Maker: Potter’s Craft Cider, Free Union, Virginia, USA
Style: Medium dry
Price: $13.50 (Glen’s Garden Market, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC)
Appearance: Medium gold, moderate carbonation.
Nose: Cut applewood, pear, applesauce, pineapple.
Palate: Medium dry. Mineral, apple blossom honey.
Finish: Clean and crisp.
Parting words: The last time I visited DC to visit my sister and her family, I decided that I wanted to pick up some Virginia wine to take back home and possibly review. I found Glen’s Garden Market (on a recommendation from blogger Obi-Wine Kenobi) in Dupont Circle and decided to stop in there. It’s a cool place with an excellent selection of local products including Virginia wine, but I ended up buying a Maryland red, Long Island rosé and this Virginia cider instead!
Potter’s has a wide and eclectic range of ciders. Farmhouse dry is the flagship. It’s dry without being austere and fruity without tasting like something with Mott’s on the label. The company was founded by a couple of Princeton classmates who stumbled upon the beauty of cider while homebrewing. This is a very good cider with broad appeal. Good at the table too. Potter’s Farmhouse Cider is recommended.
Recently I, as a (part-time) whiskey blogger, have been urged to take up the banner and “give Maker’s Mark shit” for lowering the proof of their bourbon. I’m not going to do that. The decision to lower the proof of Maker’s is unfortunate and disappointing, but the level of internet outrage regarding the proof change is completely out of proportion, surpassing even the Ebay/Pappy hysteria of 2012. I have no desire to contribute to this silliness any more than I already have.
Instead, I’m going to call attention to something much more worthy of getting upset about: The death of A. Smith Bowman Master Distiller Truman Cox.
I didn’t know Truman very well. We were Facebook friends and I only recall meeting him once in person. He was the kind of guy who would greet you with a hearty handshake and a smile. As a friend of mine said, he was above all a genuine guy. He loved his family and he seemed to enjoy life immensely.
He was also a whiskey man through and through. His prior position was at Buffalo Trace as chief chemist. He became Master Distiller at Bowman at a crucial time, as Bowman had recently moved to a new location, had a relatively new owner, Sazerac (also owner of Buffalo Trace), and was in the midst of a profound transformation. 10 years ago, Bowman was little more than a curiosity. It was the only large-ish bourbon distillery still operating in the state of Virginia and had only one (fairly) widely distributed brand, Virginia Gentleman. It came in 80 and 90 proof expressions.
When Truman moved to Virginia, the transformation of Bowman was well underway. The 90 proof VG had been replaced by Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon at 90 proof and a 100 proof single barrel bourbon, John J. Bowman, was also introduced (review coming soon). Also made are Abraham Bowman Rye (I review the TPS barrel-stength version here) and Sunset Hills Gin. Under the brief period of Truman’s leadership the transformation of Bowman was completed, and Bowman began putting out some of the most highly regarded and sought after private bottlings of bourbons and ryes among enthusiasts. They were able to have the best of both worlds. They operated like a micro-distillery in many ways, but they were also able to draw upon the resources of a large spirits company like Sazerac and a large distillery like Buffalo Trace.
Truman was one of the brightest rising stars in the world of American whiskey and his sudden death is a great loss for the industry and bourbon drinkers alike. Here are some links:
Here’s hoping he gets that bottle named after him at last.
1) Virginia Lightning
2) Glen Thunder
1) Belmont Farms of Virginia, Culpepper, Virginia, USA (product no longer made)
2) Finger Lakes Distilling, Burdett, New York, USA
1) NAS (unaged)
2) Less than 30 days
1) 100 (50% ABV, taken down to 90 proof for tasting)
2) 90 (45% ABV)
1) Raw spirit, lavender, corn syrup, dried flowers, nail polish.
2) Spirit, corn tortillas, rose water, varnish.
On the palate
1) Full bodied and velvety. Sweet. Grape juice, mango.
2) Medium bodied. Milder than the nose would indicate. Drier and delicate.
1) Long, soft and fruity. Alcohol, starlight mints.
2)Corn husks, sweet cornbread, a bit of an alcoholic tingle
Parting words: These are two of my favorite unaged corn whiskeys. They are both good in their own way. Virginia Lightning is mild and fruity. It’s easy drinking for an unaged corn. Glen Thunder has more of an edge, but much more in the way of corn character. I have heard rumors that Belmont Farms, when they made this product, added sugar to their mash to achieve its relative smoothness. Both perform well mixed with sweet soft drinks or even on the rocks with a wedge of lime or a maraschino cherry (a summer favorite of mine) Virginia Lightning is no longer made now that Belmont Farms is under new management. If you can find it, it is worth buying. Glen Thunder is still made, but may be hard to find. It has the strong corn character of a traditional corn whiskey, but is accessible enough to work its way into the rotation of whiskey lovers who enjoy this sort of thing. Both are recommended.
Nose: Lime peel, lemon peel, angelica, anise, very light juniper.
On the palate: Fairly heavy mouth feel. Very light, little taste except alcohol.
Finish: Some sweetness, some light herbal notes, and then fades away.
Mixed: Makes perfectly serviceable martinis and does ok with tonic and bitter lemon. All are enjoyable, but dull.
Parting words: I really wanted to like this gin. I am Facebook friends with the master distiller at Bowman, and I enjoy the Bowman bourbons and ryes. But this gin is just boring. It’s neither here nor there. It lacks the rough edges of bottom shelf gins, but it also lacks the interest of upper shelf gins. It’s not too expensive, but why bother? There is nothing going on here. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend Sunset Hills Virginia Gin.
Maker: A. Smith Bowman, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA (Sazerac)
Age: 9 y/o
Proof: 136.4 (68.2% ABV)
Notes: Lot 01-C-14, The Party Source barrel #1
Appearance: Dark, ruddy copper with thick, slow legs.
Nose: Surprisingly mellow, leather, caramel, mango, a little copper.
On the palate: Medium-bodied, sweet and hot. Cotton candy, butterscotch. When a splash of water goes in, more spice comes out. Jalapeno, paprika, and cassia join the party.
Parting words: This is an exclusive offering from The Party Source (TPS) in Bellvue, Kentucky. TPS is one of the only retailers outside of Virginia to carry the Bowman line of spirits. The whiskey is first distilled in Frankfort at Buffalo Trace, trucked to Fredericksburg where it is redistilled and then aged there in Virginia. This is good whiskey, much better than its barrel-proof sibling Thomas Handy, and rye of this age is very hard to come by. That said, it’s expensive at $73 and while it’s good, it’s not great, in spite of all the internet gushing over this stuff. Nevertheless, it’s worth a recommendation. Makes a pretty good Sazerac cocktail too (on the rocks or with a little water added).