john bowman single barrel bourbon review

John J Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon

bowman single barrel bourbon

Distillery: A Smith Bowman

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky / Virginia, USA

Alcohol: 50%

Composition: Unknown

Aged: NAS

Color: 1.2/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: $50

From the A Smith Bowman website:

“Our John. J. Bowman Bourbon commemorates the great, great uncle of Abram S. Bowman, who founded A. Smith Bowman Distillery. We hand select some of the oldest barrels in the warehouse to produce a single barrel bourbon with hints of toffee, leather, figs, and almonds. John. J. Bowman was awarded World’s Best Bourbon in 2017.”

Company Website

john bowman single barrel bourbon overview

Bowman Distillery is an interesting not so small distillery in Fredericksburg, VA that’s owned by Sazerac. Yes, that’s the same Sazerac that owns Barton 1792 and Buffalo Trace. What makes Bowman unique is that it supposedly re-distills Buffalo Trace’s new make bourbon mashbills #1 and/or #2 one more time in Virginia (making it a total of 3 distillations) before fully aging the spirit in Virginia. You could say that A. Smith Bowman is Buffalo Trace’s extended family that lives in Virginia.


Anyways, in this review I have John Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon, their non-age-stated and 100 proof all-the-time released bourbon, although I don’t think that it’s nationally distributed. Given the 100 proof and single barrel, you could say that it’s a 

cousin to some of Buffalo Trace’s single barrel bourbons – EH Taylor Single Barrel, Elmer T Lee, Blanton’s, and Rock Hill Farms. With this added context (and probably a little too much added hype), I’ll find out if John J Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon is something worth considering for yourself.


As always, your experience may differ because this is a single barrel bourbon. 

john bowman single barrel bourbon smell

John Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon starts off quite nice with honey, vanilla frosting, licorice, orange, strawberry, and starfruit with more underlying layers of oak, clove, and cinnamon. There’s a good range of brighter and darker scents with not much heat.


Swirling coaxes out darker honey, caramel, lightly toasted vanilla frosting / meringue, strawberry, orange, apple, licorice, fennel, hints of dark berries with a solid oak and clove base, and just a little tobacco. Bowman Single Barrel bourbon has a nice vibrant fruitiness and floralness juxtaposed with a dark oakiness that gets better with time, reminding me a little of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel bourbon. It’s just a nicely balanced, calm, and fragrant bourbon.

john bowman single barrel bourbon taste & aftertaste

The first sip welcomes me with honey, licorice, vanilla, orange, apple, strawberry, hints of dark berries, roasted oak, clove, and cinnamon. The extra hint of vanilla and strawberry is nice, and the bourbon overall is flavorful, full, and well balanced with a pleasant roasted oak and wood spice presence. “Chewing” gives me darker honey, toasted vanilla meringue, licorice, strawberry, ripe apple, hints of dark berries, a little fennel, roasted oak, clove, cinnamon, and possibly some candied pineapple. John Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon is generally calm and gentle, but still a tasty and balanced bourbon. I truly enjoy drinking this, but it’s missing an extra gear of richness and that “something something” that barely holds it back from “Top Shelf” levels of flavor.


The finish starts-off with white sugar, oak tannins, licorice, pineapple, oak tannins, and tobacco. Over time a lightly sweet mint appears with the oak tannins. The finish after “chewing” is similar, so nothing new to report. 

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Mid shelf+

John Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon is an easy drinker with a vibrant, interesting, and approachable range of scents and flavors that I certainly enjoy, often teetering on being excellent. I especially like the blend of honey, vanilla meringue, licorice, and strawberry all wrapped up in a darker oak and spice, although it also doesn’t have quite the next gear of depth and/or allure to get it to “Top Shelf”. It’s close though. Still, I think Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon is worth your time and money if you can find it for under $60.


Now for the million-dollar question I hinted at in the introduction / overview – is John J Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon as good or better than its Buffalo Trace single barrel cousins (e.g., EH Taylor Single BarrelElmer T LeeBlanton’s, and Rock Hill Farms)? I truly think it’s comparable, if not a little bit better than all four of them. I’ll further explore that thought at another time, but I can confidently say that Bowman definitely holds its own. Now that I’ve dropped that bombshell, if you want John Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon and it’s not distributed where you live, I think Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is a similar and improved option since those other Buffalo Trace single barrel bourbons are difficult to find at this point.

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