Booze Review

Whiskey Review – I.W. Harper Bourbon Whiskey


IW Harper Bourbon Whiskey

When I first started drinking Bourbon in the late 1980s, I knew very little about it and only drank stuff with names like Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Old Grand Dad, or Maker’s Mark on the label. I’m sure there were others available, but they probably lurked on the bottom shelves of our local liquor stores, so while I was far from an expert (even after all these years, I’m still far from being a Bourbon expert), I knew enough to stay away from the stuff that lives down there.

According to The Chuck Cowdery Blog, I.W. Harper, a brand that dates back to 1879, is a Bourbon that I might have found on the bottom shelf back then. While this storied brand disappeared from U.S. shelves in the early 1990s, it remained hugely popular in Japan and eventually became a top selling Bourbon there.

After about a 20 year absence in the U.S., Diageo relaunched the I.W. Harper brand in the form of two expressions: a 15 year old version ($75/bottle), and the “no-age statement” version that you see in the above photograph ($35/bottle). Here’s what they have to say about their “no-age statement” expression:

I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey delights discerning whiskey lovers with initial hints of creamy vanilla flavor coupled with bursts of oak and spice. These flavor notes are followed by a subtle fruitiness and end with a sweet, pleasant finish.

Now that you know a bit about I.W. Harper Bourbon, here’s what we think about their “no-age statement” expression…

  • Appearance: Golden honey color with long, spindly legs.
  • ABV: 41%
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: Very mellow. A little furniture polish. Some rye. A little heather (no, not one of these Heathers). Some menthol. Dried fruit.
    • G-LO: Lots of herbal and spice notes coming through. Clove, allspice, cinnamon, caramel, vanilla, and some menthol.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: Medium body. Not as viscous as some. Sweet up front with a big blast of sharp rye and cinnamon. The finish is big, hot, and vapory and fades pretty quickly. With a little water, the sharpness softens and it’s a bit more pleasing to me.
    • G-LO: A touch of oiliness. Quite mild mannered at the start with a bit of light brown sugar and vanilla. Warms up in the middle with some cinnamon and chipotle pepper spice. Herbal notes come through in the finish with menthol and a bit more pepper.

The Verdict

  • Limpd: The I.W. Harper was good, but not great. I liked it, but there was nothing particularly memorable that makes me want to buy a full bottle.
  • G-LO: There’s nothing wrong with this whisky, i.e. it tastes and smells pretty good, but there’s nothing extraordinary about it either. Although $35 isn’t a great sum of money these days, especially when we’re talking about buying whiskey, I know for a fact that I can buy a better bottle of Bourbon, and spend a good bit less. Four words: Four Roses Yellow Label. The price: $20 to $25.

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Many thanks to Taylor Strategy for providing us with this sample!

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