After being unavailable in the U.S. for 20 years, Diageo has decided to bring back the historical I.W. Harper label stateside this spring. They are rolling out a permanent brand line under I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, along with a limited edition release that carries the same name but with different packaging and a 15-year-old age statement. According to Diageo, both Bourbons were recently aging at their Stitzel-Weller Distillery warehouses, but the whiskies used were distilled at the New Bernheim Distillery. Their facility in Tullahoma, Tennessee bottled these Bourbons; the same place their Orphan Barrel releases have been bottled. In the mid 1990’s, I.W. Harper was pulled out of the U.S. market and offered only in Asia; primarily Japan. The brand’s history goes back to 1872 when Isaac Wolfe (I.W.) Bernheim opened his own distillery.
There’s no age statement on the “base” expression, but it’s made from a mash of 73% corn, 18% rye, and 9% barley. It “was most recently aged at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Ky., and contains whiskeys distilled at the current Bernheim Distillery. It is hand bottled in Tullahoma, Tenn.” The nose is quiet, and a little sweaty at times with notes of walnut and some lumberyard. Vanilla emerges over time, with more salty shortbread character building on the palate. The finish offers almonds, with a touch of astringency. Capable, but it doesn’t add a lot to the world of bourbon at this price range. 82 proof