Friday, January 15, 2016

I.W. Harper 12 Year

Distillery:Probably Four Roses
Age:12 Years
Proof:90 (45% ABV)
Price:JPY 5000

I.W. Harper is a storied brand of bourbon, first becoming popular in the late 19th century. For about the last 20 years, however, the I.W. Harper brand was only available in Japan. Recently, however, Diageo (the owner of the I.W. Harper brand) has again started to use the I.W. Harper brand in the U.S.

There are two I.W. Harper expression in Japan: I.W. Harper Gold Medal and I.W. Harper 12 Year. This review is of the 12-year-old expression (not the 15-year-old expression released in America in 2015). Because Diageo doesn't operate any bourbon distilleries, there is some question as to where I.W. Harper comes from. The best guess is that I.W. Harper, like Bulleit, is distilled under contract by Four Roses. The mashbill is likely the high rye (OBS_) Four Roses mash bills and therefore has a much higher rye content than most other bourbons.

As you can see, the 12-year expression comes in a nice decanter bottle, reminiscent of the bottle in which I.W. Harper 15 Year was released in the U.S. I believe the main difference is the screw top.

The nose has notes of melon (and other fruit), as well as vanilla, pepper and honey. Melon (or another green fruit) and pepper are again evident on the tongue along with leather and dry wood. There is a nice honeysuckle finish.

This bourbon is very balanced with a spicy, sophisticated flavor. It lacks some of the sweetness of other bourbons, but I think this is also true of many of Four Roses' offering.

Verdict: It's age-stated Four Roses in a beautiful bottle; if you like Four Roses buy it.


  1. Nice post, I've been curious about the new I.W. Harpers. Thanks for reviewing! I'm visiting Japan in a few weeks, and would love to pick up a Willett family estate if I can find one (like the one you reviewed a while ago). Any idea where I'd be able to find a store that carries them in either Tokyo or Osaka?

    1. I haven't seen Willet in Tokyo for a couple of years. I don't know about Osaka. Most of the other Japan only releases that I have posted about should be easy to find.

  2. I thought this blog had died! Whew! Keep the reviews coming!

    1. I went through a period where I was drinking standard U.S. releases that didn't really fit with the purpose of this blog. Additional reviews should be coming soon.

    2. There is only so much though, and the majority are now certified discontinued "dusties" of luck! From-the-bar reviews are also much much welcome.