I’ve always enjoyed visiting wineries, but when I decided to try the keto diet earlier this year, wine was off limits… but whiskey with its zero carbs was in like flynn. As such, whenever I travel, instead of looking for the best wineries in the area to visit, I’ve been looking for the best whiskey distilleries. Imagine my surprise, when I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia and discovered one of the best distilleries in the state – dare I say… the world was right around the corner.
Sure, such a boast sounds like so much hyperbole, but when you win an award titled the World’s Best Bourbon at the World Whiskies Awards in both 2016 and 2017, I guess you can say you’re one of the best on the planet. And A Smith Bowman combines a few of my favorite things quality, good taste… and history. I absolutely had to visit this distillery.
Fredericksburg, one of my favorite cities, and a place I’ve called home in the past is chock full of colonial and antebellum history, and Bowman is no different, however their heritage begins in the 1930’s. According to their website:
In 1927, before establishing Virginia’s oldest distillery, A. Smith Bowman purchased the 7,200-acre Sunset Hills farm in Fairfax County with one objective—to open up a dairy and granary. Shortly after bringing the idea to life, his fields became so abundant that he needed a use for the excess grain. This one defining moment changed the entire course of the Bowman legacy and ultimately lead to the best whiskey in the world.
In 1934, A. Smith Bowman built a groundbreaking distillery on the farm land and turned it into a family-owned business. With the help of his two sons, he produced the first ever batch of Virginia Gentleman. Up until the 1950s, A. Smith Bowman Distillery was the sole producer of legal whiskey in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since then, the focus has shifted from our classic spirit to producing premium handcrafted small batches and experimental editions that embody innovation at its core.
Bowman distills bourbon, gin, rum, rye and brandy. And if you stop by for a tour, you’ll end it with a lovely tasting of their very best products. And while I definitely enjoyed learning about how whiskey is distilled, I must confess, my favorite part of the tour was the tasting, where I tried gin (for the first time), bourbon, brandy and a delicious dessert liqueur. Speaking of which, the tour is great and I highly recommend you take it if you have the time – our guide was extremely knowldegable and patiently answerered everyone’s questions. After touring the facility, learning about the distillation process and discovering how whiskey is barreled, I have a new appreciation for the spirits.
The distillery itself is a lovely facility. It’s off a main road, and when you turn onto Bowman Drive, you think you’re turning into an office park. But the road is tree-lined and winding, and you’re immediately transported to a historic looking brick building surrounding by lush vegetation. The smell of whiskey is pronounced when you enter the facility, and you’ll see a bar to belly up to, a retail area full of good stuff to buy for yourself plus great gifts for the whiskey lover. Outside of the distillery are picnic tables, where you can enjoy a good drink with friends if you’re so inclined.
It’s clear why Bowman is one of the best. It’s not just the heritage of the drink or the science of the distillation process, rather, it’s the passion of the people running Bowman. Everyone we met was happy, excited about good whiskey, knowledgable about spirits, its history as well as having a vision for the future of Bowman. If you’re in Fredericksburg, and you enjoy whiskey, you’ll want to stop by Bowman for a tour and a drink.
A. Smith Bowman is located at 1 Bowman Drive, Fredericksburg, VA 22408. Hours of operation are Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Learn more about Bowman on their website, follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
By the way, two of my favorite mystery series’ feature whiskey, one set in Scotland and the other Ireland. If you’re like me and enjoy your spirits in your tumbler and your reading check out Alexia Gordon’s the Gethsemane Brown series and Melinda Mullet’s Whisky Business.
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