John McCrae/Balvenie 28, 1991 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

John McCrae:Balvenie 28, 1991, Hepburn's Choice
Okay, let’s end the month with another older Speyside from a bourbon cask, and having started the month with one of K&L’s recent exclusives, let’s end it with another. This is one more of the many teaspooned casks released by K&L this year, in this case a teaspooned Balvenie—why John McCrae, I have no idea. As far as I can make out from K&L’s marketing spiel, this cask was not teaspooned prior to bottling but right at the beginning when the spirit entered the cask, presumably using a bit from one of William Grant’s other malts (Glenfiddich or Kininvie) but that’s only speculation on my part. Balvenie almost never shows up under its own name from independent bottlers— and very rarely shows up at all by any name. And so, however this was made and sent out into the world, it is a welcome opportunity to try older bourbon cask Balvenie. Let’s hope what’s in the bottle doesn’t let me down.

John McCrae/Balvenie 28, 1991 (43%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill bourbon cask; from a bottle split)

Nose: It starts out with a vegetal-herbal mix that’s not very pleasant. Thankfully, it burns off pretty quickly revealing sweeter notes of cereals and lightly-honeyed malt. Some orange hard candy too. Hmm with time a bit of that vegetal note emerges again but it’s not overbearing. The hard candy note expands as well. A few drops of water and the candy expands further and is joined by some cream.

Palate: Nothing vegetal here at all, my many-armed gods be praised! Here too it’s sweet—there’s that orange hard candy again—but there’s just a bit of oaky bite. The texture and depth are pretty good for 43%. With each sip there’s more of a grainy note that suggests a bit too much oak contact. The citrus moves in the direction of lime peel/zest with time. Okay, let’s see what water does for this. It emphasizes the lime and pushes back the grainy note.

Finish: Medium-long. More tart-sweet here and the oak emerges more fully as it goes—not tannic though. Longer and sweeter with water and the oak subsides.

Comments: This turned out to be a lot better than the first sniff indicated it might be but I can’t say it ended up being very interesting or particularly exemplary of the characteristics you might look for in an older malt. Indeed, at its best I found it rather anonymous and I’m glad I did not get a full bottle. Your mileage may well vary. If you’re one of those who did get a full bottle, do write in to share your experience of the bottle once opened.

Rating: 84 points.
EW! Rating: 105/100 points.



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