Braeval /Braes of Glenlivet (Pronounced: BRAY-val)
57°16'5.2968 N, 3°15'11.0484 W
(The) Glenlivet, Tamnavulin, Tomintoul
Active (mothballed in 2002, revived in 2008)
Preenie & Kate's Well (distilling), Pitilie Burn (cooling water)
2 Wash stills, 4 Spirit stills
4,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Pernod Ricard > Chivas Brothers (since 1989)
Chapeltown, Ballindalloch, Banffshire AB37 9JS
No - but bastard bottlings like 'Deerstalker' appeared
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2001 - Chivas Brothers (the owners of the Braes of Glenlivet) are purchased by Pernod Ricard.
2002 - Pernod Ricard decides to mothball the Braeval / Braes of Glenlivet distillery, together with 4 other distilleries in the group; Allt A' Bhainne, Benriach, (now revived by Billy Walker and his partners), Caperdonich and Glen Keith.
2008 - Braeval distillery resumed production on July 11, 2008.
2012 - A new mash tun is installed at the Braeval distillery.
So, what's the reason I'm much 'madder' about Braes of Glenlivet than Allt-A' Bhainne? Maybe the design of the stills is different, or perhaps the wood management is approached in another way. Whatever the reason, most Braevals I've sampled so far did score comfortably in the 80's while most Allt A' Bhainne's ended up in the lower 70's or worse - meaning I wouldn't recommend them...
As for the change of the name from Braes of Glenlivet to Braeval, the people of Seagram's (also owners of THE Glenlivet distillery not far away) were unhappy with many other distilleries in the area using the name 'Glenlivet' in their advertising and on their labels. Before they proceeded with legal actions against competitors that used the phrase 'Glenlivet' in their names or promotion they decided to set the right example with one of their own brands.
As far as I know, Braes of Glenlivet was never released as a single malt, and it remains to be seen if Chivas will do so in the forseeable future. Just like Allt A'Bhainne, it was designed with 'volume' production for blends like Chivas Regal, Passport & 100 Pipers in mind. I doubt if the 'recipe' for these blends is the same as in 1974 though. For one thing, the Chivas company was still part of the Seagram's conglomerate in those days. The new owners have to work with a new 'portfolio' of malt whiskies; some distilleries are now owned by competitors and others were mothballed or closed alltogether.
So, if you ever spot an official bottling of Braeval or Braes of Glenlivet malt whisky at a liquorist or on eBay, it's probably a fake. And even independent bottlings
are hard to find. One of the rare bottles I've managed to obtain in the 1990's was the bottling by Kirsch Import from Germany, depicted at the right. That one was OK (score 79 points), but because so few bottles were ever released (there were just 28 expressions on the Malt Maniacs Monitor in 2008) I'm pretty confident I found the very best of them so far. The Braes of Glenlivet 15yo 1979/1995 (60.0%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry C#16040) scored a whopping 92 points and ended up on my Hit List of all time favourites.
No mean feat for the product of a 'volume' whisky distillery.
Braeval has a lot of similarities with its 'sister' distillery
Allt A'Bhainne - both were built as efficient plants in the
1970's by the owners of Chivas Brothers (Seagram's at
the time), bought and closed by Pernod in the early years
of the third millennium and re-opened a few years later.
Oddly enough, the single malt from the Braes of Glenlivet
distillery has always appealed more to me than that from
Allt A'Bhainne - even though they're both 'mechanical'. In
the words of fellow malt maniac Michel van Meersbergen;
'Braes of Glenlivet Distillery (The hillside in the valley where the river Livet flows) was built
in 1973 by Chivas Brothers (Seagram Co Ltd) and was used primarily for creating blending
material. It was built to look like a traditional distillery, complete with pagoda, the inside
however was built along the latest insights in distillery management. No malting floors or
storage capacity, all aspects of production done on a single level floor and a small workforce,
one person if necessary made it a very efficient plant. A clean, mean machine so to speak.'
distillery (formerly known as Braes of Glenlivet) is one of
the youngest distilleries in Scotland, built in 1973/'74 by Chivas. When
Pernod Ricard bought the distillery in 2001, they wasted no time and
promptly mothballed it in 2002, together with Allt A' Bhainne, Benriach,
(now revived by Billy Walker & friends), Caperdonich and Glen Keith.
Fortunately, Braeval distillery resumed production on July 11, 2008.
It's located in the far south of Speyside, upstream from Tamnavulin
and (the) Glenlivet. In 1975 two stills were added to the existing three
and one more still was installed in 1978. Braeval now has six stills,
two wash stills with internal condensers (capacity 22,000 litres) and
four 'Milton Ball' spirit stills (capacity 10,000 litres), all heated via steam.
1) Braeval claims to be the distillery with the highest elevation in Scotland; 355 meters above sea level.
However, according to Google Earth the Dalwhinnie distillery has the exact same elevation (on average). If we look at the complete distillery grounds there's no clear winner either, both vary between 352 and 357 meters elevation.
2) The Braeval distillery was re-designed in 1997 to be operated by a single person - much like Allt A Bhainne.
3) The focus of the Allt-A-Bhainne distillery has always been on the production of malt whisky for the Chivas blends; Braeval also produced malt whisky for blenders outside the Pernod Ricard group.
4) The Braeval / Braes of Glenlivet distillery uses 13 stainless steel washbacks - two less than before.
5) In 1978 a sixth pot still was added to Braeval's equipment - but it seems these days only four stills are used.
6) In the past, some independent bottlings of Braes of Glenlivet were sold under the name 'Deerstalker'.
However, please note that this name has been used for other whiskies too, including Balmenach and some blends.
Braeval 12yo 1996 (57.3%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry Butt c#4904, 488 Bts., Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Big, sweet and polished start, followed by more feinty notes. Speculaas? Other spices emerge too.
After adding some water I more fruits drift to the surface - and the spices grow more pronounced.
Taste: Sweet and round - and easily drinkable at cask strength. It has a pretty good mouth feel.
Score: 87 points - although the palate of this whisky flattens out just a little bit a splash of water.
Braes of Glenlivet 12yo 1989/2001 (62.1%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead)
Nose: Extremely rich. Polished. Organics and spices. Smoke. Horse sweat. Apple. Rotting fruit.
With a few drops of water the sweeter elements come forward. Then the organics return.
Taste: Smooth and soft start with a distinct apple flavour. Big sweet centre. Long fruity burn.
Fabulous mouth feel at cask strength. It becomes a little grittier with some water.
Diluted to about 50% it became even grittier and hotter. Winey finish. No improvement.
Score: 88 points - believe it or not, but this is a malt that should be enjoyed at cask strength.
Don't panic - as long as you make sure to take small sips, even a 62.1% whisky is perfectly drinkable.
Braes of Glenlivet 1977/2000 Madeira Wood (43%, Montgomerie's, D. 19/10/1977, B. October, C#100763)
Nose: Very rich! Fruity. Sweet with candied lemon peel and turkish delight.
Taste: Toffee & coffee. A little gritty on the palate. Oaky and winey dry in the finish.
Score: 85 points - but this Madeira Braes needs several tastings before you really get to know it.
Braes of Glenlivet 10yo 1987/1997 (61.8%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve)
Nose: Big, rich and complex - but not as sherried as some older Cadenhead's expressions I've tried.
Some 'grainy' notes as well - the 'attick of a grain warehouse' variety rather than the paint thinner variety.
Very subtle organics - half a kilometre away from a cow farm. Maybe a distant dash of peat? Water kills it.
Taste: Lovely minty sweetness on the palate at cask strength. Doesn't respond as strongly to water as the nose.
The sweetness combined with a light peppery feeling and a hint of pine worked surprisingly well.
Score: 80 points - a recommendable malt whisky - but just barely...
Braes of Glenlivet 17yo 1979/1997 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, 70cl)
Nose: A deep and powerful sherry symphony. Amazing complexity. Oriental notes.
Starts out with lots of autumn forest notes and keeps developing from there.
And that's before I added water. When I did, the nose became fruitier - but I wouldn't say it improved.
Taste: Very sherried burn, with a peppermint counterpoint. Good wood.
Marzipan in the finish. With water, the finish became too woody and dry.
Score: 87 points - sing Hallelujah! Another amazing discovery. This bottle may have sucked when I opened it, but it didn't suck! A bit like an Aberlour A'bunadh 'avant la lettre'. Hold the water on this one - it's almost perfect as it is.
Braes of Glenlivet 8yo 1987/1995 (62.7%, Cadenhead's, D06/87, B07/95, 5cl)
Nose: Ah! Smooth and complex with whiffs of gooseberry. Organics. Polished. Wowie!
Over time it becomes very intriguing with plenty of old sherry and tobacco. Subtle sweetness.
This smells like an old men's club where they have been smoking good cigars for many years.
Taste: Aahh... Sweet and powerful at cask strength, with sherry and smoke. Hint of peat?
It has a few traits that keep it from reaching the 90's - something oily and sandy on the palate.
Score: 87 points - this is another great Braeval but after a while the palate betrays its age.
Still a mighty fine dram, mind you - if you can find any. But then again I haven't had a bad one yet.
Braes of Glenlivet 15yo (43%, Kirsch Import, bottle #328 of 690, Bottled +/- 1995)
Nose: Faintly sherried, becoming stronger. Cookies? Nice but dim. It improves in the glass.
Rounder and sweeter with time, but it keeps a relatively low profile.
Taste: Harsh start. A little dusty, but then it brightens up. Liquorice root?
Sherry. Decent burn; quite dry. Sandy. Remains a little bitter in the finish.
Score: 79 points - This malt simply has to many little faults in the taste to reach 'highly recommendable' status.
It was enticing enough to make me curious about other bottlings, though...
Braes of Glenlivet 15yo 1979/1995 (60.0%, Signatory, Sherry Butt #16040, D6/6/79, B3/95, 1200 Bottles, 5cl)
Nose: Oh, boy - we have a winner... Rich woody & fruity notes. Autumn leaves.
This is a real sherry monster in the style of the 'old' Glendronach 15yo. Lovely.
After a few minutes it has grown much more complex than the 'Dronach ever was.
Incredibly rich with lots of pipe tobacco. Hints of clay and smoke. Powerful.
Taste: Big and sweet - you barely notice that it's 60%. Firm and fruity.
Not as complex as the nose, but sufficiently entertaining on the palate.
Score: 92 points - what a big bad sherry monster! How Macallan should be.
It might scare some people away, but I admire the uncompromising character.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Braeval Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Braeval page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Braeval expressions that have been released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Is the distillery or