In February, Myrna, Sidecar, Stearns and I joined R & J and their kids on a little adventure: touring the A. Smith Bowman Bourbon Distillery. The one and a half hour tour and tasting was given by Truman Cox, the Master Distiller, and head of their small but growing operations. It was fascinating: he took us all through the brewery, allowed us to explore a bit on our own, answered all our questions, and in the end, gave us tastings of his three bourbons so we could see and taste first-hand the difference between them.
He even kept Spoon (age 5) engaged. At one point, after touring the distilling room (below) she turned to me and said "This is fascinating!" Yes! It was! They were, by the way, incredibly accommodating with regards to the kids. They gave each of the kids one of their wooden barrel stoppers to play with, and let them wander around the big tasting room. Only the distillery room is inaccessible with a stroller (or wheel chair, for that matter), so as long you don't mind carrying the kids for that portion, and you bring some snacks for them when they get restless, you should not hesitate to bring them along.
The original Bowman Brothers were officers in the Virginia Militia in the Revolutionary War, and helped found Fayette County. Their descendant, A. Smith Bowman, founded the distillary after the repeal of prohibition. They were the owners of a large dairy / granary farm, and needed a use for all the excess grain the produced. It moved to their facilities in Fredericksburg in the 1980s. (And the industrial park nearby is pretty neat: there is a three car Virginia Railway museum, with volunteer enthusiasts who are very willing to take you on a tour, as well as the Blue & Grey Brewery.)
The Bourbon (that's what you really want to know) is delicious. They have three varieties, named after the brothers themselves. The first, Bowman Brothers, is a small batch bourbon with good flavor but a quick finish. My favorite was the John J. Bowmans: a single barrel bourbon whiskey that blends beautifully, but is especially fine poured over one ice cube. These are available at most Virginia ABC Liquor stores. They also have a delicious spiced rum, and a smooth, crisp gin. (The Vodka, I did not try.) Truman will sign bottles for you, as well!
The distillery is not open on weekends, but if you call ahead, it is likely they already have a tour scheduled, and are happy to accommodate you. Be sure to confirm the time the day before, though. Our tour had about 15 people, and we were by far the most vocal (by which I mean we asked a lot of questions). So we had a great time. I hope the others did as well.
A. Smith Bowman
1 Bowman Drive
Fredericksburg, VA 22408(540) 373-4555
Call ahead for tour information and hours.
Check back this afternoon for a cocktail using Jams by Mags Marmalade and John J. Bowman's Bourbon.