I.W. Harper Review

IW Harper Review

The I.W. Harper brand has been around since the late 1800s and was created by a Mr. Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, a German immigrant who came to the USA in 1867 with $4 in his pocket ($62 – $65 in 2015 dollars according to online inflation calculators) and a dream of working in the big apple. After a string of bad luck with chosen occupations he finally caught a break in Paducah, KY with a liquor wholesale company and was able to save up enough money to bring his brother to the USA.

Old IW HarperThe Bernheim brothers opened their own liquor operation in 1872 and in the early 1890s the bought a distillery in Louisville, renamed it the Bernheim Distillery and went to work until their warehouse burned down in 1896. 100 years later in 1996 the distillery known as the Old Bernheim distillery (Heaven Hill) would burn down after it’s warehouse also caught fire. The Bernheims sold their distillery to the now defunct, but once large, drinks brand Schenley in 1937. Stanley was acquired by an Israeli businessman in 1968 who then sold the company to Guiness in 1987 who is owned by Diageo which is where the I.W. Harper brand lives today.

I.W. Harper Info

Region: Kentucky, USA

Distiller: “IW Harper” (Heaven Hill)
Mashbill: 73% corn, 18% rye and 9% malted barley
Cask: New charred oak
Age: NAS
ABV: 41%

Price: $35

I.W. Harper Review

Yellowish caramel

The first thing I thought of was Bananas Foster and ice-cream. It starts out with some banana heavy fruit notes, caramel and vanilla followed by some notes of grain, spice, citrus zest and butterscotch.

The aroma is a bit richer than the flavor and the caramel comes in a bit watery followed by notes of spice, fruit, raw grain, vanilla and a light bit of citrus peel.

Short ride of caramel, spice, fruit and a bit of astringency.

Has an ok balance, a light thin body and a warm smooth texture.

I can say this about the new I.W. Harper… It’s better than any of the 3 bottles of I.W. Harper of the 70’s & early 80’s I’ve had. I’m curious to try the 15 year and see how it improves over this one (and compares to the old 15), but as it is this one comes across a bit light and fruity – but it’s not bad. There’s no major flaws or distractions, it’s just missing a bit of character and could use a bit higher proof and / or a bit longer in the barrel to help bring out a bit more richness in the whiskey overall. Still, it’s worth trying, especially if you’ve ever had any of the older stuff. This is a marked improvement over some of those bottles.

SCORE: 82/100

*Disclosure: This was graciously sent to me by the company. The views, opinions, and tasting notes are 100% my own.

I.W. Harper Review - Score Breakdown
  • Nose - 84
  • Palate - 82
  • Finish - 80
  • Balance, Body & Feel - 82


The new IW Harper is a bit overpriced for what you get. A little richer character and this would be a definite buy.

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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4 Responses to I.W. Harper Review

  1. I know everyone’s taste is subjective based on experience, etc, but isn’t a thin, fruity bourbon with a pale finish, bad?

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