Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Whiskey Revival: IW Harper 15 year old
Diageo recently revived the old IW Harper label which had disappeared from domestic shelves early this century. The new Harper comes in no age statement and 15 year old expressions, the latter of which was distilled at the new Bernheim distillery which sits on the site of the old Bernheim Distillery where Harper was previously made.
I happen to have an unopened mini bottle of the previous iteration of IW Harper that was bottled for the Bourbon Heritage Collection, so I thought I would take this opportunity to compare the two head to head.
IW Harper 15 year old (New), 43% abv ($75)
The nose has a very nice balance of caramel and rye spice. The palate starts sweet but very quickly turns spicy with rye notes which trail off into the finish. This is surprisingly spicy given that it is apparently only 6% rye. It may be that some of those spicy notes come from the oak. In any case, it's quite pleasant and sippable.
IW Harper Gold Medal 15 year old (Old), 40% abv.
The nose is medicinal with some raw grain notes. The palate is also quite grainy and that note, almost a new make sort of pure alcohol note, dominates the finish. I remembered this as being pretty bad, and it still is.
Well, Diageo has managed to do something that's pretty rare these days; they have managed to make a whiskey that is better than it used to be. The new Harper 15 year old is far better than the previous iteration. Is it worth buying at $75? That seems expensive to me for what it is, but to be honest, pretty much everything on the market today seems expensive to me for what it is.
Thanks to John Burlowski for the sample of the new 15 year old.