Review: John J. Bowman Single Barrel

DSR – VA – 003: John J. Bowman Single Barrel

Company/Distillery: A. Smith Bowman Distillery

Location: Spotsylvania County, Fredericksburg, VA

Mash Bill: Undisclosed

Age Statement: No Age Statement (NC ABC list this as a 10 year)

Proof/ABV: 100 Proof/ 50% ABV

Color: Amber/Golden Copper

Purchase Price: $49.95 from NC ABC; 750 ml

Bottle Label Information:

Neck Label: “John J. Bowman Pioneer Spirit 100 Proof”

Front Label: “Copper Still – Triple Distillation”

“John J. Bowman Pioneer Spirit”

“Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey”

“Single Barrel”

“Product of Virginia”

Back Label: “Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey”

“Early pioneer Colonel John J. Bowman first explored Kentucky in 1775. Four years later he moved his family to Lincoln County where they were among the earliest settlers of Kentucky. He later presided over Kentucky’s first county court and was also appointed the first military commander and military governor of Kentucky County. He was the great, great uncle of Abram Smith Bowman, founder of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery. This single barrel bourbon whiskey commemorates the early pioneer John J. Bowman.”

“We love to hear from our customers! 1-866-729-3722”

“ –”


Distillery Background

A. Smith Bowman Distillery

Legend has it that in 1934, A. Smith Bowman built a distillery in Fairfax County, Virginia as a way to use the surplus grain that his farm was producing. Shortly after launching the distillery, Bowman produced the first run of Virginia Gentlemen, a bourbon that is still on the market. Today, A. Smith Bowman is known for the following of its core product line: Bowman Brothers Small Batch Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Isaac Bowman Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Port Barrels; John J. Bowman Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Deep Run Virginia Vodka; Sunset Hills Virginia Gin; George Bowman Dark Caribbean Rum; Mary Hite Bowman Caramel Bourbon Cream. In addition to those products, A. Smith Bowman regularly releases its Abraham Bowman experimental projects which have included Cider finished, Double Barrel, Port finished, Gingerbread Beer finished, Rye, Sweet, Wheat, and many more. For more information visit the A. Smith Bowman website.

A. Smith Bowman is currently led by Master Distiller Brian Prewitt. Mr. Prewitt has been at Bowman since 2013 and has helped the distillery become the “World’s Best Bourbon” at the World’s Whiskey Awards in 2016 and 2017. Mr. Prewitt works alongside Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, of Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky. Mr. Wheatley provides A. Smith Bowman with single run distillate. After receipt, Prewitt then distills the product two more times prior to aging and bottling at the Bowman distillery (Source).

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: May 25, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass


Christian: Really nice nose! Surprising aroma of strawberries and apple puree. Lots of sweet honey and vanilla extract present. Reminds me of a Red Berry Christmas candle. Water causes this to lose some of the berry aroma. Caramel flavor certainly steals the stage. Very rich and sweet with a hint of Aunt Jemima maple syrup.

Mike: First pass on the nose was very appealing. Light and fruity as a hint of sweet strawberries was detected, something I have never experienced! Second pass revealed subtle traces of apple, perhaps applesauce, with undertones of vanilla. Overall a fantastic and unique aroma.


Christian: Thin mouth feel. Bourbon is so sweet on the tip of your tongue. Lots of apples and cinnamon come through on palate. Decent spiciness lingers but is not overwhelming. Caught a slight hint of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup in the back of mouth. Water intensifies sweetness while adding a slight burnt brown sugar flavor.

Mike: Medium to thin in the mouth that was fruit forward initially. The fruitiness swiftly yielded to flavors of brown sugar and cinnamon oatmeal. Very smooth on the tongue with a sharp cinnamon bite on the back end and a whisper of rosemary herbs left after imbibed.


Christian: Very smooth light finish. Little burn is present. Strawberries and cream taste with hints of vanilla continue to come forward. Perhaps a sense of some raspberry in the aftertaste. Water seems to remove any hint of berries in the finish, leaving more brown sugar and vanilla to experience.

Mike: Medium and smooth finish that produced a delicate warmth in my throat. A satisfying touch of bitter dark chocolate lingered.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: To say this was an enjoyable pour would be an understatement. I was pleasantly surprised by the berries and vanilla that were present. In giving this a second round of tasting, my original thoughts were confirmed! This time, I didn’t feel that adding water added more to this pour. Moving forward, I prefer it neat. Price point is fair and not a concern, especially if the rumored 10 year age is true. I firmly believe that you’ll regret not giving this offering A. Smith Bowman a try. This is a high quality and unique pour of bourbon.

Rating: 3.75 Rickhouses

Mike: I purchased this bottle in 2015. On one hand, I am sad that it took me 5 years to open it, On the other hand, I am glad I had it in the bunker for this review. This is a solid bourbon all the way around and hits on everything I value when tasting bourbon. The price is more than fair ($49.95) for this higher proof, single barrel offering. Although it cannot be confirmed from the bottle’s label, the NC ABC systems state this is aged 10 years. My recommendation is that you find it and buy it as soon as you are able. You will not regret it and if you do, I’ll be more than willing to take it off of your hands. As for me, I will definitely be buying more of this for my bar!

Rating: 3.75 Rickhouses

Conclusion: The John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Straight Bourbon is an impressive pour. In the past, we have both experienced A. Smith Bowman’s Bowman Brothers, a fine option in its own right. This product from John J. Bowman is in an entire class of its own. The nose and flavor profile really brings a uniqueness and enjoyment to the pour. The taste of berries is typically not something we have experienced often in a good bourbon. If you have never tried it, run out and give it a shot. We both intend to keep a steady supply of it! We gave this 3.75 Rickhouses which rounded up to solid 4.



2 thoughts on “Review: John J. Bowman Single Barrel

  1. The juice in this bottle is Buffalo Trace Mashbill number 1 that gets an extra barreling/resting that brings out the berry notes. It’s Eagle Rare but with a berry note.

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