I.W. Harper is a brand that has been around since the 19th century. The brand became one of Schenley Distillers flagship brands and was distributed to more than a hundred foreign markets in the 1960s and grew very popular in the Japanese market. In fact, this bottle is one of the last years that Harper was distributed in the United States, as Schenley withdrew the brand from the domestic market to protect their sales in Japan. The “Grey Market” is where people would purchase a case or more of the whiskey from liquor stores in the United States and take them back to Japan to use in their bars. They found they could do this at a profit because the price of I.W. Harper in the U.S. market was so much lower than it was in Japan. Even after paying the taxes to the Japanese government for bringing in the cases of whiskey, the cost was less than what Schenley was charging per bottle from the local distributor. 

Matt Kohorst has joined me to do this Flashback Friday tasting and I hope to make this a permanent partnership on my tastings. I think it is important to have a second opinion on tastings.

I.W. Harper Bottled-in-Bond

Proof: 100

Age: 5 Years Old, Made Spring 1974, Bottled Spring 1979


  • Mike: Corn, vanilla, oak, tobacco and a hint of baking spices.
  • Matt: Caramel and mandarin oranges with a hint of oak.


  • Mike: Corn, vanilla, tobacco with a little cardamom spice, green apples and oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the tobacco comes forward with lots of vanilla and only a hint of spice and fruit. Tasted with a pecan and the tobacco notes are gone but there are more spices – black pepper and cardamom.
  • Matt: Orange creamsicle and caramel and cardamom. The dried cranberry brings out orange creamsicle with a hint of lavender and white pepper. The pecan brought out orange creamsicle and toasted marshmallows and hints of smoke.


  • Mike: A short finish with sweet oak wood and tobacco. The dried cranberry added a note of vanilla to the oak and tobacco. The pecan made the finish longer and drier with oak and pepper spice.
  • Matt: Short with a light oak finish. The dried cranberry added some white pepper notes to the oak finish. The pecan made the finish oak and fine leather.

I would pair this Bourbon with a cigar with notes of vanilla in the smoke, but not anything too spicy. I think I would smoke a Nat Sherman Metropolitan Connecticut wrapper. I find this smoke has vanilla notes that would pair well with the Bourbon without overpowering the Bourbon’s other flavors.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller