I.W. Harper Gold Medal, 4yo, 1970s bottling, 40%

Back in the day, before Bourbon became as massively booming as it is today, you could pick up bottles on the cheap from auction. I once had a bottle of Old Crow, bottled in 1970, for which I paid about € 30. This one was a little bit more recent, but I didn’t pay more than € 45 either.

It must have been around 2014 or so, so we’re talking about an almost 40 year old bottle, for the price of a daily drinker. Can’t say I feel robbed…

Some Googling tells me I.W. Harper is a Diageo owned brand with whisky that comes from Bernheim distillery in Kentucky. Interestingly, it seems to not have been available between the mid-nineties and 2015.

Currently there’s a NAS version, and a 15 year old which I tried last year. This one I’m tasting here is four years old, so somewhere in the last 45-odd years they did change that.

It’s definitely sweet and spicy, with a lot of dry black pepper notes at first. Some sawdust and a slightly chemical sweetness. There’s clove, cinnamon and orange rind. Quite crisp.

The palate continues with the dryness. It’s actually quite intense for a 40% whisky. There’s definitely some oak here, but it’s not overpowering. Black pepper, orange, ground clove. Some dark caramel, or burnt sugar.

The finish brings the oak and the slightly bitter orange to the front, but only to quickly be replaced by some vanilla and pepper.

It’s a bit of a two faced bourbon, because I tried it a little while ago and thought the bottle had gone bad, but now it’s actually quite fine. The cloudiness that I saw then seems to have gone away, which I think is a good thing.

Because of this, it is quite a bit better than I remembered it. The hints of orange are nice, as is the dry oakiness. And luckily, it’s not too sweet at all!



About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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