2021 was a rocketship year for American whiskey. The theme seemed to be more more more. More new distilleries and brands coming on the scene, more exotic barrel finishes and blending techniques, more limited editions, more grain types, and yes, more price increases. While many whiskeys wowed us, none did as much as the release of A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon Batch 1.
A. Smith Bowman Distillery is part of the Sazerac Company, Inc. spirits portfolio. For years the distillery only had two ongoing offerings - their Small Batch and Single Barrel Bourbon. 2017 saw the company add a third with their Isaac Bowman Port Barrel Finished Bourbon and in 2021 the company released their fourth permanent offering in the form of an annual limited edition cask strength bourbon. This bourbon is aged a minimum of 10 years with barrels being hand selected by the company’s master distiller.
A. Smith Bowman Distillery has a long tradition of releasing one-off experimental bourbons and whiskeys. These unique offerings focus on experimenting with various mashbills, aging techniques, and production methods. So when the company announced they were adding a new ongoing yearly limited release, our curiosity piqued. However, we couldn’t imagine that this double digit age bourbon that also falls under the “hazmat” category (owing to its 140+ proof) would grab our attention like it did.
A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon wowed us from the moment we poured a glass. It affords bold scents on the nose that immediately state its proof, yet it’s complex enough to preview what the sip holds. And what a sip it is. Sporting rich and deep flavors, the bourbon manages to make the sip come alive and showcase every single proofpoint it sports.
Compared to other high proof bourbons, A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon makes you do a double take. This is a bourbon that could easily be slotted into the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and hold its own with George T. Stagg, and honestly would best many of the recent releases. Its impact lies not in that it carries such a high proof, but in the fact that it uses this proof to its advantage and delivers a dangerously sippable bourbon that will impress any bourbon lover that gets a chance to try it (which always seems to be the rub when it comes to amazing whiskey).
Picking just one whiskey to be named #1 in a year is never easy. The competition was fierce this year and A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon had no small hill to climb. We tasted endless whiskeys that satisfied us in many areas, whether it be price, general availability, or flavor profile. While we would love to see a more readily available whiskey always stand out as the best in the field, ultimately A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon is hard to beat this year. While the initial release wasn’t widely available for Batch 1, we can only hope that the company expands this release into more states in the future, because if future batches can meet the bar it set, this rightly deserves to be on everyone’s radar in 2022.
Bold. Memorable. Delicious. A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon Batch 1 is in a class of its own. All of its qualities taken together are what propelled this whiskey to the forefront of our minds time and time again in 2021. A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon above all others that we tasted, was the one that left an incredibly memorable impression, and why we named it our #1 Whiskey of 2021.