“Since 1872,” or so the label reads. I.W. Harper has a storied past, but the bourbon brand now rests in the hands of spirits giant, Diageo. The 15-year expression was once found with little trouble. Nowadays, not so much, but a chance discovery at $99 tickled my curiosity.
Pour: I.W. Harper 15 (KSBW)
Age: 15 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: honey, fragrant oak, nutty toffee
Taste: antique oak, salted caramel, leather
Finish: moderate length w/ savory vanilla, sweet oak, dry spice
Overall: No complaints here. I.W. Harper 15, while not particularly unique or complex, excels in the “notably mature whiskey done right” category. And surprisingly, the lower proof doesn’t bother me at all. If you like sweet oak, this bourbon is for you.
Rating: Worth it.
You hear a lot about McKenna Bottled in Bond, Eagle Rare, and Russell’s Reserve 10-Year, but not as much about Bulleit 10-Year. As well as the non-age-stated Bulleit Bourbon sells, you’d think you’d hear more. I wager there’s a reason. Perhaps this tasting will shed some light.
Pour: Bulleit 10-Year Bourbon
Age: 10 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: orange spice, toasted honey, floral essence
Taste: vanilla syrup, nutmeg, charred oak, citrus zest
Finish: moderate length w/ leather, herbal tea, faint mint
Overall: Bulleit 10 may be the lightest 10-year bourbon I’ve tasted. It’s flavorful and easy to sip – a notch above standard Bulleit – but that’s about it. With minor depth and complexity, one could argue its strength is inoffensiveness.
Rating: Bulleit with butterfly wings.
Ah, orphan barrels – the great oxymoron of American whiskey. Yet they exist, or so Diageo would have you believe. As for 2014’s Barterhouse, a 20-year $75 bourbon (reportedly distilled at Bernheim) isn’t exactly something to shake a stave at. Hell, it was a steal.
Pour: Barterhouse Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
Age: 20 years
Nose: dark cherry, fragrant oak, honey-maple, leather
Taste: chocolate-covered plum, vanilla bean, charred oak
Finish: moderate length w/ cola, licorice, sweet clove & sassafras
Overall: Delicious. While I wouldn’t classify Barterhouse as complex or layered, it’s rare to find 20-year bourbon so damn palatable. I particularly enjoy the contrast between its woodiness and dark cherry/plum sweetness. A noteworthy study in mature whiskey.