Review: Bowman Brothers Pioneer Spirit Bourbon

The A. Smith Bowman Distillery, out of Frederiksburg, VA, has been producing some excellent products in recent years. Owned by Sazerac since 2003, Bowman sources Buffalo Trace new make distillate and re-distills it at the distillery for a total of three distillations (reportedly). They age the whiskey on premises and recently opened a visitors center onsite.

A. Smith Bowman produces a Rye, a Small Batch Bourbon, Single Barrel Bourbon, rum, vodka, gin, and a number of limited release whiskeys. Last year I reviewed a barrel strength rye that was one of the best rye’s I tasted all year (2011).

Today I’ll be digging into the Small Batch Bourbon.

Bowman Brothers Pioneer Spirit Small Batch Bourbon, 45% abv (90 Proof), $29.99/bottle
Color: Light-Medium Amber
Nose: Brown sugar, sorghum syrup, sweet cinnamon, red apple, and moderate oak influence.
Palate: Well balanced sweetness (brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla) with ample sharp spice notes (pepper, cinnamon, and all spice).
Finish: A shade dry and spicy. Charred wood bitterness and cinnamon with a touch of maple sweetness.
Overall: Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon is a whiskey of very good quality. It offers a balance of sweetness and spice. I cannot say it’s very full flavored, nor is it complex, but it’s a damn fine sipper that offers some classic bourbon flavors. If you favor zippier bourbons, this one would certainly please you with its well defined wood/barrel sugars and spices.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.4 (Very Good)


  1. Adam D. says:


    Thanks so much for yet another honest and insightful review. I’ve been very curious about the Bowman products for awhile now, so this certainly helps me to get a better idea of the kind of product they’re producing. I’m wondering if you might also have any thoughts on their other whiskeys, especially their John J Bowman and Abraham Bowman (I’ve seen the former in a local store, have yet to spot the latter–a very limited release perhaps?). Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Enjoy your summer, and thanks again!

  2. SteveBM says:

    I think the John J Bowman is a fantastic bourbon. Ordered a few bottles last year and savored every sip. Also got last years Abraham Bowman rye which was a high proof that I really enjoy. Both still sit on the home bar. I think I like the John J better overall. Definitely recommend checking them out. I’m working my way thru Virginia next week and I think I have carved out some time to stop at the distillery between sales calls. Luggage will be a tad heavier on the flight home!

  3. Adam, I’ve yet to try the other 2 but will definitely have them in the rotation soon. I want to get to all of the Bowmans over the next 2-3 months. The barrel strength rye from the Party Source in KY is one of the best rye whiskeys out there.

  4. Adam D. says:

    Thanks so much for the quick response. I actually was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle of that particular rye, but given its rarity (and price) am still waiting for the right special occasion to crack it. I did notice recently that the Party Source is carrying two private barrel John J. Bowman’s, one of which they say is 14+ years. I know tastes are subjective, but any sense (even if only roughly) of whether it might warrant the $55 price tag? As you can tell, I’m itching to pull the trigger…



  5. Adam D. says:

    Jason, just wanted to give you an update, for what it’s worth. I went ahead and got some of the John J. Bowman single barrel from TPS (barrel #45) and am enjoying it a great deal. It isn’t mind-blowing in its complexity, but it does have a nice mixture of sweetness and spice, with some sassafras flavor that I really like. If you pick some up, let me know what you think when you get the chance. All in all, I’m quite happy with mine.