The fine folks at Visit Fred, the Fredericksburg area’s tourism bureau, recently visited our offices and brought a pint of chocolate ice cream from local favorite Carl’s Frozen Custard (named as Virginia’s representative on USA Today’s The USA’s Best Ice Cream Parlors) and a bag of whiskey-soaked char for barbecuing from the historic A. Smith Bowman Distillery to entice us down to assess the day trip potential of the area.
We took the delicious bait and spent Memorial Day weekend to seek “The Greatest Vacation in History” – their tourism tagline. We started off on Saturday morning with a tour and tasting at the distillery, which was worth the 1 1/2-hour drive on its own.
Founded by Abraham Smith Bowman in 1934, the distillery originally was located in Reston on his Sunset Hills Farm and made Virginia Gentleman Bourbon for 54 years before relocating to Fredericksburg in 1988 — “in response to the rising real estate prices and property taxes of Northern Virginia,” according to the A. Smith Bowman website.
Today the microdistillery is located in an industrial complex that once housed a cellophane plant, and the tours begin in a cavernous warehouse that serves as the tasting area and gift shop. Led by guide Mary Ahrens, a former Fairfax police officer, the tour begins with a history of the company and moves on to the making of the spirits. After touring the various production rooms, including a barrel room steeped in the aroma of aging Bourbon, we returned for a tasting of their Small Batch and Single Barrel Bourbons, as well as their rum, vodka and gin.
To view more photos of the distillery, visit our Flickr set at http://www.flickr.com/photos/restonlimousine/sets/72157633752425161/