244 – The Original Pioneers of Distilling with Brian Prewitt, Master Distiller of A. Smith Bowman

Many of us have heard of A. Smith Bowman, which is owned by Sazerac, but we really don’t know much about them. We sit down with their Master Distiller, Brian Prewitt, to learn about the inner-workings of their operation and how the relationship with Sazerac works, as it pertains to the bourbon. With more than 20 years of brewing and distilling expertise, he tells us how he dialed in their stills to create a unique product and what the future entails for growth. We may or may not talk about gin for a few minutes as well. If you’re a fan of A. Smith Bowman, let us know your favorite bottling in the comments.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about Texas.
  • How did you get into bourbon?
  • What has been your favorite spirit to work with?
  • Did your parents influence you to get into the alcohol industry?
  • Tell us the history of A. Smith Bowman.
  • Does it ever make you mad that Kentucky gets all the glory for bourbon?
  • What year did the operation start?
  • Tell us the history of Master Distillers there.
  • Is it hard to dial in flavor profiles?
  • Are you able to make your own imprint on the product?
  • What did you tweak during the process?
  • When did it become part of the Sazerac portfolio?
  • What resources did you gain from Sazerac?
  • Do you distill or does Buffalo Trace contract distill?
  • Is it aged in VA?
  • Are higher age releases sourced or made in house?
  • What is your capacity?
  • How many states are you available in?
  • Is there a flavor profile difference from Kentucky bourbon?
  • Tell us about your products.
  • What makes your gin unique?
  • Tell us about your single barrel program.
  • Where do you see the market in the future?
  • How has Virginia embraced you?
  • Do you have a lot of competition visit?
  • Has bourbon tourism grown in VA?
  • What are your plans for growth?


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You know you have a whole line of beers and a whole line of wines and then of course I’ll bring a lot of different whiskies and we have a good time on on the on the holidays. Yeah, those families have like a chili cook off, you’ll have like a days off, like it’s mine’s way better than what you’re making.

Hey everyone, it is Episode 244 of bourbon pursuit. I’m getting one of the hosts. And last week somebody asked me, Why didn’t I talk about the announcement of Blanton’s gold coming to the US on the podcast opening there, right? I totally Shut up. It was a huge missed because it was massive news. So yes, that is happening. And this will also be one of the major talking points for next week’s bourbon Community Roundtable. So make sure you tune in for that, because it’s likely going to be 100%. All About blends. All right onto the news. The audio is raising a glass to the women behind some of the most famous labels with the introduction of their crafts women project. The two new whiskies are going to be one as bullet Blender select crafted by bullet Blender Ebony major and Jane Walker created by johnnie Walker’s master blender, Emma Walker. Both will be hitting the shelves this spring bullet blenders select number 001 will be a blend of

Three of the distilleries 10 high rye bourbon recipes bottled at 100 proof. Dr. Joe also announced a release of Jane Walker scotch, a 10 year blend featuring whiskey from Speyside. Jane Walker is crafted by Emma Walker who has the lion’s share in most run of inventory. With over 10 million casks of aging and maturing whiskey and distilleries across Scotland. Bullet Blender select and Jane Walker will be hitting shelves in the coming months for a suggested retail price around $50 and $38 respectively. Pin hook bourbon has announced the arrival of their 2020 bohemian bourbon, the first bourbon release in almost 40 years. That was the stilt at historic castle and key pin contract is still the new bourbon at Castle and key, which is also what’s known as old Taylor to craft their own custom mash bill of 75% corn, 10% rye and 15% malted barley, they blended just 100 barrels of this 34 month bourbon to create their high proof release, which clocks in at 114.5. It will share some of the

Same magenta wax color as last year’s cash drink bourbon expression. The high proof bohemian bourbon will be arriving on shelves at April of 2020 per suggested retail price of around $50. In bourbon pursuit news since the beginning of 2020. We have already selected seven barrels from places like Buffalo Trace 79, and four roses. While they have eight more barrel selections to go in just the first half of this calendar year alone. We’ve got places like New riff, jack daniels bullet heaven Hill, and more. So if you want to be a part of this, head on over to patreon.com slash bourbon pursuit, and not only can you help support the show, but you get some damn good bourbon in the process. And in more bourbon pursuit news, you know that you can find us on every podcast platform out there such as Apple podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Google, and even places like YouTube, but now we’re hitting the airwaves. Yes, airing on Wednesdays from nine to 10am. We will be in Bardstown, Kentucky, his radio station w

Artie with frequencies of 1320 am 97.1 Fm 94.9 fm and online at wb rt country.com. The first show is set to launch next week on March 18, of 2020. Now today on the podcast, we dig into a brand that we know about but don’t really know about, and that’s a Smith Bowman, which is owned by SAS rock and based out of Fredericksburg, Virginia, we sit down with their master distiller Brian Pruitt to learn more about the inner workings of their operations, and how the relationship with SAS rock and Buffalo Trace works as it pertains to the bourbon with more than 20 years of brewing and distilling expertise. He tells us how they dialed in their stills and is pushing out a unique product. We also talk about their capacity and what the future entails for growth as well. Plus, we may or may not talk about gin for a few minutes. All right. Also as a small apology, this podcast audio for this week was recorded over zoom and is the

Final podcasts at AIR using this platform all shows going forward or using new platforms that will enhance your listener experience. So thanks for sticking with us. It’s time for the show. Here’s Joe from barrel bourbon. And then you’ve got Fred minich with above the char.

I’m Joe Beatrice, founder of barrel craft spirits, we explore whiskey in an entirely new way. My team at barrel craft spirits, selects and blends barrels of whiskey into something greater than the sum of their parts. Use the store locator a barrel bourbon calm.

I’m Fred MiniK, and this is above the char. As I put the whiskey to my lips, I felt a tingle just throughout my palate. It started on the front and moved its way toward the back just dripping down the jaw line tickling the top and it’s gonna surprise you where this whiskey came from. It was not from Kentucky, Tennessee or Indiana. This barrel proof bourbon was distilled

aged and bottled in Texas. That’s right, Texas. Texas is on the move and they have been for some time. And I do believe that Texas bourbon will soon begin to rival Kentucky and competitions and with consumers from California to New York and from Alaska to Hawaii. Now this bourbon that I tasted that kind of wowed me was t x, Texas straight bourbon whiskey. It was 127.4 proof four years old barrel proof is on the label, obviously. And it’s from Firestone and Robertson. I tasted this on my YouTube channel if you haven’t go check that out. It’s for my what’s in the box segment where I open a box and taste whatever is in the box. But this this bourbon really was one that kind of made me think rethink my position on where Texas is. Now I’ve always thought Texas is a growing state and very powerful.

When it comes to whiskey, and I think the rise of Texas has been has been happening for some time, but in the last couple of years we have seen Texas distillers like iron root win major awards, we’ve seen balconies kind of like, you know, get on shelves all over all over the country and when pallets, especially those in the American single malt category, while garrison brothers has kind of dominated like this, like this landscape and built a cult following for itself. I think right now, Texas is primed to do things in American whiskey that we’ve not seen any other state be able to do. And there’s a good chance as I go off to San Francisco to judge the world spirits awards, that we could see a Texas whiskey win a lot of gold. I’ll say this. Texas has the formula. They have the formula to be able to compete with all the great distillers around the world. They have a consumer base that really is passionate

about anything from Texas I mean how you could you could slap Made in Texas on anything and I would sell out in Texas those people love their state and they have a lot of talent and they have the education there like people from that state who are in the distilling business have taken the time to go get the education that it requires to be good distillers they’re also humble you don’t see them slapping master distiller on there, or for the most part, you don’t see them calling themselves master distillers without in their opinion earning it and I also don’t think that you see a lot of like terribly bad products coming out of Texas. The one thing that’s going to hold Texas back is its water, water. It has a it’s it’s it’s not a resource in abundance in Texas. And this is something that I think that every whiskey state needs to be able to rely on. You need to rely on a lot of water, obviously, but keep your eye on Texas. Something’s going on there. And if you if you haven’t tasted this

yet make sure you go pick up a bottle that TX barrel proof bourbon. And if you followed me for a while you know how hard it is for me to give a compliment from Tech to Texas. After all, I was born and raised in Oklahoma, where we kind of rival Texas and a lot of ways. And that’s this week’s above the char Hey, if you have an idea for above the char hit me up on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, just search for a name Fred medic. Again, that’s Fred MiniK Am I in an IC k? We’re going to my website Fred medic calm until next week. Cheers

Welcome back to a another episode of bourbon pursuit the official podcast of bourbon Kinney and Ryan here today talking to one another master distiller we have never had on the show today but it is coming from a distillery. I’ve got one or two bottles downstairs. Love what they’re doing really good things over there. But it is it’s not Kentucky’s backyard which is a little bit different for us from time to time.

Yeah typically well I’m surprised this is like one of the master stories we haven’t had one so I’m excited like we haven’t had him on yet I don’t know what’s taking so long it’s probably my fault we just got it but you have to knock on the right door sometime but they do have a great product I don’t know a ton about it so I’m really excited to kind of get their story and info by had some great single barrel picks from them from liquor barn around here so I know they’re doing some good stuff and excited to see what the future and past present all the above for this distiller Yeah, absolutely, it’s kind of gonna be a culmination of all those things because what we’ve seen at least around here in Kentucky is being able to finally get your hands on some of these bottles and now that it’s got a unique bottle shape to it’s kind of like this, this oval looking heart shaped kind of thing and it’s it’s really cool. It really stands out on the shelf and I think it’s going to be good for our listeners to kind of learn more about the brand more about the people that are behind the brand as well because I think that’s a good

What our audience really cares about, they want to know more about the stories of the people behind it. So yep, so let’s stop talking and let’s start asking.

So today on the show, we have Brian Pruitt. Brian is the master distiller at a Smith Bowman out of Virginia. So Brian, welcome to the show. Kenny Ryan, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it. Guys, so before we kind of dive into the history of Bowman and more about you know, you we always like to kick off the show and kind of think of like, what is it that got you into bourbon whiskey was there? Was there an early like, I mean, it’s okay, because we talked to a lot of people and they’re like, well, it started back when I was 12. And Grandpa said, you know, taking it but this so kind of talk about your first run and experience. Absolutely. So for me, it was a little bit different. I I started actually in school, I had no intentions of going into the alcohol beverage industry. I was in actually pre pre med and I had no

You know, I was in a class, literally looking for nerves or whatever it was on a cadaver. And I thought, this sucks. I hate this. I don’t want to do this anymore. On a cadaver. Yeah, it was not fun. And I decided, Hey, you know what I really liked. I really like beer. Why don’t I try and make beer. So I actually called up the local brewery which happened to be a large Anheuser Busch. And I was able to talk to the the master Brewer. You know, here I am this college kid. And he said, Yeah, come on down. I’ll talk to you. I’ll tell you how I got to where I was. And I went in and talked to him and, and he said, yeah, this is what I did. And this is the path I took. And so I next day went in and changed my major to food science, and did the whole food science thing Colorado State and then eventually went on to do the master brewers at UC Davis.

Started in the brewing industry. So I was working a lot of small craft breweries.

across Colorado and California. And you know after several years in the brewing industry, I decided I wanted to learn what beer became when it grew up. Now when it comes to see that’s that’s the fun part though you always get to start with beer before you make to the get to the spirits anyway Absolutely. A lot of people don’t realize you know, basically what we do here is you know, for whiskies as you as you as you make a beer and then you’re going to distill it after ferment, so I kind of really wanted to learn about that. So I I found that at the time I found a weaseled my way into the the wine industry, which had a very large distillery with it and was able to learn about, you know, under a master distiller and a master blender. They had probably a combined about 80 years worth of knowledge and I worked for them for well over a decade. And, you know, got to make all sorts of things got to make brandies and vodkas and gins and spend time in Mexico making tequila and Caribbean rooms.

And then of course whiskies and, but eventually I really wanted to get back to kind of my roots, which was small craft, you know, high quality spirits and that’s what brought me to a Smith bone. So it’s kind of a maybe a different route than some have taken versus, you know, just like am I, my father worked in the industry and I got in the industry and, you know, it’s, I will say that all of my family is involved with the alcoholic beverage industry. I brother worked for breweries, my dad owns a winery, and I’m in booze. My sister is the only one that hasn’t made it. She’s a doctor. So you got it. She liked the nerves on the cadaver. It’s a trail. Yeah, exactly. So it sounds like you’ve worked with a lot of spirits.

I know you’re gonna say you want to work or whiskey is your favorite thing to work with the what’s been one of your favorite spirits to work with. I absolutely love whiskey and I mean it came from, you know, the the brewing side and just seeing what you can do with

The grain the grain bill different yeasts and then taking that on and the maturation side

I think that’s I think that’s great now I don’t discriminate against the spirits though I love them all. I love all sorts of spirits you know in the summer, sometimes it’s nice to have a nice gin and tonic. Sometimes, you know, you need a nice brandy or rum drink when you know you’re out. You have to have a boat drink, you know, out on the boat. You gotta have that rum drink. But of course, you know, nothing, nothing beats a nice nice single barrel bourbon. So absolutely see when I go in the boat, it’s like it’s the only time I let it slide is like you get the Bud Light limes. Or you have one of those kind of like the very fruity kind of forward kind of beers it’s the only time it works is when you’re on a boat. Well, it takes plenty of beer to make to make good bourbon so

absolutely well let slot

well cool. So that’s good to see like it was there it kinda want to talk about your family life here a little bit. So you talked about your family all kind of being in the Alcohol Beverage

industry. Was there a,

you know, at least from your your parents side of it? Was there an influence that said like, hey, like this is this is a good route for you to go was that a an opportunity that you said you already kind of have experience in this? Yeah. Because my family was a part of it. Like was that an influential factor into it? No, I think it was more, you know, actually my father he kind of started the winery that he runs. He started in that in retirement. So that’s kind of like he was retirement type thing. So it was all of us were kind of getting into the industry at all at the same time and we all just kind of I think we love the science aspect of it. We love the art aspect of it. You know, we just kind of all went different ways. And it was just one of those things that Yeah, we get we get together and we have some pretty crazy Christmases and things like that where you can, you know, you really get to bring out the full spread different I’ll call it Tipples, you know you have a whole line of beers and a whole line of wines and then of course I’ll bring a lot of different whiskeys in

We have a good time on on the on holidays. Yeah, those families have like a chili cook off, you’ll have like a days off. Like, it’s man’s way there and what you’re making.

So, it was kind of interesting. But yeah, we I mean, we definitely help each other out. And, you know, I’ll get calls from guys all the time they’ll say, Hey, I talked to your brother the other day and don’t don’t believe a word he said. Or hey, I was at your dad’s place. I don’t believe a word. He said. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So you give each other a hard time. And that’s okay. I mean, it’s family you have to give each other a hard time. Especially in the holidays. It’s kind of kinda like the booze off we should probably we should make a bourbon pursuit booze off for our Christmas holiday party. It wouldn’t last long my family that like every time I bring straight bourbon or Nate they’re like, I can’t believe you drink this. This is awful.

So let’s you know before we start talking more about your job and everything like that, that you’ve gone with let’s let’s give a our listeners kind of a an understanding and background of really

What’s the history at a Smith Bowman? Because I just realized before we were coming on here that is it is not Abraham It is actually a from Smith.

Yep, we’re the experts.

School is so so a Smith Bowman is actually one of the oldest distilleries on the east coast. It was the oldest distiller in Virginia, started by Abraham Smith Bowman, and a lot of his family actually kind of has roots to the, you know, the pioneers of basically, during the Revolutionary War, discovering what is now current day Kentucky. So if you’re in Louisville, and you go out to Bowman field,

that is actually part of the bone was discovered and named after one of the Bowman family, really, tours of Cedar Creek is as they were known and all of our current day products are all named after the bone like historical Bowman figures. But kind of getting to modern history of how Abraham started it. He was actually the great grandson.


Abraham Bowman or sorry, George Bowman. And he was actually in the distilling industry prior to prohibition. He ran a distillery in in New Orleans prior to prohibition and one of the largest ramen bourbon distilleries, Algiers point. And and then after, you know, prohibition, he happened to buy about 7400 acres. And he opened up a granary and, and, and cattle. And then he no of course, prohibition ends and 3334 is when an ended here in Virginia, and he decided, hey, you know, I already know this business quite well. I have all my own corn. I have all my own rye. Let’s start making bourbon. And, you know, that’s what he started doing. So, right in 3435, he started making bourbon. And His goal was basically straight, you know, granted glass we did everything from, like I said, growing the grain. we harvested our own trees and made our own barrels.

I mean, we did it all. And the whole point was to make, you know, high quality spirits. And, you know, we kind of continue on with that. That kind of mantra today. We’re known for making Bourbons, of course, but we do other spirits as well. So that’s this kind of a little bit of the history of it. We give it we give the complete history. If you ever make it down to Virginia, we’ll give you the complete history. There we go. We’ll do the 30 minute tutorial one of these days. That sounds good. Does it ever make you all mad that like Kentucky gets all the glory for bourbon when Virginia was like, the state before Kentucky? You’re like, yeah, we have a lot. There’s I will say a lot of people come in and they’re very proud of their their Kentucky bourbon heritage and and, and we’re proud of it as well, but we always like to remind them that Kentucky used to be part of Virginia, we say Well, we’ve been making bourbon here for a long time too. So it’s kind of just curious about like the current operation like kind of like the year that really it started or is it still like been all running since 18, whatever. Well, so we started

Like I said, and 33 in Fairfax County, which is about just outside of Washington, DC area, and we moved it to their current location here in 1988. So we’ve been running here in this location since 88. And the reason we moved is because basically we sold off the family sold off the farm. And the the city of Reston, or that Fairfax County, which is well over a million people now just kind of grew around the distillery and they’re, you know, having this distillery where literally, they were walking the cows in from the farm to feed off the slop down the middle of the road. They just didn’t, they kind of didn’t like that so much. So move to the distillery where we’re at now, which is about 45 miles south of Washington DC. We’re in this small town in Fredericksburg.

And it’s you know, it’s been it’s been a great location for us. So we’re right along the Rappahannock river and, and, you know, it’s a great area for aging Bourbons, and when

Enjoy it here so far. Talk a little bit about like the the history of the master distiller title there as well. Are you the fourth the first of the new one? And do they don’t have master distillers back now and to talk about that? Yeah, actually so there’s been six master distillers here in the history of the company since the 30s. The first one was for about five years and then we had kind of one or two that only lasted about, you know, five to 10 years. And the previous master distiller was actually earth to master distillers ago was actually here for about 30 years he kind of took it from basically took over as master distiller in the 80s until almost 2011. And then the previous master distiller to me was Truman Cox, who came from Buffalo Trace actually, and he was here. I think he worked here for probably about three years, but he’s only master distiller for a little over a year and a half. He sat down

Passed away very you know, very unexpectedly and I took over from him he had been hidden and gone for probably about six months when I took over so I came into you know into a building with you know, there hadn’t been a master distiller for six months. So it was one of those things where you you hope that the previous master distillers and taking notes and you go in and you learn the skill and you find out what’s going on and taste through the stock I know that’s that’s rough to do. Got a taste you’re all the stock to find everything out somebody in Thank you for taking that sacrifice for us. We proud. I’ll stop. That’s okay. I’ll do it again. I get it. I have to so but it was you know, it was just trying to come in and find out what the house flavors were, how the stills ran and and just taking it from there. So I’ve been in this role for six years now. So how long do how long do you think it takes to become comfortable with the existing setup and accounting?

Get those, you know, like basic flavor profiles you’re looking for dialed in, it takes a little while it takes a you know, I think you have a good couple of months that you know, just tasting through all the stock, you know, just going through and seeing where everything is. So, you know, you’re literally going out into the warehouse and you’re saying, okay, you know, what’s this one? We’re okay, this is a year old, what’s it tastes like? Okay, this is two years old, what’s it tastes like? And then all the way up, you know, 1516 years, and you’re trying to find out, hey, what are the flavor profiles that are out there in the different parts of the warehouse because you know, you, you don’t have anybody to tell you that, you know, that historic. This is where I did this. And this is where I did this. And if I want this flavor I pulled out of this area of the warehouse, you just don’t have that. So you know that that took a little while but you know, once once you get there, I think then it’s tweaking it to make a little little changes right off the bat just to just to kind of make it your own style and and then kind of improve the product and

That’s one of the things that we always want to do is, you know, that’s, that’s our logo or our motto here is pioneering spirit. So we’re embracing our history, and just pushing the future. We’re just wanting to improve our products every day. So we don’t want to just sit back and go, yeah, that’s okay. It could be better.

So, that’s amazing, free rein to make your own imprint on it. So it’s not just like, plug and play, like, this is the way we do it. Don’t screw it up. No, absolutely. I mean, there there is, obviously you have an established brand and you don’t want to if you have historic, you know, customers of that brand, you don’t want to just change it willy nilly. You know, yeah, if you’re gonna make changes, you want to make sure that for the better and, you know, you want to keep improving them, but, you know, if it’s a change that does make it better, makes it taste better. You know, improves its, its overall appeal, then yeah, absolutely free rein. No one’s good because, you know, one thing that we always talk about is how the

Entry just loves to hear about change, right? Yeah. Not really like it’s always like, you know, let’s, let’s keep Let’s stay the course Let’s not really not shake things up too much or anything like that. So I guess the question that I kind of want to pose about, you know, when you started coming in, you’re figuring out like, how do we dial or how do we tweak things? Can you recall like one of those things that you kind of had to tweak to kind of figure out what it is to kind of make Pruitt’s own signature bourbon? Right. Well, I mean, one of the things that I, you know, I’m looking for, as the heads were coming off the still and I walked in, and I’m like, Alright, well, wait, what are you doing? Oh, we’re making the cut. Like, not yet. Not yet. You got it. Wait, wait, wait, wait just a minute. And then you know, we do our heads cuts a little bit different and then eventually, you know, we’re saying, okay, where’s our ideal proof? Because, you know, we had some periods of time that I will say that, you know, the proof really kind of varied

quite a bit off the still and we tried to dial that in

And tried to really get consistency off the off the distillation process versus, you know, you know, just, hey, this is the way that we run it every single time.

We wanted to go in and say, Hey, each, each tank each fermenter each batch is different. So we’re going to adjust our still to make sure that our flavor profile is consistent from distillation to distillation, so that you don’t have this huge variation from batch to batch. You know, we wanted it, you know, there was there was just processes that you have to go in and say, Okay, this is how we want to run it. And just a little tweak here, a little tweak there. And, you know, a lot of these guys have been working in the industry for 30 years. And they kind of go Oh, yeah, okay, that makes sense. You know, these are these are good things to do. So

I think we’ve been successful in that. So absolutely. And so I guess one of the things that maybe most people will know about is that it is all part of the the SAS rack portfolio. So, Buffalo Trace, all that sort

stuff as part you know, Smith Bowman as part of that kind of when did when that started happening when it became part of that portfolio. So it actually it’s kind of interesting story because in the move for a Smith Bowman from Fairfax to the current location,

they had to take down all of the basically the entire distilleries shut it down for it, it took about two years to move the entire distillery. So they started partnering with what was at that time before it was called Buffalo Trace was ancient age. So they started partnering with them and doing the initial mash, even the the yeast and the mash bill and things like that, so that we can continue on producing and, and then basically, when you know, we kind of kept going in that direction, and in 2003 was actually one of the first distilleries that Sam’s rack purchased from the Bowman family they purchased the distillery

2003 and it’s now it’s even, it’s an even better situation. Because Yeah, we’re able to, you know, we’re all part of one, one company, and we can do all sorts of things work together. It’s a great network. And we’re all about, you know, making the absolute best products that we can, which is wonderful. What are some of the resources that I guess he gained from being with SAS direct versus just trying to do stuff on your own? Or is it like a big collaboration? I guess he’s got Harland cellphone on the dial. He’s got that. Well, yeah, we do have that, obviously. But, you know, things. Some of the benefits are, as you know, for example, barrels were really hard to come by a couple years ago, right? Well, luckily, we buy enough barrels, that we’re able to say, Hey, you know, we’re part of this bigger network, you know, can we can we get barrels whereas if you’re a small guy, and you’re only buying, you know, a couple thousand barrels a year, you may not necessarily make the list for some of the biggest

barrel producers, they say, Well, you know, our big barrel producer or big customers already have it, we don’t have barrels for you. So Tough luck, which has been a benefit, you know, getting getting the distribution and sales and marketing side of a larger company. I mean, those just really work well. And it’s a benefit, or for us, obviously, you know, because we, we do run ourselves as a kind of a separate entity, a small a small distillery. But we do have that, that lifeline. So to say, you know, that to help us out, we have a problem. You know, hey, we don’t have analysis for this kind of stuff. And can we send it to your lab? And can you run it for us and, and they’ll say, Yeah, absolutely, we can do that. You know, or, hey, I have trouble getting this kind of grain or this kind of wood. You know, Can Can somebody find it or and, you know, and the good the guys will help you out. So which is which is a great, great thing to have. It so I think you

You kind of sparked an idea in my head too, because one thing that I think the bourbon community really thought of for the longest time is like, Oh, well, Smith home and like all it is is just sourcing from Buffalo Trace. And it’s not that at all. You just said like, Oh, we gave them the mash bill so they can start contract basically contract distilling for us at the time. So kind of talk about really is, is that still part of the current operation? Are they still distilling for you? Or is everything shifted back over to your place? We do, we do a combination of a couple of things. So we do use a

Nashville that is made for us. And actually, it’s not it’s not one two or a week, right.

Come on, you guys. You guys know that. We were a little bit we wouldn’t be prodding for information. We’re a little tight lipped about some of our recipes sometimes. No, it’s all good. So it is a what we do is we actually have them

Do the fermentation for us do a primary distillation for us and we’ll get the high wines here. And then we’ll finish up the distillation on a lot of our bourbon products. So distillation, aging processing bottling but we also I mean we have full mash and cook capabilities here. So we’ll do you know, just yesterday we were using a local bloody butcher corn,

you know, local rye and doing stuff on our our pilot still or our 500 gallon experimental still. So we have full capabilities here. We do a combination of both

is everything Ah, they’re in Virginia or some aged in Frankfort. Okay, we have all this stuff that we’re putting out has been aged in our facilities.

And so I mean, it’s a I think there was it had to been a few years ago now there had been there have been some pretty high h2 releases that had come there limited edition sort of stuff that came

From the distillery I think like, in the rounds like 14 or 17 years old and stuff like that, was that still your all’s product as well or kind of kind of get a little bit? Well, sometimes sometimes we’ll go out there and depends on the product. Most of the really old stuff has been aging in our, in our, our sellers for quite some time or our warehouses for quite some time. Sometimes we’ll find, I’ll call them unique barrels that we use for certain products, and we’ll bring them in an agent and blend them we’re big on on blending a lot of product here. So we like a little small batch. And sometimes when we do Abraham’s, we’ll do some, we’ll find some very neat stuff that doesn’t work. But the majority of them have been almost primarily 100%. aged and produced here. Great. I mean, I’m already learning something right? Because like I said, from from a real whiskey geek background, most people kind of assume that oh, you know, part of the

Right portfolio, it’s some of the stuff that’s just could be the Buffalo Trace, basically mash bill coming in. But no, it’s good to understand that there is there is this unique factor that is driving into it. And we had kind of touched about, you know, talked a little about the operation kind of talk about more along the lines of the size of what you’re all able to do there on your own. And maybe even with combination of what’s happening inside of Frankfort with in regards of how many barrels you filling per day, and so on and so forth.

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how many barrels you filling per day and so on and so forth? Well, and that’s, that’s unfortunately one of the few things that the they they asked me not to speak about too much. Okay. Production or production size, but I will say what we do in a day is or even a year is what some of our sister distilleries can do in a day. Right? You know, we, we were find ourselves very, very efficient, you know, are still able to distill it almost 10 barrels an hour on our 2000 gallon pot still. So we’re moving pretty quick on that. But

We can we can barrel really quickly, you know, we can we can empty a cistern tank in a matter of you know, two to three hours. So we feel we’re up there and in terms of all of our infrastructure is made for a large large distillery. But in terms of our production, we’re what we would consider a micro distillery were very small. No promise no more, no more poking and prodding.

You talked about sastra helping you all get distribution in the States. How many states are you currently available in? Well, currently, we’re I think we’re around 40 states.

And we have distributed in the past to the UK, we do send some products to Japan as well. So it’s I mean, we’re out and about most of what we concentrate on though is of course, Virginia, the East Coast. Kentucky is a big market for us. Indiana is also a good market for us. So I mean, it’s kind of if you think if you look at the map and you look at the you know, kind of the south or southeast states and

Mid Central States, it’s really where we focus. But we do. I mean, of course, we have distribution in California, and we have some in Oregon and things like that. But for the most part, it’s, it’s mostly in the east. So I kind of want to like shift a little bit and kind of talk about back to kind of like the distillation really like the flavor profile that you all are really trying to dial in on, you know, most people. I think Ryan brought it up at the very beginning. You know, Kentucky’s very proud, very, very proud of their bourbon. Absolutely. And they should. And so kind of talk about really, what is is I mean, is there a an overall flavor profile difference that is, you know, coming from you all because, you know, there’s, there’s, we always try to talk about limestone, filtered water. It’s so great here in Kentucky, but most people if you listen to the show enough, we’re like, okay, it’s reverse osmosis everywhere. We can kind of sit there and like put a checkbox like that’s really nothing important nowadays. So kind of talk about a different kind of flavor aspect that really, you’re trying to get

With inside of your your bourbon versus what you can get off the shelf of any other Joe Schmo Kentucky bourbon out there. Well what we look for is we look for a lot of like baked apple and cherry notes in the distillate are easterly kind of produces that that kind of note. So we and we want that to be emphasized in the raw spirit. The white dog coming off is still

and we want it really clean. We want that nice corn, you know, we want that sweet corn a little bit of a hint of that rye coming through. But we don’t want it to be spicy, we want it to be really super smooth. And then when we aged out, of course for the Bowman brothers, I want a little more of the spirits come through a little less of the barrel. So a little bit of the vanilla, a little bit of the kind of the, the oak tannins to come through with the emphasis on on the fruitiness and then we would go the like, say the john J. Because it’s the single barrel we wanted to we want the barrel to stand out a little bit more. So we want a little more of that coconut and

Heavy Carnival notes we want you know that really toasty Oh, and then in the background, we want that nice smooth, you know, kind of baked Apple note.

I think I sound like a john j person because you said you said coconut he said like oh, like that’s oh man you just pulled on my heartstrings right there whereas I like the fruity and softer notes though and you know people ask me which one is the best and I say well I you know I don’t decide between the two and then we kind of do one in the middle which is you know, our our port finish so if you like a little bit sweeter notes we got a little bit more open to that one in terms of it gets kind of a

basically we’re doing a finish on on port barrels, Ruby port barrels that we import from Portugal and we also use Virginia port barrels. And then we agent we finish it in a solera process. So we always blend all the barrels together at the end. French oak American oak

And it’s all in one big huge oak tank at the end that we bought a lot of to get that kind of extra character. It gets some really nice fruit notes and some really nice oak notes. So kind of a combination of the two. So if I’m taking my notes correctly, we got we got a Smith Bowman we got john J. Bowman, we’ve got the port finish. Is there any other products that that I’m not that we haven’t talked about yet? Yeah. So so we have we have as far as our Bourbons. We have our Bowman brothers bourbon, which is a small batch bourbon, we have the Isaac Bowman, which is a port finish. We have our john j, which is a single barrel. And then we have our Abraham, which is our experiments. So those can vary in Nashville or finish or anything like that. Then we of course do rum, gin, and vodka, and you have to do a cream record, of course a bourbon bourbon caramel Perea Hmm. Now, do those have the Bowman named to him as well with the gin and the vodkas? Yeah, the gin is actually called sunset Hey,

So it’s named after our original farm. And the vodka is called Deep run, which is the name of the lake, which is right in front of the distillery. And George Bowman is our rum. And it’s a Caribbean rum. And then Mary Hite who is the matriarch of the Bowman family. That’s our that’s our bourbon caramel cream. You didn’t pull Harlan Wheatley and name it. Brian Pruitt. We I don’t have that kind of pull, I guess. You know, I don’t think they would look at it and they’d probably pronounce it wrong or they go I don’t I don’t want that stuff.

You’re just humble.

I try to be that we have we have a you know, we really appreciate that people enjoy our brands and and we hope that they enjoy what we’re putting out that’s I mean, that’s the whole goal is that I go in day in and day out and but you know, I I put my passion into what I’m doing and and i hope they enjoy it. So I want to talk about Kenny omega man. I want to talk about Jim

For a second just cuz a budget gym gym pursuit just because we’ve been going to a couple distilleries and they happen to be producing gin that day and so kind of you know putting in their different blends and their own botanical botanicals in it and stuff so talk about your gin and what kind of makes it unique and what do you like about it? Well we in and I kind of I didn’t even mention the fact that we actually have five gyms out there right now so we do a lot of gyms Yeah, we didn’t curious now. Yeah, we have our Sunset Hills which is kind of a call it a straight London dry style fairly, fairly simple in flavor profile, only about four different botanicals. But then we we actually do a line called the Tinker men’s line

on the Tinker band, I guess. And we’re tinkering with different styles, different display methods. We have a citrus Supreme, we have a spice which we’re doing more of the brown spice characters and we have a balanced was called brighten

And then we actually made with local rye.

You know, we just not more than a half an hour from the distillery we did 100% rye base, rye gin. We called it rye expectations, we used rise of botanical too. So, you know, we we like to use that and you know, that’s one of the ways when, when we we don’t have we have some extra time on the still, it’s really fun to get in there and you know, you can unlike bourbon where it takes you 710 1215 years to really see your product, turn around and and come up with a recipe and the next day and taste it you’re like oh, yeah, okay, that was fun. So how do you incorporate these botanicals? Do you like throw them in like a tea bag and throw them in there? Or like how to how to or do you just throw them straight in there? How do you extract these different flavors? It kind of depends on the recipe, but we’ll do a lot of times we’ll do kind of the maturation in the pot. So we’ll throw all the botanicals in the pot, but certain botanicals like for example if we’re putting elderflower in there or you know

You know, some of the more floral aspects that we put into, into some of our gins, we’ll actually put it in a gin basket, which is actually in the scheme, the vapor line of our still, and so it’s vapor extracted. So we’ll put certain things in like vanilla bean, or elderflower, or things like that, you know that we don’t want to just sit there and boil and cook them. We want just the really nice top notes to come out. And so, and depending on the on the method we’ll use, we’ll use you know, sometimes a combination of the two. And we can even sometimes do extractions and then distill it. So it’s just kind of depends on the gin. Could you do that with bourbon or whiskey and any type like, I guess not well 51% corn and then say you want to get certain fruity flavors or certain vanilla mandolins could you technically extract them from?

Well, technically, yes. Whether or not it could be legally called whiskey is a different different

story but

yeah, you could probably do that. I wouldn’t put it past that. Maybe something like that has happened. So there’s the prett

that’s the Brit product. Then he’s then he’s fighting a battle with the TTB of like, what do we even classify this thing? Yes, everything gets killed then now becomes a DSS. Mm hmm. All right off the Jin tan. Let’s say you got any more Jin Jin things going on? I just find it interesting because like you said, you can just go there and get the flavors right then and there versus having to wait. So I was always curious about it. Got it. You gotta have your vitamin D and vitamin t in the summer. So that’s

exactly. So, uh, you know, one thing that we kind of talked about at the very top of the show, you know, Ryan said that, you know, the products that he tried were all single barrels. So kind of talk a little bit about the single barrel program that you do have there. You know, I’ve, I’ve made been made aware of it. At some point. We probably need to do our own single barrel there, too. And we’ll get invited. Yeah, well, if we get invited, let’s come out there. We’ll we’ll choose. Well, and we have we we

We kind of for a while because the john j is really what we do is single barrels and it’s and it’s a it’s a well aged product.

It’s anywhere from nine to 14 years typically is what will age that product in a single barrel. What we like to do there is you know, I’ve anything that really kind of goes out in our normal production runs, I want a specific flavor profile, I want that like I mentioned earlier, you know, that vanilla coconut and, and the high toasty notes. But sometimes you get some barrels that are really, really good. But don’t meet the flavor profile of what you would expect on the shelf. So if you were to buy a j&j today, and then a couple weeks later go out and buy another one, and they didn’t taste the same or similar. You might be a little bit upset and you may have loved it before and you didn’t love the next one. So what we do is, you know, barrels that are slightly different barrels that maybe have a little more spice or maybe a little more fruit

Or maybe a little more vanilla. They’re wonderful in their own right. We put those into, into a lot of our private URL selections is when we do those. So that’s why, you know, some people have specific tastes that they’re looking for, they’re looking for more of an earthy, spicy, some have more of a, you know, like I said, a sweeter profile. And those are the ones that we we’ve done in the past and we’ve we’ve been pretty, pretty tight on barrels just because of the mean, just purely on the amount of we I don’t think any of us expected the growth of single barrel Bourbons to take off like it has. And so we’ve been playing catch up, but hopefully we’ll we’ll have more and more of those barrels available in the future but there’s there has been some absolutely spectacular ones that have come out recently. You know, some ones that you know, I put in my I call my spice rack, you know, if I if I have something that is really amazing doesn’t fit the profile, john Jay, but maybe potentially, you know,

If I can use it for blending, like I mentioned blending into a neighbor Abraham down the road, you know, hey, I need a little more spice or I need a little more fruit and then I’ll take these out of the spice rack. And occasionally they just sit up in the spice rack and I can’t find a home for them. I’ll let people taste them and if they like them they can take them home. See there’s the sticker idea for the Bowman take despise Dr. Spice, right. So are you familiar with single barrel stickers out people are putting these gaudy you know, stickers on the back? Oh, yeah, absolutely. We do those for people. Absolutely. Well, what would you do for single barrel pick it up your choice? Oh, well, I have a couple of barrels up there that are really amazing. been sitting for a while. And

yeah, they’re getting up there and proof I should probably pull them pretty soon. But you know, that kind of depends on the day, some days I like a little more, a little more spice in my my bourbon and other times. I like a really soft, open

Almost a weeded profile, so it just kind of depends on the day. Yeah. Well, I’m gonna go ahead and put in a request now. Because if you go through and you find one that is like super coconut, it tastes like an Almond Joy. Just go ahead and earmark that one and be like, hold on, let me mark this down right now. Yes. As you’re going through your sampling, yeah, sampling, put it on a post it note and be like, Alright, this is for the bourbon pursuit, guys. We’ll send you some stickers you can throw on there. Absolutely.

Sure, they’re really big and round and cover the whole back. What jerk edge cover we have. We’ll do it. That sounds great. Well, we’ll even we’ll send you our handwriting too. So you can just like trace it on the on the barrelhead. So we just claim it. So the, you know, one of the things that we always like to kind of talk about is you know, you kind of talked about extra still time and kind of like what can we do create some experimentations do some crazy gins and stuff like that but we look at really what’s happening into the the bourbon market and the bourbon world and one thing that you as a master distiller have to do get to

kind of look at the spreadsheet and start calculating like, what is what is this bourbon market? What is this boom going to look like in the next few years? What’s is there going to be a bust? What’s it going to look like? Where do you kind of see the market trending here? In the next three years, five years, decade, decade, two years, five years, I think it’s gonna start slowing down a little bit. You know, it’s just been growing. It’s such fast pace. I think it will slow down just a little bit. But by that, I mean, instead of double digit growth, we’re gonna have high single digit growth and type things and, and I don’t see it stopping. You know, I don’t I don’t see a fall of whiskey and bourbon in particular, in the near future. I think it’ll just kind of flatten out for a while, you know, it’s we’ve had this huge spike. I think you’re going to see you know, people, you know, ride for a long time. No one wanted to drink a rye and now all of a sudden rise popular again. So I think I’ll see we’ll see a little bit of that come up. I think

Gonna be healthy for the next few years? And probably the next 510 years, I think it’ll be pretty healthy. At least we’re counting on it. We’re putting down the stock for that. So I hope I hope it continues that way. And I hope I’m right. So otherwise, you got a lot of stock. I’m gonna have to figure out what?

Well, we’re in the market. Yeah. Well, as we’d like to drink whiskey, too, we’ll be more than happy to help you just, you know, go through and sample every barrel that’s out there. Yeah, talk about a Virginia and how they’ve kind of embraced you guys, you know, and hung their hat on you as like this is our distillery to kind of have that with the state or? Well, we do there’s, you know, it’s interesting in the last, you know, up until the 50s, were they really the only distillery in Virginia. And now, you know, over the past five years, just the distilling industry in Virginia has really taken off. We’ve gone from, you know, being 20 small distilleries in the state. Now, I think there’s 70 in the state

But I think a lot of people still embrace the fact that you know, bourbon is one of the products and whiskey is one of the products that is made and has been made in Virginia for a long time. And there’s a lot of people that really, really are putting out some great products and you know, and I think it’s it’s great that a lot of people look to a Smith Bowman and they go oh, yeah, okay, that’s, you know, that’s that’s the model that we should follow for making a great bourbon or great whiskey in the state of Virginia. And I think a lot of people you know, a lot of people who have lived in this area for a long time they know us, and they know our products and you know of course they go to their football games and they they have their bottle a Smith Bowman and and you know that’s that’s our tradition. You know, we have guys a little semi, you know, I am 80 something years old and I’ve been drinking a Smith Bowman bourbon since you know, I was 20. So which is great to hear, you know, that

It’s one of those legacy products that,

you know, you just don’t find the history and a lot of the smaller distilleries, and I think that’s a wonderful thing to be a part of that history. Absolutely. And I think, you know, you kind of you kind of struck something in my head when you started talking about olders. It went from, you know, 20 now to 70. Do you see a lot of like competition coming through your doors and saying, oh, let’s go see what let’s go see what Brian’s up to over here. Let’s see if we can take down a few few notes in our, in our Yeah, absolutely. I we had a lot of people that do that will have, you know, the local distiller will say, Hey, can I come up and walk through the distillery and spend some time with you? And I say, absolutely. Come walk through the distillery. We do tours every hour on the hour.

And we don’t hide anything. And you can you can see exactly what we’re doing. Now. We may not tell you exactly what we’re doing. We may not tell you, you know, hey, this is the mash bill. This is that we’re doing this. You can see what we’re doing. And, you know, we’re we’re very

You know, we’re supportive, we want to we really think that the industry has room to grow, and we want to support them. But we also, you know, I don’t want the industry to go in such a way that people look out and they see the smaller distillers and go, Oh, they don’t make anything good. You know, so that’s why we really want to support and say, yeah, you know, you got to put out a good product. And if you can see, you want to come in and see how we’re doing things. That’s fine. I may not tell you a whole lot, but you’re welcome to come in and walk around. So how’s a bourbon tourism been in Virginia? Because like here, it’s exploded. Have you guys seen that as well in Virginia? Well, for us, tourism is a little bit harder than it is, you know, a lot of people go to Kentucky and they go to Kentucky to go visit distilleries. For us. It’s a little bit different. And we have you know, we’re right in the middle of I’ll call it historic, you know, where people are coming to see you know, civil war you know, we’re the distillery site is actually is a site of a civil war about

battle. You know, there’s a lot of historic sites as far as the Civil War love Revolutionary War. You know, George Washington was actually lived, you know, his boyhood home is literally across the river from the distillery. So a lot of people come for the history. And it’s our our challenge is to get them to come in and visit the distillery. Now, I think the Virginia wine industry has done a great job of getting people to realize that there’s wine in the state. And then of course, breweries have been doing pretty well as well.

So it’s been a struggle for us as far as getting the visitors here. But we still you know, this last year was almost 30,000 people come through the distillery you know, obviously not hundreds of thousands of people that people will go to larger distilleries, but we’re hoping that we can grow that and let people know that Yeah, we’re a distillery that’s been here for a long time. And we plan to be here for another 8590 years at least. So you got to figure out a way to get yourself on the hip.

trail over there. Yeah. Taking a break from the capitals and all the Yeah, Norton come down and yeah you go to the Capitol you go across the river you go see George Washington’s house he grew up in then oh, there’s this old distiller over here. Oh, and we get to drink. Absolutely and count me. Absolutely, absolutely that’s that’s our whole goal is how to get them getting you know, you’re like, hey, yeah, that’s that’s a really nice monument there but come see a distillery Have a drink. Yeah, it’s, I mean, that’s an easy sell point for me to come in. Just say yeah, let’s let’s go, let’s go do that. You can you can go see a mime and every single day if you wanted to, but so I guess, you know, we’re coming to come down here to the end of this and I kind of want to get a little bit more information about really, where do you kind of see is is there expansion? is there is there ideas of like how, how much more bigger can is going to get in regards of like what you all are trying to do in regards to growth or anything like that? Yeah, well, right now we’re actually in the in the midst of an expansion. You know, we’re

We’re adding tanks. We’ve added just in the past probably going to say about a month, we’ve added about 11 tanks to our production. We’re hoping to add to our bottling line here pretty soon to be able to pick up production. Because we really want to you know, we’re we’re coming up some of the moves that we made a couple of years ago when I came in five, six years ago was to increase some of our small batch production and increase some of our j&j and things like that. And those those are kind of coming into fruition now and we’re hoping to expand and make more that bourbon available. And but I don’t think we ever really have any ideas. We don’t want to become this huge, multi million case distillery. We want to be focused on making the absolute best products that we can you know, the best bourbon that we can find our best bourbon that we can produce. And, you know, the best, the best Jan’s best vodkas, best rums, we want to absolutely make great products. And if we grow to be, you know, a large

Larger regional size. Great. But that’s not really our focus. Our focus is to make a great product. And Sazerac supports that vision. They’re not like, they’re not like, yeah, that sounds great. We want to crank out as much juice as possible, I’m sure. Yeah, no, absolutely. They absolutely under present sport, making the best product that we can make. Very cool. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, and shout out to Matthew, who is here on the chat. He just said thanks for joining in Brian. It was so so great to actually learn about a brand that’s flying under the radar for a lot of the bourbon geeks out there because like I said, For myself, you know, learning more about the mash bill and really how the operation kind of functions and you know, knowing that you’re single girls are nine to 14 years old, like that’s, that’s got some age on it for evil. I mean, for even most of the NASDAQ portfolio when you’re looking at the the Weller antiques, you’re looking at six years old, maybe seven, something like that. So seeing of of what’s coming out.

Virginia I can’t wait to get my hands on some more of those bottles that’s for sure. Yeah, yeah we’ll be sending them your way

you got it you’re marking those barrels yeah go your mouth go your mark that barrel I got my credit card we’re ready to start swiping. Okay. But Brian thank you again for coming on the show today you know giving us some more information about a Smith Bowman the history sort of your history and how you kind of cut your teeth in the industry and kind of your family life to think it’d be fun to get your get your whole family on here one day and kind of see you all kind of like go back and forth if there’s any of that

would definitely be interesting.

So, last way to kind of give a shout out so if people want to know more about you or they want to visit the distillery, where do they go and do that

know more about us or visit the distillery go ahead and go to a Smith Bowman calm that’s the best way to find us and any information about us. We’re on Twitter and Instagram as well but you can get all that from the

From the website there you go and ride the coattails on their Virginia history trail and stop over there and yeah and then go and get yourself a nice bottle of basement Bowman to take over john j Bowman i think i think the john Jay Lee’s fit my flavor profile Absolutely. You never know you can come in and try them all next time you’re in the area. Okay, so so yeah

so make sure everybody that you are you know you check out their website make sure you go to bourbon pursuit calm. We’ve got links on there for all the episodes that we’ve had. If you want to know more about any of the the the sass rack portfolio, you can kind of check out some of our past episodes we’ve done there too. If you want to follow us, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, we’re all over the place there.

Yeah, and then also thank you to everybody that is a Patreon supporter that was joining us watching this show live as it happened on YouTube. Just again, one of those Perks of Being able to watch this live before it actually goes out on air. So frankly, close it out. Yep.

Sure, Brian, thanks, man, that was a very interesting, great, you know, like you said the bourbon has been crazy growth. And we’re kind of have blinders on, you know, we have these Kentucky brands, you know, things that we’re used to and like, we focus on those, but then you forget that there’s these guys like you all doing such great things. And like it’s flying under the radar and

with the flavors you were talking about, like, I think, Kenny and I might run out and go get some bottles after this. I just want to find some more coconut. Yeah, the coconut and oak and all that. Yeah, but uh, no. Appreciate your time, man is a cool story. And I want to come to your holiday party.

booze wars. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I’ll put the invitation out next time. Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool. So yeah, if anyone has any show suggestions, comments, feedback, let us know. We’re always here to serve you guys. You know, bring the audio to you. So we’ll see y’all next time. Cheers.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

3 thoughts on “244 – The Original Pioneers of Distilling with Brian Prewitt, Master Distiller of A. Smith Bowman

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