View Full Version : I. W. Harper in Virginia

04-03-2004, 19:06
So I.W. Harper is available in Virginia? What to you know. Being a control state, Virginia actually posts a price list on the internet. (http://www.abc.state.va.us/Pricelist/price.html) Here's what's listed for I.W. Harper.

018786 I. W. Harper 750ml 4YR 80 $13.95
018788 I. W. Harper 1.75L 4YR 80 $26.95
018806 I. W. Harper Gold 750ml 15YR 80 $35.70

The "Gold" is "Gold Medal," which is part of the old Bourbon Heritage Collection and was pretty widely distributed in the U.S., at least before Diageo got out of the American whiskey business. The fact that standard Harper is available anywhere in the U.S. is news to me. Anyone know if it's available anywhere else?

04-04-2004, 06:12

Out of curiosity, I checked the Alabama ABC listing on the Internet. Here is what I found:

"A1020 ","I.W. HARPER GOLD MEDAL "," "," 80.00 "," 15Yr","750 ML "," 18.37"

"A4233 ","I.W. HARPER "," "," 80.00 "," ","750 ML "," 13.79"

"F4233 ","I.W. HARPER "," "," 80.00 "," ","1.75 L "," 27.44"

However, Rock Hill Farms is also in this list, but I cannot actually get it. So, I don't know if you could actually get the I.W. Harper, either. I haven't seen it on the shelves in the past three years or so that I've been bourbon shopping.


04-04-2004, 08:45
So, what's the bottom line on this one!? Is it actually something worth giving some consideration to? I've always assumed from its price-range and availability in plastic 1.75L that it's another one of those boring, generic bottom-shelf dwellers. VA ABC shelves are laden with 'em.

04-04-2004, 09:00
My impression is that it is a good bourbon for the price, if you're in the mood for a relatively light bourbon. I usually drink it over ice but I never add water too it. I like the finish a lot - almost..."creamy," like cream soda? I'm still searching for the right word.

So much for my novice opinion. Take it with a big grain of salt. I'm curious about Chuck's interest - is it out of a particular fondness for IW Harper?

04-04-2004, 15:18
Well, the plot thickens. I certainly would like to hear from someone who has tried it, and not the "Gold Medal," which I've had, but the standard expression.

I assume that any I.W. Harper in circulation is from what is now Heaven Hill's Louisville distillery, from the period when it was owned by UDV/Diageo, which still owns the Harper brand. I'm pretty sure it was the same mashbill as Old Charter, which means it is practically corn whiskey. The percentage of rye in the mash is one of if not the lowest in bourbondom.

My interest is just in its rarity. It is a venerable brand that was pulled off the U.S. market when it became popular in Japan. In the U.S. it was a lower if not bottom shelf brand whereas in Japan it was considered premium so, naturally, a gray market developed. UDV's solution was to pull it from the U.S. market.

04-04-2004, 17:44
Just to make sure we're both talking about the same whiskey, is this the one you have tried? Both the 15 year and the four year have "gold medal" on the label.

Tying into another thread, the Regans' book cites the 4 year version as 86 proof, while this one is 80 proof. Related to the changes you noted above over the last few years with the brand?

04-04-2004, 21:19
I have tried the 15 year old. Here's the dead soldier.

04-05-2004, 08:13
United Distillers kept I W Harper in some of the control states and in the Dallas, Texas area while I was at U.D. Dallas was the headquarters for Schenley before U.D. acquired them so there was a marketing office down there.
Mike Veach

04-07-2004, 04:11

04-07-2004, 04:32
That is our bias, too. We like IW Harper, but have never bought the 1.75 L plastic bottle, only the glass 750 ml. Our ancestors are not from Kentucky, but it seems we have a common whiskey gene!

Dave& Tina

04-07-2004, 09:54
Mike...you can still find IW Harper in the Dallas area. It and Old Charter regularly show up as "premium" pours in Dallas bars catering to the whiskey drinkers there. The Whisky Bar down on lower Greenville Ave has a decent selection of bourbons including the above mentioned.

Randy B.

04-08-2004, 19:02
It looks like that 15 year old soldier served you well!

On the subject of IW Harper, we found this (tragically) empty "bottle" at a junk shop some years ago and couldn't resist purchasing it. The label declares it as "130 months old." Obviously, this is not the current incarnation of IW Harper. Did you try it, or do you know anything about it?

By the way, at the risk of being presumptuous, we would be proud to bring Mr. Cowdery a bottle of IW Harper from VA should our paths ever cross in Chicago or Kentucky. We might request the indulgence of your personal tasting notes in return, however; if nothing else, we want to know if you taste that wacky cream soda flavor finish.

Dave & Tina

04-09-2004, 11:59
I will always accept gladly and with all the grace I can muster gifts of bourbon, thank you for the offer.

I don't know anything about that particular package but at one time such special issues were pretty common.

04-17-2004, 10:56
What a disaster!

All of this talk of IW Harper has stimulated my taste buds for it. Consequently, when we made the trip to our usual VA ABC store to pick up Tina's Big EW 1783 (on sale in April as we were advised by a friendly Bourbonian http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif), imagine my horror as Tina said, "You know, I don't see any IW Harper here." It was so. None to be found. Not even any evidence of where it SHOULD have been.

Upon inquiring, we were told that distribution had stopped about six months before and that there will be no more in VA in the foreseeable future.

Wish us luck - after trying multiple stores, we have located by phone some old stock in a small store about 40 miles away. Hopefully, our ABC civil servant will hold some for us as she promised. Tina will probably head out early this week to get it. Meanwhile, the 2 inches of IWH we have left goes into hiding.

Fellow IWH fans in VA might want to start checking around!

04-17-2004, 12:43
You don't miss your water until the well runs dry.

04-17-2004, 15:11
VERY true!

Don't worry, though. Depending on the outcome of our IWH recovery mission, this is our plan:

We'll have, at the very least, our remaining 2 inches in an appropriate container (to prevent oxidation) for the day that may come when we cross paths with Chuck Cowdery for an IW Harper bourbon tasting.

We'll keep you posted.

04-26-2004, 16:20
Well, we may have to give up. The lead we had above turned out to be false. There was in fact no IW Harper at the store, and I don't know what the clerk thought I said on the phone. A friend went to pick it up and was given three bottles of cheap blended whiskey.

We were in Hot Springs VA this weekend. Tina thought she was in luck when the guy at the ABC store said he had "three bottles left," but he returned with one bottle of the 15 year. As a consolation, he let us have it for $15. It makes me wonder if the 15 year has been pulled out of VA distribution, too.

04-26-2004, 17:04
It's long been my understanding the 15yo has been pulled out of U.S. distribution -- export only -- not just VA.

04-26-2004, 17:25
I had no idea. I just assumed that the 15 yo bottling was distributed differently. I guess we did get lucky after all, and with a price break to boot. I really like the 15 yo bottling, and I hate to think that's gone, too!

Aside: I also hate that one of the few notable American art forms - bourbon - gets uniquely bottled and packaged only to be exported.

04-26-2004, 18:07
This is a case where'll I'll be glad to be wrong, but I think it came up on another discussion (about the Bourbon Heritage Collection, of which it is part). If so, I'm sure the experts here will straighten us out.
But, if it is still distributed it begs the question: where the heck is it? I bought the only bottle I've ever seen.

04-26-2004, 19:24
I hope I haven't created an undue frenzy about I.W. Harper. The whiskey itself is the same as readily available Old Charter. It has the lowest rye content (about 8%) of any bourbon and was made by United Distillers at Bernheim in Louisville. Obviously, the 15 year old would be from the old distillery at Bernheim.

04-28-2004, 04:57
While Old Charter is still not readily available in VA, at least it's available within a reasonable driving distance, so if it's the same whiskey, crisis averted! Just to make sure I've got this right:

My bottle of IW Harper is 80 proof, and the label states "this whiskey is 4 years old." The Old Charter varieties I am most accustomed to seeing in travels to Tennessee and MD are the 8, 10, and 12 yo. Is there a 4 yo 80 proof version of Old Charter that's widely available? Or are you saying that OC is the same whiskey at a different age/proof?

If there is a 4 yo Old Charter, I could just refill my IW Harper bottle periodically with it and have a "rarity" on our bar...

Of course, just asking this question makes me think I may focus too much on age and possibly proof differences. Is there a general rule of thumb regarding how many years difference makes a whiskey unique? Or is 4 year old whiskey, regardless of rarity, considered not that unique if an older version is available?

Thanks yet again for the whiskey insight. It makes sense that I enjoy IWH and also really like OC 10 & 12 yo.

04-28-2004, 10:08
I believe the 8-year-old is the baby of the Charter family. When I say Charter and Harper are the same whiskey, I mean that when UDV was making both of them, both products came from the same mash bill and the same still. When products are subsequently bottled, factors of age and proof come into play as does the distiller's effort to match previous batches of that product. I suppose to be scrupulously correct I should have said they are substantially the same.

04-28-2004, 11:25
I've got it now. Thanks for clarifying and having patience for those of us still stuck in Bourbon 101.

It's good to know that there is still some whiskey available that is a "sibling" of IWH - ie, if someone is curious about IWH, I could offer OC 8 yo as very similar, just older.

Overall, though, I still see it as a bummer. At the risk of getting overly philosophical:

Q: What's my favorite bourbon?
A: The one for which I'm in the mood when I get out the glass!

Having been a somewhat regular consumer of IWH 4 yo for about 7 years, I foresee missing it occasionally over and above the "we always want what we can't have" factor.

Nevertheless, we only recently got our first bottle of OC 8 yo, and, candidly, have not compared the two whiskeys in a tasting. Maybe I will find them very similar subjectively, too. If not, maybe over time I can use the power of suggestion to my advantage by pouring an OC 8 and saying to myself three times "Chuck Cowdery says this is substantially the same as IWH." Hmmmm. It might be working already. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

04-28-2004, 12:42
If it's any consolation, don't be surprised if you see I.W. Harper emerge again soon. Diageo, its owner, is showing renewed interest in the American Straight Whiskey category. Right now it is putting its energy into re-launching (is this the third or fourth time?) Bulleit Bourbon, but I.W. Harper might be next. If Diageo doesn't start to drive the brand they may sell it, which would be another reason for it to reappear. I understand Diageo's neglect has caused the brand to decline in Japan, its best market. If something does happen with Harper, it probably will happen there first.

It's also possible that its absense from Virginia right now is temporary, a hiccup in the distribution chain. It's hard to get listings in control states like Virginia and I doubt Diageo would want to give it up, even if it isn't a huge money maker.

04-29-2004, 10:39
Actually, that IS consolation. I never thought about the motivation to keep your place in a control state and certainly was oblivious to the marketing/exporting intricacies of the IWH brand. Thanks again for the inside scoop!

05-10-2004, 09:46
A little historical background on I.W. Harper.

I spent my "Mother's Day" at Bernheim Arboretum, with all three of my of children (young adults) and my husband Pat. We had a nice picnic lunch and went riding bicycles through just a tad bit of the 40 miles available for hiking and cycling...

They gave me a brochure. This info was on it...

Issac Wolfe Bernheim (1848-1945) established Bernheim in 1929. Mr. Bernheim was a German immigrant who settled in Kentucky. From a humble beginning as a peddler, he became successful distilling bourbon whiskey, which he sold under the I.W. Harper brand. Grateful for his good fortune, he bought and founded Bernheim as a gift to the people of Kentucky. In 1992, the Kentucky legislature designeted Bernheim Kentucky's Officail Arboretum.

Ya learn somethin' everyday http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

05-10-2004, 11:30
I'm with Bettye Jo. Anyone planning a trip to the Bardstown area should allow some time for a visit to Bernheim Forest. A pic from my last visit there. (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Number=29180&page=1&view=col lapsed&sb=5&o=31&fpart=1)

05-10-2004, 14:34
Bettye Jo - thanks for more fascinating background info on a brand to which I seem to have become pathologically attached. Assuming good weather, maybe Tina and I can make a trip to Bernheim Forest in September. Chuck's pix have piqued my interest, and I'm sure Tina, who is much more the outdoor/gardening enthusiast, would love it. If it's any indication of her enthusiasm, she spent a good hour on Mother's Day pruning lilac bushes, claiming that it was "relaxing."

Your post prompted a tangential question. Early on, I mistakenly referred to IW Harper as "Old Harper," which Chuck immediately noted and called to my attention. If hazy memory serves me correctly, "Old Harper" is the name of the whiskey that one of the characters in the film "American Graffiti" tries to buy underage.

My question: was "Old Harper" a real brand, or was it distilled from the mind of George Lucas and his co-writers?

As you may have perceived from the Fast Eddie Felsen/Hustler posts, I'm fascinated by the intersection of whiskey and movie trivia.

05-11-2004, 05:39
My question: was "Old Harper" a real brand, or was it distilled from the mind of George Lucas and his co-writers?

I don't have a clue http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif...All I know "for sure" it's not a Heaven Hill label. Maybe somebody on these forums can answer it? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

05-11-2004, 18:42
Here's a link to a bit of history about the "Old Harper" whiskey (apparently not bourbon) brand:
Old Harper, Bernheim Bros. Distillery (http://www.pre-pro.com/Dataweb/pages/Old_Harper_Whiskey__label_under_glass_.html)

It was apparently and early-20th Century precursor to the I.W. Harper brand.

05-11-2004, 19:09
Wow! Thanks for the link! I was particularly intrigued by the "Old IW Harper" brand name. Obviously, whiskey marketing and branding is complex.

So, the "Old Harper" brands appear...well, old (early 20th century). How did it wind up in "American Graffiti," a 1960 period piece actually made in 1971 (or thereabouts)?

05-11-2004, 19:33
What's peculiar here is the reference, on the shot glass itself, to Nelson County and the reference in the description to Clear Springs. The Bernheim Brothers facilities were in Paducah, Kentucky, then Louisville, but never in Nelson County. Clear Springs Distillery was the name of the Beam family distillery in Nelson County prior to Prohibition. It's possible the Beams sold something called "Old Harper" completely separate from the Bernheim's I.W. Harper.

I don't think this mystery is quite solved yet.

05-11-2004, 19:59
Well look at that Chuck,They credit the Coyte papers as the source of that info.

05-12-2004, 06:21
As you know, Bernheim Bros. started as rectifier in Paducah in the 1870's. They did not own a distillery until the late 1890's after they moved to Louisville. Before they built the distillery they were buying their whiskey in Nelson County and rectifying it into I W Harper and several other brands. They even had a brand they called "Kenessee" which was a marrying of Kentucky Bourbon and Tenessee Whiskey.
In the trademark files at the U.D. Archive there are several applications for trademarks for advertising materials for I W Harper. This material uses "I W Harper" and "Old Harper" as interchangable terms for the same product in the advertising. I would say what the item shown is simply a pre-1898 shot glass for I W Harper because of the Nelson County reference.

Mike Veach

05-12-2004, 07:00
I wonder how the reference to Clear Springs got in there? Possibly that is the Nelson County distillery the Bernheim Brothers were buying from?

Anyway, it certainly makes more sense that the Bernheims used "Old Harper" and "I.W. Harper" interchangeably. There are lots of examples of that, e.g., "John E. Fitzgerald" evolving the other way, into "Old Fitzgerald."

05-12-2004, 07:09
I think that I W Harper was a "rectified" version of a couple of Nelson County whiskies. I think this is one reason Bernheim fought so hard against the Bottled in Bond Act. He would loose his taste profile if he had to use only one distillery's product to make I W Harper as a Bonded whiskey.

Mike Veach