It seems as though the secret is out regarding the Abraham Bowman line. What started out as Virginia’s best kept secret has turned into a nationally distributed and heavily sought after special release. After just five releases in a short period of time, the Abraham Bowman line from the A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia has some real trophies on their wall, as well as one of the most diverse lineups and routes of distribution in the business.
Some of them were high age, some high proof, one was a rye released at both 90 and cask strength, and one was aged in Port casks. Some were distributed only by their distillery gift shop, some variations of gift shop releases were distributed through The Party Source, some were only distributed through The Party Source, and some more recently were distributed nationally. Like a gift from your drunk uncle, you never know what the next one is going to be, but at an attempted three releases per year, you don’t have to wait long to find out.
Here is a list of previous Abraham Bowman releases in chronological order, not including some of the limited versions from The Party Source releases:
#1 was a rye whiskey aged for 10 to 11 years, bottled at 90 proof.
There was also a 136 proof cask strength version released by The Party Source which was heralded as a possible American Whiskey of the Year by some
#2 was a Cask strength bourbon aged for 18 years, bottled at 138.6.
Commonly referred to as the “gift shop” release because it was the first release sold from their distillery gift shop.
#3 was another cask strength bourbon, this time aged for 17 years and bottled at an eye popping 147.5 proof.
This bourbon is referred to as the “Haz-Mat” release due to the uncommonly high proof.
#4 was an 7 years old batch of the Bowman Brothers Small Batch aged for just under a year in Port casks and bottled at 100 proof.
This was the first offering to stretch from coast to coast, but also the youngest and least like the others.
A. Smith Bowman distills a Buffalo Trace white dog twice in their copper still named “Mary” which makes their products triple distilled by the time it hits the barrel. They age their barrels right side up, which is very unique for any form of whiskey. Buffalo Trace is Bowman’s parent company which is mutually beneficial because it gives Buffalo Trace a craft distillery in their portfolio while allowing Bowman to work from some of the world’s best bourbon distillate.
The fifth and current release of Abraham Bowman is called the “Last Millennium” Bourbon because it is a blend of two different batches of bourbon distilled at the end of the last millennium. It is bottled at 100 proof and runs around $70-$80 a bottle depending on where you find it. Colorado got its allocation around the first week of August, and I found mine at Atlas Valley Wine & Spirits in Lafayette, Colorado. Aside from the catchy name, nothing really stands out about this bourbon like the previous releases. No dangerously high proof, it is not a rye, not aged in a secondary cask, and it is not a particularly high aged.
The “Last Millennium” A. Bowman uses a 16 year old bourbon barreled in 1997 and 14 year old bourbon barreled in 1999, both of which were pulled and bottled 05-02-2013. There are plenty of 15 year old bourbons on the shelf, many of which are cheaper than the A. Bowman, so let us hope the bourbon shows up in a big way when it is in the glass.
Abraham Bowman “Last Millennium ” Review
Color: It has a nice dark maple rust color. Pretty similar to the John J. Bowman.
Nose: The nose is very sweet and inviting. Honey and vanilla cream with some light cinnamon sugar and ripe fruits. Not one hard edge from the alcohol, oak or spice, but not what I would consider “unbalanced” either.
Sip: A lot of that sweetness in the nose carries over into the sip, which is medium in texture. Honey, candied apples as well as some toffee and butterscotch upfront which is very reminiscent of a wheated bourbon. The intensity falls off a bit in the back palate, but cinnamon, orange rind, and a slightly bitter charred oak help maintain a nice enough balance.
Finish: The finish has more a more pronounced spice than the sip, as well as some gingerbread and honey that lingers for a spell.
Overall Grade: B+
It was hard to figure out what my expectations were with this bourbon. The stats were not newsworthy, but the price was pretty standard for a limited release. I knew the bourbon would be good, but my concern was if the bourbon itself warranted a limited release? Certainly being distilled before a specific calendar year doesn’t deem the bourbon worthy of celebration in itself, because I have a 1994 Wild Turkey distilled before the millennium as well if anyone wants to pay $80 for it.
I enjoyed the bourbon, but the overall depth was markedly lower than I was hoping. The sweet in the sip and the spice in the finish really saved the overall quality because there was not much else in the profile that was noticeably better than the $55 John J. Bowman.
Was the bourbon worth $75? Sure. Was the bourbon worthy of the Abraham Bowman line? That, I am not so sure.
Drink this, not that: I enjoy the John J. Bowman Single Barrel enough to recommend it equally with the “Last Millennium”. You either get a great $55 bourbon or a good $75 bourbon, which to me is six of one, half dozen of another.
If you are a spice enthusiast, I recommend going with the E. H. Taylor Single Barrel instead. It is more readily available and I found it to be one of the best, well rounded overall pours in Buffalo Trace’s standard lineup.
If given the opportunity, I would take the last Parker’s Heritage Collection offering over this Abraham Bowman as well. It packed way more depth into a thicker, more complex pour at just about the same price. Be warned that it is a heater. The last release was just shy of 140 proof, but was one of my top releases from last year.
If you have had the “Last Millennium” Abraham Bowman, what did you think?