Review #35: Hepburn’s Choice John Maccrae 26 Year (Teaspooned Balvenie)

This was our first teaspooned cask purchase. Teaspooning is a common practice for many distilleries to change a single malt to a “blended” malt by adding a small amount of whisky (even just a teaspoon!) from another distillery to a cask. Since it no longer is from the same distillery, the whisky must now be considered a blended malt, which devalues the price significantly. The teaspooned cask is typically then sold to an independent bottler and often with the conditions of anonymity on the distillery’s part. Although some distilleries (e.g. Caol Ila) work frequently with Independent Bottlers, Balvenie rarely sells to independent bottlers.

Buying teaspooned casks is a gamble. With some purchases, you have to wonder what was so anomalous about the cask that it needed to be sold to a third party? Sometimes, the sales are out of necessity – like raising funds for expansion. Other times, it’s because the cask was just funky or “off”. An official Balvenie 25 year is around ~$530, so the $140 price for a 26-year-old from K&L seemed like a steal.

K&L Exclusive John McCrae – aka teaspooned Balvenie. 26 year old cask.
Hepburn's Choice John McCrae 26 Year
  • Score - 6.5/10

Tasting Notes

Nose: Clearly from a bourbon cask. Vanilla, oak, berries, some slight candied oranges

Palate: Berries, vanilla pudding, white chocolate, sugared orange, slight wood influence, hints of cacao nibs and cinnamon spice

Finish: caress of vanilla and a slight tingle. 


6.5/10. Good whisky. 

TLDR: Silky vanilla custard with berries.

Overall: Really a smooth drinker and lovely, but a tad on the forgettable side. As you can see, we have done a lot of work on the bottle, but before we reviewed it, we both had difficulty recalling how we felt about it.  

Bought for: ~$140/bottle. K&L Exclusive. 

Additional Information

  • ABV: 44.6%
  • Cask: Single (but not stated)
  • Age: 26 years. Distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2018
  • 361 Bottles
  • Non-chill filtered, coloring free


  • Until more recently, K&L has been releasing John McCrae as a distillery that “cannot be revealed”, as shown in this 22-year from 2017 and 24-year in 2016. For some reason, Balvenie must have greenlit its name release for the 2018 bottling.
  • Who is John McCrae? I’m a bit confused if they meant to name the whisky after John MacRae or John McCrae. The latter is the correct spelling, but a Canadian doctor, poet, and lieutenant who does not seem to have much to do with whisky. Meanwhile, John Duncan MacRae was a Scottish comedian who played in “Whisky Galore!” and a mainstay of Hogmanay celebrations. There is also a John MacRae, a whisky maker hailing from in Clan MacRae accused (but later acquitted) of murder in a case involving women and whisky. My bets are on John Duncan MacRae than the other two…
  • Balvenie tends to be famous for its DoubleWood, which is named for its pioneering of finishing of whiskies from ex-bourbon casks in sherry casks in the 1980s. Sister distillery to Glenfiddich.
  • K&L collaborated with Hepburn’s Choice (label under Glasgow father-and-son company Hunter Laing). The label is named for William Hepburn, one of the company’s directors’ grandfather and whisky-aficionado. It is exclusively marketed by K&L Wines in the US.

2 thoughts on “Review #35: Hepburn’s Choice John Maccrae 26 Year (Teaspooned Balvenie)

  • 2020-04-26 at 7:46 pm

    Hello, I found your review from Google but your review is missing the tasting notes and score. I purchased a bottle of the 24 year old John McCrae back in 2016 and I thought that one spent a little too long in the barrel. K&L has also purchased teaspooned Glenfiddich from Hepburn’s Choice (under the name Hector Macbeth) which is also very interesting.

    • 2020-05-04 at 9:26 pm

      Hey Eric thanks for pointing that out! We messed up and didn’t include the shortcode for the review. It’s finally updated! Thank you so much for the heads up


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