A Smith Bowman

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A Smith Bowman

Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 8:39 am

Thanks to the assistance of Ken Weber at BT and the gracious hospitality of Joe Dangler at ASB, I enjoyed a wonderful tour of ASB distillery. I thought I would post some pix as I have the impression that it's not in the normal distillery itinerary for most folks headed to KY. I know that some of you here have toured Bowman (Howie? Linn? John?), so feel free to correct me if I post erroneously.

As most of you know, ASB is located in Fredericksburg, VA. It was relocated from Reston, VA in 1988 due to a number of factors, one of which being that property values became so high in Reston, the real estate taxes were prohibitive for aging.

ASB used to ferment and distill Virginia Gentleman, but now all fermentation is done at BT as well as the initial distillation. The whiskey is shipped to ASB, doubled then barreled and aged in Fredericksburg.
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vgsign.jpg
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entrance.jpg
The entrance of ASB
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Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 8:51 am

Mr. Dangler admits that the coil on top o fthe still was designed largely for aesthetic reasons, but he now wonders in retrospect whether the extra reflx it precipitates may contribute to the flavor of the whiskey.
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whitedog.jpg
At the top of the picture, white dog coming off the still
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still2.jpg
the still I never did get the photo I really wanted
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still.jpg
The still
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Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 9:10 am

Here are some photos of barrels being filled. This whiskey may become Bowman's bourbon (very young, sometimes less that 40 months), VG 80 (4 years old), or VG 90 (6-7 years old).
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barrelfillcloseup.jpg
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barrelfill.jpg
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Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 9:20 am

Unlike the barrel storage I have seen, barrels at ASB are stored upright on palettes. Mr. Dangler has set up a fan system that blows alcohol vapor out of the storage facility. In retrospect, he also believes that this helps facilitate the temperature fluctuation required to age the bourbon as outside air comes into the storage area.
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storage.jpg
One of the "barrel houses;" in the background are some other BT product barrels that are being used for "experimentation." Shhhhh! Keep that on the QT!
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barrel.jpg
A barrel of soon-to-be VG 90
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Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 9:25 am

I had the pleasure of tasting white dog as well as some barrel proof VG in this area. The white dog was a bit harsher than the white dog some of us tasted at WT last fall, but robust in flavor. The barrel proof VG was excellent. Imagine the "zing" of the Fox twice as intense. Mmmm...barrel proof VG...
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tasting area.jpg
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Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 9:28 am

Unfortunately, they were bottling vodka, so I didn't get any photos of VG going into the bottle. The upstairs bottling area was nifty, though - bright, spacious, well-lit. If a bottling area can be called "pleasant," this would be it.
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bottling2.jpg
Bottling vodka
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bowmanbottling.jpg
The upstairs bottling area
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Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 9:33 am

The shipping area had a striking redwood roof that was original (if I recall correctly, the facility was built in the 1930's and used to be a cellophane plant). Mr. Dangler gives a very interesting history of the building construction and architecture along with the tour.
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redwood.jpg
The redwood roof
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shipping.jpg
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Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 9:43 am

All in all, this was a fascinating tour. At the end, I got a bonus - Mr. Dangler let me sample some of the old Reston VG whiskey that aged about ten years - one of a kind for sure. He also let me taste some Cruzan rum that had aged at Mount Vernon.

Although a different sort of tour than that to which was accustomed, I was treated like a VIP - thanks to Joe, Ken and all the folks at ASB for some fine whiskey!
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bowman dislay.jpg
A display of some Bowman products
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lab.jpg
The lab where I sampled the rare products
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joedangler.jpg
Joe Dangler poses with his medal winning whiskey in front of a striking oil on canvas painting that was obtained to cover an unsightly spot in the wood.
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Unread postby Brewer » Tue Mar 22, 2005 10:24 am

Thanks for posting those pictures Dave. Did they say why they set the barrels upright? That's a first for me.
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Unread postby jbohan » Tue Mar 22, 2005 10:30 am

Great pictures. I have a few closeups of the still and some good shots of the barrels and as soon as I figure out how to post them I will, they may be too big. Joe Dangler is a great host and is interesting to talk to about the history of the company, his participation in the George Washington distillery, and activities outside the business. He is an engineer as well as a distiller, which makes for an interesting tour as he describes how the building was originally constructed and how it was converted to a distillery.

Anybody driving along I-95 in Virginia should go visit Bowmnan, its' just a few miles off the Interstate.
To long ashes and long finishes
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Unread postby Strayed » Tue Mar 22, 2005 10:31 am

Dave and Tina,

Excellent display. Just like being on the tour. Thank you for all the work you put into it.

A couple of things I can add about the still... it's not really a doubler; the raw distillate is already doubled at Buffalo Trace. The ASB still could be called a tripler (and I'm surprised the marketing department hasn't taken off with that feature already), but as you also noted, it's quite a bit more involved than just a third redistilling tank. Aesthetics are, as you said, important to the reflux coil on top, but it really was designed to be functional. According to Jay Adams, the functionality became limited due to the fact that they couldn't build it the way he wanted, which would have had the coils going up to the next floor and back down again, and practicality won out over innovative design in that case.

Again, thanks for conducting our second tour of A. Smith Bowman!
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Unread postby gillmang » Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:30 am

Nice pictures. Interesting that they are using palletized storage for the barrels, they look quite close together but maybe that is just the picture angle. I wonder if there is any rule of thumb in the business about how far barrels should be kept apart.

On the web site of the City of Waterloo (Ontario), there is an interesting timeline with photos of the history of Seagram in that city. One note states that in the 1950's and 60's, Seagram did extensive research on barrel aging. They experimented (a colour photo is shown) with square barrels, made of wood of course but square. The note states the whiskey aged fine but the additional cost of handling square barrels outweighed any advantage to be gained (I am not sure what that advantage was, but it netted to zero or a loss, so the plan was never implemented).
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Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 12:04 pm

Brewer wrote:Thanks for posting those pictures Dave. Did they say why they set the barrels upright? That's a first for me.


I inferred in the context of my conversation with Mr. Dangler that it was purely practical - sitting on palettes, it was much easier to do it this way.

One of many things I forgot to add - everything you see in my photos, including the barrel storage, was connected. I never went outside during the entire tour.
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Unread postby angelshare » Tue Mar 22, 2005 12:08 pm

Strayed wrote:A couple of things I can add about the still... it's not really a doubler; the raw distillate is already doubled at Buffalo Trace. The ASB still could be called a tripler (and I'm surprised the marketing department hasn't taken off with that feature already), but as you also noted, it's quite a bit more involved than just a third redistilling tank. Again, thanks for conducting our second tour of A. Smith Bowman!


Thanks for the correction, John! This has actually been brought to my attention in the past, maybe by Gary Gillman, and I keep mentally blocking on it for some reason.

Glad you liked the photos!
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Unread postby Chris » Tue Mar 22, 2005 2:36 pm

angelshare wrote:
Brewer wrote:
Thanks for posting those pictures Dave. Did they say why they set the barrels upright? That's a first for me.

I inferred in the context of my conversation with Mr. Dangler that it was purely practical - sitting on palettes, it was much easier to do it this way.

It looks like they just have the barrels sitting on pallets stacked on top of each other, so instead of having to build racks for them to store them on their side they can just stack them that way? (i guess to stack them on their sides would require something more than just a pallet to keep them from rolling away??) Do they 'rotate' their barrels? i guess that would be not too much work with forklifts if they wanted to...
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