Virginia Gentleman is perhaps the best known non-Kentucky bourbons, yet this distinction is only partly true since the Smith Bowman distillery takes new distillate from Buffalo Trace (in Kentucky) then distills it for a 3rd time at their Virginia location, where it is also barreled and aged. I suppose that’s good enough.
VG90 is the small batch, premium expression of the brand. The bottle is dominated by gold – in the waxed neck, the labels, and the text – but otherwise attempts to exude a subdued, genteel dignity. This is expressed with the spare descriptive text on the back and the prominent fox hunt painting that serves as the primary branding imagery on the front. The bottle itself is an attractive and simple shape that draws the eye toward the action in the label.
The most impressive elements of Virginia Gentleman 90 were the initial scent when opening the bottle and its impression on the nose after pouring. To the nose it has a strong yet smooth character. It is assertive in its presence, but not in its character, built with scents of kettle corn, sea-breeze, and wet grass. I really quite enjoyed this aspect which sets the table for the actual tasting.
On the palate VG90 is very smooth, yet a little boring. After an initial sweetness that vaguely hints at caramel and pineapple, comes a rather neutral warmth and a clean finish. I spent a good amount of time trying to chase down further depths but to no avail.
Virginia Gentleman 90 made an impressive opening to the nose, but on the palate is was smooth yet dull. I have to admit that I enjoyed it though. This is an excellent bourbon to bring out for company and folks who aren’t going to be up for the intricacies of something more complex. True to its theme Virginia Gentleman manages to express a subdued, genteel dignity both in vision and character.