*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
Braeval is the possibly the highest elevated distillery in Scotland. I say “possibly” because Dalwhinnie also makes that claim and although I am many things, an expert cartographer is not one, nor do I have access to any of the equipment (slide rules, global positioning satellites, etc.) that might help me say, definitively, which of these is highest. I’m not sure it matters, really. Suffice it to say, both Braeval and Dalwhinnie are located a bit higher up in the atmosphere than Scotland’s other distilleries.
Another relatively young distillery, Braeval was built in 1974 by its owners, Chivas (Seagrams), primarily to feed the needs of their popular line of blends including (of course) Chivas Regal and Passport. Originally it was called the Braes of Glenlivet but the name was changed in 1994 in an effort to protect and strengthen the brand identity of Glenlivet Single Malt. When Seagrams was split up in 2000, Pernod Ricard gained control of Chivas and quickly decided to mothball Braeval in 2002. Fortunately, the mothballing didn’t last too long and the distillery began production again in 2008. For a “modern” distillery, Braeval was designed with a fairly traditional-looking exterior complete with Pagoda roof and white-painted buildings which contrast nicely with the green Speyside hills. The interior, however, is all business, streamlined and automated to the extent that a single person can run the entire process. Braeval has never released an official distillery bottling, only popping up now and then from independent bottlers. This non chill-filtered, un-colored expression from Ian McLeod’s Chieftain’s range was matured in an ex-sherry butt and numbers 660 bottles.
The Nose: Refreshing, bright clover honey and sweet, pink grapefruit. Sweetly floral with soft notes of malt and crisp but juicy granny smith apples behind that. Tucked in the background yet providing a nice balance are subtle notes of dry hay.
The Palate: More honey, and more juicy granny smith apples accompany the slightly thinnish feeling entry. A slightly nutty, pale sherry quality is there as well. Cinnamon red-hots, clove and nicely balanced oak round things out.
The Finish: Still honey-tinged but with a last surprising, mouth-watering swell of oak and dry cinnamon as well.
Thoughts: A lighter, crisp, refreshing dram. It’s tempting to say this seemed somewhat simple, but there’s just enough going on to keep things interesting and its balance and poise, if you will, give it a bit of charm. A warm spring day of a whisky. I kind of like knowing that there are bottlings like this out there, not overblown in any way, nothing earth-shattering, but almost simply elegant in its own way.
Chieftain’s 1996 Braeval 14 Year Old, Speyside