A. Smith Bowman’s master distiller is featured in a new series of Meet Virginia Makers distillers videos on YouTube to promote September as Virginia Spirits Month.
Brian Prewitt gives a brief history of the company, which was the first distillery in the state following the repeal of Prohibition in the commonwealth in 1935. It moved from Northern Virginia to the Bowman Center in Spotsylvania County in 1988.
The distillery’s John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey was named the World’s Best Bourbon this year at the World’s Whiskies Awards presented by Whiskey Magazine. Its Abraham Bowman Virginia Limited Edition Whiskey took that honor in 2016.
“Great spirits are made right here in Virginia,” Prewitt says in the video.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently declared September as Virginia Spirits Month. This year marks the second annual celebration, which will include promotions intended to educate consumers and travelers about Virginia distilled spirits.
McAuliffe noted in a news release that Virginia’s distilling history dates to 1620 and includes a major whiskey-making operation by George Washington. The state has nearly 60 distilleries today, he said.
“Virginia is the birthplace of American spirits and with total sales of spirits topping more than $6 million last year in the Commonwealth, there is no better time than September to celebrate the rich history and important economic impact of the spirits industry in Virginia,” McAuliffe said in a news release.
The Virginia Distillers Association has partnered with the Virginia Tourism Corporation and Virginia ABC to promote Virginia Spirits Month, and is offering a complimentary Virginia is for Lovers trucker hat with the purchase of any bottle of Virginia spirits at select Virginia ABC stores while supplies last.
There will also be a series of free tastings around the state, including one at the ABC store at 4185 Plank Road in Spotsylvania County on Friday, Sept. 1, and another at the ABC at 507 William St. in Fredericksburg on Saturday, Sept. 2.
The Spotsylvania location will offer samples of George Bowman Colonial Era Dark Caribbean Rum, Deep Run Small Batch Virginia Vodka and Sunset Hills Small Batch Virginia Gin. All three are made at A. Smith Bowman. The Fredericksburg store will provide samples of Beach Fuzz Vodka by one of the state’s newer distilleries, Beach Vodka in Virginia Beach.
The spirits industry has an important impact on Virginia’s economy. By using local raw materials, such as corn, wheat, barley and rye, the state’s spirits industry also plays an important role in the agricultural industry.
“One of the products that we did use rye grown by a farmer not 30 minutes from the distillery,” Prewitt says in the video about A. Smith Bowman.
In another of the Meet Virginia Makers videos, Chrystal Durkee says that her parents Chuck and Jeanette Miller and her husband Jay Durkee look for local sources of grain for the whiskeys and sugar for the rum that they produce at Belmont Farm Distillery in Culpeper County.
“Every single product, they want to incorporate a piece of Virginia into it,” she says.
Virginia distillers also often rely on other Virginia value-added producers through sourcing finishing components for their products, such as used wine, cider and beer barrels. They also donate the leftover mash to local farmers to feed livestock.
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