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Cigar Spirits: I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

7 May 2015

Like so many old bourbon brands, I.W. Harper has an interesting and complex story. Originally introduced in 1879, the brand was discontinued in the U.S. market around 1990 but continued to thrive in the Japanese market.

IW-HARPERI.W. Harper is owned by Diageo, the largest spirits company in the world, but a company that has a long, though often puzzling, history in the American bourbon market. (It’s a history that is too long and complicated to recount here, but if you want the full story, I highly recommend Chuck Cowdery’s book Bourbon Strange.) Currently, Diageo’s American whiskey portfolio consists of George Dickel, Bulleit, and the Orphan Barrel series.

Now you can add two I.W. Harper bourbons to that list. A 15-year-old limited edition is coming soon, and a non-age statement version that will is arriving on shelves now. Today I look at the regular release, which sells for $35 per bottle.

The bourbon is a blend that, according to some reports, has at least a small amount of the 15-year-old bourbon. It is a light bronze color and made at the New Bernheim distillery, formerly owned by Diageo and now home to Heaven Hill (maker of Elijah Craig and Evan Williams). The nose is delicious and inviting with fresh corn, oak, and black cherry.

On the palate, I.W. Harper features buttered popcorn, caramel, subtle oak, and a bit of creaminess. The finish is very short and clean.

I.W. Harper is surprisingly lively for just 82-proof. At the price ($35) there are plenty of excellent other bourbons, but this one isn’t out of place. It doesn’t taste particularly old or young. Instead, it’s mostly just subtle, sweet, and clean. It may not be the first bourbon I’d recommend, but it will be pleasing for both the bourbon novice and the aficionado.

Pair it with a milder cigar, ideally one with some creaminess. I’d recommend the Illusione Singular 2014, Tesa Vintage Especial Rothchild, or Cuban Cohiba Behike.

Patrick S

photo credit: Diageo

Drew Estate

3 Responses to “Cigar Spirits: I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey”

  1. Jake Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

    I’m intrigued. The question is will this blend continue to have older whiskey in it or will it hey younger with time like allot of NAS bourbons.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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