A. Smith Bowman Distillery
Backstory and Context
The modern A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Spotsylvania County, near Fredericksburg, Virginia, is a micro-distillery specializing in bourbon whiskey, as well as rum, vodka, and gin. The business, which dates back to before Prohibition, has operated at this site since 1988. Formerly, the building served as a cellophane plant run by the FMC Corporation.
Abram Smith Bowman (1868-1952) purchased the town of Wiehle, Virginia in 1927, building Sunset Hills Farm as a diary and granary. He found he was producing excess grain and in 1934, the day after the repeal of Prohibition, established a whiskey distillery with his two sons, Abram Smith Bowman, Jr. (1906-1981) and Edmund Delong Bowman (ca. 1911-1989). Part of the distillery operated in the former town hall, which was now on the farm property. The first whiskey shipped from the distillery in 1937. The A. Smith Bowman company originally produced the Virginia Gentleman and Fairfax County varieties of whiskey.
The original distillery, founded the day after the Prohibition repeal, was the only legal whiskey distillery in the Commonwealth of Virginia until the 1950s. The original distillery building fell out of use around this time, and in 1999 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
By 1988, rising taxes in Northern Virginia prompted the company's move to the current location, 60 miles away from the original site. The Sazerac Company of New Orleans purchased the distillery business in 2003.
The distillery houses several stills. In 2015, a unique custom-made still (named "George" after the pioneer and eighteenth-century patriarch of the Bowman family) was installed alongside "Mary" (named for George Bowman's wife, Mary Hite Bowman). "George" is a 500-gallon hybrid pot still capable of creating whiskey as well as other spirits, including special experimental batches, and was constructed by Vendome Copper and Brass Works in Louisville, Kentucky. The distillery also includes a large warehouse, where the whiskey is aged in new, charred oak barrels.
The spirits produced at the distillery include multiple award-winners, including a limited edition Abraham Bowman Port Finished Bourbon which won the title of "World's Best Bourbon" at the 2016 and 2017 World Whiskies Awards North America.
Open Monday through Saturday from 10 A.M.–5:00 P.M., the A. Smith Bowman Distillery offers complimentary tours and tastings.
A. Smith Bowman Distillery. "The Distillery." 2020. Accessed January 12th 2020. https://asmithbowman.com/distillery/
Barnes, Bart. "E. D. Bowman Dies at 78," The Washington Post. October 20th 1989. Accessed January 12th 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1989/10/20/ed-bowman-dies-at-78/6fb6a2f1-90ac-475b-b9a7-a30c155ff278/.
BumgardnerMemories. Abram Smith Bowman, Jr. (1906-1981), Find a Grave. Accessed January 12th 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/184285647/abram-smith-bowman.
Hughes, Laura and Simone M. Moffett. A. Smith Bowman Distillery, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. July 1999. Accessed January 12th 2020. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/VLR_to_transfer/PDFNoms/029-5014_A._Smith_Bowman_Distillery_1999_Final_Nomination.pdf.
Straub, Bill, "Bourbon Review: Virginia Gentleman Small Batch," Modern Thirst, June 9, 2014.
Wooldridge, Kristie. "George! A. Smith Bowman Distillery Welcomes Home a New Still," Front Porch Fredericksburg. February 2015, p. 14. Accessed August 26, 2016. https://issuu.com/frontporchfredericksburg/docs/fpffeb2015_online_edition/15.
"Yes, Virginia, there is a gentleman: A. Smith Bowman, Fredericksburg, Virginia," American Whiskey, September 29, 2004.