Blending the Best

Tradition meets technology at A. Smith Bowman.

A. Smith Bowman offers tours and tastings year-round.

Photo by Cade Martin

Blending art and science, A. Smith Bowman makes world-class whiskeys at its distillery in Fredericksburg. If you only know Bowman for its Virginia Gentleman or Fairfax County bourbons, you’re in for a surprise: This is not your grand-father’s Bowman.

Founded in 1935 by Abram Smith Bowman and his sons, Virginia’s oldest continuously operating distillery originally made value spirits in Reston. The family moved the company to Fredericksburg during the ’80s and then sold it to Buffalo Trace in 2003. Bowman began changing its focus at that point, releasing its first small batch whiskey in 2008. The pivot has been successful; Bowman has won more than 100 awards in the past five years, including two World Whiskies Awards. They now make various whiskeys and bourbons, all named for members of the Bowman family, and an experimental line that includes gin, vodka, and rum. “Our motto is ‘pioneering spirit,’” says master distiller Brian Prewitt. “We want to be rooted in history yet cutting edge, pushing the limits, and really trying to do the best that we can.” 

A tour of the distillery proves his point. Original photos, bottles, and equipment showcase the heritage, and the stills are named for Bowman ancestors, while a small lab is packed with top-of-the-line technology. “We can do full scans for color, clarity, pH, all sorts of water chemistry, things like that,” with the goal of identifying and perfecting the components of every product, Prewitt explains. “We feel the best whiskey, gin, vodka—you name it—has yet to be made, so we’re always striving to make it better and better every single day. These tools help us do that.”

Both a master brewer and master distiller, Prewitt worked for breweries, wineries, and other distilleries before joining Bowman nearly seven years ago. An enthusiastic tinkerer—the experimental line is called Tinkerman’s in his honor—Prewitt enjoys the challenge of, say, turning 40,000 pounds of apples into three barrels of apple brandy or creating four distinctly different gins. He has “hundreds and hundreds of experiments,” he says. And although Bowman’s output is prodigious—there are warehouses full of barrels—it is still a microdistillery, so limited-edition batches are not just welcome but expected.

Perhaps the most important factor in Bowman’s success, says Prewitt, is that every step of the process is “all still done by hand. I would love for it to be all fancy and automated, but I think that takes away from the art of it. … It’s all somebody standing here and being really meticulous and making sure that we’re making the best quality product we can.” ASmithBowman.com

Drink Destinations in Fredericksburg

While you’re in the neighborhood, try a tasting at these nearby beverage makers.

Map by Victoria Borges

Recipe

Toast the first days of warm weather with this light, sweet, refreshing signature cocktail! Featuring A. Smith Bowman’s award-winning handcrafted Bowman Brothers Bourbon, this tipple is packed with a fresh peachy punch and flavorful notes of ginger.

Bourbon Peach Smash

Photo courtesy of A. Smith Bowman Distillery

½ peach, skin on, cubed, plus a slice for garnish

4-5 mint leaves, plus additional for garnish

1 ounce ginger-mint simple syrup

1 ½ ounces Bowman Brothers Bourbon

ginger ale, chilled

Muddle the peaches, mint, and ginger-mint syrup together. Pour into a rocks glass, add the bourbon, and fill with crushed ice. Top with ginger ale, stir, and garnish with mint and a peach slice.

For the ginger-mint simple syrup:

½ cup water

½ cup cane sugar

1 sprig mint

1-inch nob ginger, sliced

Combine the sugar and water in a small sauce pan and heat until dissolved. Steep the mint and ginger in the syrup for 15 minutes; strain and discard solids. Refrigerate to cool before using.


This article originally appeared in our April 2020 issue.

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