Save the winery tours for the summer: Cold weather is an excellent time for bourbon.
Nearly 70 years after it started blending its signature bourbon, Virginia Gentleman ($12 for 750 ml), A. Smith Bowman has opened its microdistillery to the public.
The Fredericksburg distillery shows off its copper stills during a free, twice-daily tour each weekday that concludes with tastings led by its newly minted master distiller, Truman Cox.
Corn, rye and malted barley form the base for the Bowman Brothers' small-batch bourbon ($30 for 750 ml), which is aged in new charred oak barrels. The more robust John J. Bowman single-barrel ($50 for 750 ml) is thick with toffee and almond notes. The Abraham Bowman Limited Edition rye ($70 for 750 ml) is loaded with spice and best when cut with a splash of water.
Three other small-batch spirits--septa-distilled Deep Run Vodka ($29 for 750 ml), coriander-rich Sunset Hills Gin ($30 for 750 ml) and a dark rum ($31 for 750 ml) with roots in Guyana--are also bottled by hand and sold on-site.
After your tasting, stop at nearby Lee's Retreat BrewPub for lunch and a snifter of molasses-rich Minor Dementia Imperial Stout ($5.50), which ages in Bowman barrels.
A Smith Bowman Distillery, 1 Bowman Dr., Fredericksburg; 540-373-4555 or asmithbowman.com
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