- 90 Proof
I.W. Harper is one of those brands that occasionally I have to be reminded that I like. I think that's more due to their limited line-up than anything. Their standard Kentucky Straight Bourbon is one of my favorite lower shelf bourbons, something I was surprised to learn in a blind tasting. Of course they have their 15-year bourbon that comes in the fancy decanter as well, but that's a limited release and certainly somewhat pricy.
So, when a new "standard" made its way to the shelves, I figured I had to at least give it a try. The price was certainly approachable at $40, though I wish it could have had a bit more proof. But, you throw a wine finish on it, and I'm going to at least give it a go.
The nose is, quite frankly, exactly what you'd expect from a wine-finished bourbon. It was brown sugar and caramel layered over red wine notes. The fruity notes from the finish added raisin and plum, even some dates to the aroma. It even had an oatmeal raisin cookie at times. It was sweet, but it was as soft sweetness that didn't offend.
At 90 proof, I didn't expect this to be a heater or anything. But, it came across as more watered down and thin than expected. And I'm not just talking about the texture. Unfortunately, there was just no boldness in flavor. Nothing really stuck out. Certainly nothing smacked me in the face with flavor. And with a wine cask finish, that's kind of the point--to add flavor.
Here I did get notes of vanilla mixed with slight notes of dark fruit, again plum and raisin like on the nose. There was a slight cherry note at times, which was really enjoyable. But, I almost had to go searching for it.
There was a light earthiness in there somewhere as well, kind of like a tea note, and at times more like a sweet tobacco leaf note. I really enjoyed these notes as well, but everything was just so soft and watered down, I really just couldn't pinpoint anything that particularly stood out.
It may be that going forward I avoid any wine-finished bourbons that are under 100 proof. Perhaps this one is an anomaly, but it seemed to really not benefit from the wine finish, not because it didn't complement the bourbon well, but rather because it wasn't allowed to. I wanted to like this more, and I think a bit more viscosity and heat could have accomplished that.