the distillery’s George Bowman rum). What does Bowman bourbon taste like after all those years in a rum barrel?
The nose melds the bourbon and finishing cask beautifully with notes of torched sugar, which come across a touch smoky, a thick note of sticky vanilla bean, and layers of tropical fruit that alternate between candied and barbecued. As it opens, dried tobacco and warm gingerbread add another dimension. The palate shows the same impressive balance. That much time in a rum cask could easily have made this bourbon overly rummy (read: tropical and sweet), but not here. The base bourbon is amplified but not sugared, with rich, round notes of buttery toffee, pie spice, and a bit of fresh citrus, complemented by the darker, deeper molasses notes from the rum cask. The oak in this one is wonderfully expressive with dark chocolate, rich vanilla syrup, and toasty barrel char which adds just a hint of bitterness to keep things from skewing too saccharine. The finish is long with dark spices, baking cocoa, and demerara syrup. As experiments go, this one is a resounding success.
Now, for the disappointing part. Bowman devotees camped out for this release back in December, and unless you’re a lucky Virginia resident in the upcoming ABC lottery, your chances of grabbing a bottle are pretty slim. Who knows? Perhaps a version of this one will make its way into the future Bowman lineup. Fingers crossed.
A / $70 / asmithbowman.com