Disclaimer: A sample of I.W. Harper was provided to us by Diageo for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow Bourbon & Banter to review the booze with no strings attached. Thank you.
It’s been a few months now since Diageo announced that they were bringing I.W. Harper bourbon back to the U.S. market after a 20-year hiatus. As fan of older I.W. Harper bourbon, I was curious to see how Diageo’s new version of the classic would measure up against the I.W. Harper of years gone by. Watch our video above to find out what we thought about both the non-age-stated and 15-year releases of I.W. Harper. Below you’ll find a copy of the original press release announcing Harper’s return to the U.S. market.
I.W. Harper™ Brand Returns Stateside After Two Decades Abroad
Iconic Whiskey Brand Adds New Chapters to its 142-Year-Old Story with National Release of Two New Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskeys
Louisville, Ky., April 23, 2015 – The I.W. Harper brand is coming home to the United States after nearly 20 years abroad with the release of two new Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskeys inspired by the brand’s historic past. This spring, a new generation of whiskey adorers will experience the exemplary I.W. Harper approach –Anywhere, Anytime, It’s Always A Pleasure™.
In 1867, German immigrant Isaac Wolfe (I.W.) Bernheim arrived in America with little more than four dollars in his pocket. Within 12 short years he co-founded Bernheim Brothers, where he began producing a whiskey known as I.W. Harper. The whiskey won its first gold medal in 1885 and continued to gain adorers across the country and around the world throughout the twentieth century.
As the popularity of brown spirits and the demand for high-quality whiskeys in Asia surged during the 1990’s, I.W. Harper’s focus transitioned overseas and the brand ceased distribution in the United States.
After nearly 20 years abroad, the brand will release two new whiskeys nationwide. I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Limited Edition I.W. Harper 15-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey were both inspired by the original I.W. Harper variants. I.W. Harper 15-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was distilled at the Bernheim Distillery, historically located at 17th and Breckinridge in Louisville, KY, while owned and operated by United Distillers. I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey mingles whiskey also distilled at the Bernheim Distillery during this time with other fine whiskeys. Both bourbons have been aged, most recently, at the legendary Stitzel-Weller Distillery and are hand bottled in Tullahoma, Tenn.
I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (82 proof, 41% ABV) 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. The whiskey will be available for a suggested retail price of $34.99 (750 mL).
Limited Edition I.W. Harper 15-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (86 proof, 43% ABV) is sweeter on the front palate with hints of oak, dried fruit and caramel. A distinct spice appears on the back palate for a long and lasting finish. The limited time offering will carry a suggested retail price of $74.99 (750 mL).
The I.W. Harper brand will still be available to whiskey enthusiasts overseas. While the taste profiles are similar, the liquid makeup of the new releases vary from the offerings currently available in Japan, as well as the whiskeys that were previously sold in the U.S.
“I.W. Bernheim was an innovator and true captain of the bourbon industry,” said DIAGEO North American Whiskey Ambassador Doug Kragel. “It’s a real pleasure to pay homage to his classic, beloved whiskeys with two new versions for today’s bourbon aficionados.”
Consumers are encouraged to enjoy I.W. Harper neat, on the rocks or as the key ingredient in a classic bourbon cocktail, such as a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.
Inspired by the brand’s rich history, the packaging for both variants features the iconic “Bowing Man” and diamond label, which has been redesigned with a modern twist.
The release of the new whiskeys will be supported by an integrated marketing program and will utilize DIAGEO’s Masters of Whiskey specialists to participate in whiskey festivals across the country.
After waiting nearly 20 years for the I.W. Harper brand’s return to the U.S., consumers are encouraged to celebrate the brand’s homecoming responsibly.
If you’ve already gotten your hands on some of the new I.W. Harper we’d love to hear from you in the comments. What did you or didn’t you like about these new releases?