A. Smith Bowman Distillery’s Truman Cox Dead at 44

Fredericksburg loses a young distiller.

Photography by Joe Parker

Updated: Funeral arrangements below.

Yesterday news broke that A. Smith Bowman Distillery‘s Truman Cox died over the weekend. He was 44.

Cox, the master distiller, was featured in February‘s Northern Virginia Magazine Life by Texting feature, where he texted updates of his day, from drinking his morning coffee (hazelnut creamer, no sugar) to baking pies for a church fundraiser. In between, of course, he made bourbon.

Spokesperson Amy Preske said Cox collapsed at his home Saturday night. An ambulance was called and he was pronounced dead at the hospital. 

“It’s like a bomb went off here,” says Preske from the Buffalo Trace Distillery office in Frankfort, Kentucky. “We’re just literally in shock.” Preske said details of Cox’s death have not been officially released.

Buffalo Trace, like A. Smith Bowman, is owned by the Sazerac Company and Cox worked in the Kentucky distillery for six years before moving to Fredericksburg. He worked in Northern Virginia for less than two years.

Lew Bryson, managing editor of Whisky Advocate, can’t remember exactly how he met Cox but knows they clicked instantly after meeting almost 10 years ago. It was one of those pairings, Bryson says, that it feels like “you’re old friends in 15 minutes.”

“The thing that hurts the most,” he says, “is his working toward this—how long it took him to get through college because he was…” Bryson breaks into laughter, “and still is—bit of a hell-raiser. And he finally settled on what he wanted to do and got there. And for a master distiller, at his age, got this very young.”

Just this weekend Cox bought a puppy and was asking Facebook friends for name suggestions. Bryson said Cox was rooting to name his Corgi-mix rescue Bung Hammer, a tool used to close whiskey barrels. 

Life by Texting: 16 Hours with a Master Distiller. On newsstands now.

Official statement below:

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Truman Cox, Master Distiller of our A. Smith Bowman Distillery.  Truman passed away on Saturday, February 9 after a short illness.  Truman joined the company in 2004 as Lead Chemist at Buffalo Trace Distillery and in 2011 realized his dream to become the Master Distiller at A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Truman’s passion for our industry was evident to everyone who knew him and he left a notable and positive mark on our company in the time he was with us.    

Truman will be sadly missed by his many friends at Sazerac and in the industry.  Please keep Truman, his wife Susan, and daughter Emmy in your thoughts and prayers. Funeral arrangements have yet to be determined.


Truman Cox’s funeral will be held at Covenant Funeral Home, 4801 Jefferson Davis Highway, Fredericksburg. Visitation hours will be Thursday, February 14, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a funeral on Friday, February 15 at 2 p.m.

Memorials may be made to Emerson K. Cox, UVA UTMA, PNC Bank, 2403 Fall Hill Ave., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401.