Bowen’s Spirits: Pure California Whiskey in All Its Craft Glory

Bowens Whiskey

Just like the craft beer industry exploded a few years ago, it’s now the turn of craft distilleries to make their mark. Small craft distilleries are growing by bounds and leaps, and many are focusing on just a few spirits. Bowen’s Spirits – makers of pure California whiskey – are a clear example of how these small distilleries are changing the industry. We talked to owner Warren Bowen to learn more about it.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a bit more about the origins of Bowen and how you came to be?

Wade Bowen: About 20 years ago, a guy named Bud McCafferty, who was a 5th generation moonshiner, used to bring booze to the shoots we would attend. I became curios about how he made it, so I proceeded to ask a lot of questions and try myself.

I then became friends with a chemist who schooled me on the more modern way to distil. So, after their input, more research and a lot of trial and error, I narrowed in on the recipe I am using today. Starting the business wasn’t exactly where I wanted to take it, but someone asked me if I wanted to open a distillery, and at the time I wasn’t doing much else, so I researched and found out what it takes and four years later, here we are.

Q: You make a pretty amazing whiskey that you claim combines the “heart and soul of the mighty oak with a distinct campfire aroma.” Can you tell us a bit about this whiskey, what makes it so unique and why you chose this particular taste to go for during design/production?

WB: Basically, I never wanted to make a run of the mill whiskey. That is what motivated me to want to do this in the first place. As I learned more about the process, I found there are a lot of traditional ideas of how it should be made, and since I believe tradition stifles ingenuity, I explored various other flavor profiles.

I have gone in the direction of getting the majority of the flavor from the wood and not the distillate. It isn’t what most people are used to, but that’s the point. It is a 100% corn distillate.

The type of wood I use and the way I age it makes for a more woodsy/smoky campfire flavor
minus a lot of the congener flavors you might find in a typical bourbon. I have had numerous
reviews on the flavor profile, which most are pretty close to each other, but most think it tastes somewhere between a Scotch and a bourbon. I also use a micro-clustered alkaline water, with a process I have patented because of the way it ultimately blends with alcohol, which has a big impact on how it effects you while you are drinking and how you feel afterward.

Q: What are the challenges of producing and distributing a craft whiskey when you’re a small distillery?

WB: The challenges are new considering this industry is new to us. As most people in this industry will probably tell you, it is unique in a lot of different ways. Ultimately, it is all about money and how much you are willing to spend. Basically, you Pay to Play.

So, for us, considering we started under capitalized, it has been a major uphill battle. We can honestly say that our successes have been based on the product and not high dollar marketing. We have and still are learning a lot. From the TTB to distributors, retailers, the public and what they perceive, not always reality, it is very overwhelming. Especially when you are a very, very small company in an industry dominated by behemoths. Luckily, we are not alone, and the small guys are getting some recognition with some really good products.

Q: Any advantages on being a craft/small distillery? And any plans on producing other whiskeys?

WB: I think I can experiment more. I have a lot of Ideas, and there are people coming to me all of the time that want to try something new. I like that. Not sure if the bigger companies would spend the time on trying something different considering they have put a lot of time and money into something that is already doing well. I don’t think they care.

I do have a higher proof that is about ready to go to market and a few other things I am working on Money! It’s what makes things happen, unfortunately.

Diana Bocco is a writer and author who writes for Yahoo!, the Discovery Channel website, Marie Claire, Poplar Mechanics, and more. You can find more about her work on her website dianabocco.com.

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