I.W. Harper 12 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Review


By: Steven Rodia

Proof:  86 Proof (43% ABV), Aged 12 Years

Rating: 4 Barrels (4 out of 5)

Originally started by Isaac Bernheim around 1872, this whiskey has traditionally been export-only.  Rich in history, the I.W. Harper story is quite fascinating.  Recently, the current owner, Diageo made the decision to bring I.W. Harper back to the United States after 20 years.  They will offer a 4 and 15 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon to U.S. customers starting this year.  The one I will review today is from a 2010 bottling.

Tasting Notes: After letting it breathe for 10 minutes, I tasted this whiskey neat.

Nose: Vanilla, almonds, sweetness from the corn, caramel chews, dried citrus, alcohol, maple syrup.

First Sip: Quite a nice introduction with a splash of sweetness, baking spices, vanilla, butterscotch, spots of charred oak, and orange zest.

Mouth Feel: Very clean with light, watery feel.

Finish: The finish is short to medium in length with a taste of candy and a nice burn that starts slightly before you swallow.  The spirit finishes clean with an astringent quality.  I wish there was a little bit more to the finish.  I will be looking forward to trying the 15 year expression in the coming months.

Summary: This is whiskey is a real bargain for the flavor and drinkability.  Usually listing for about $35 to $40, I can sometimes find it for quite a bit less.  It’s a rewarding sipping whiskey.  I.W. Harper is not too strong to be enjoyed neat and it really opens up the vanilla flavors with a touch of water or a cube of ice.  Comparing it to other 12 year bourbons on the market like Elijah Craig, it is very competitive.  In fact, the only 12 year bourbon that I enjoy more is W.L. Weller because of the depth of flavor and the character on the palate.  This is a solid whiskey that I recommend if you can find it at your local store.  It sounds like that may be increasingly common in the coming years.