Braeval (pronounced bray-varl) is a Speyside distillery that many people are unfamiliar with. It is a large, modern facility that was built in 1973 by Chivas Brothers, who are now a subsiduary of the large Pernod Ricard drinks company. The distillery is currently mothballed - a process where the owners cease production but the distillery remains intact and ready to start operating when required - and has been since 2002. Braeval is one of four distilleries located in the famous and picturesque Glen Livet (Glenlivet, Tamnavulin and Tomintoul being the others) and lies at the furthest end of the glen in a remote area called Braes of Glenlivet (you may occasionally find a bottle labelled with this name instead of Braeval).
So why is Braeval so unknown? The main reason is that no single malt whisky is officially released to the public by the owners. When it was operating, 99% of the whisky produced at Braeval (approx. four million litres a year) went towards Pernod Ricard's popular Chivas Regal blended range. The remaining 1% was sold to independent bottling companies and this remains the only way to buy whisky from this distillery. This bottling is released by Glasgow based Douglas Laing & Co. and forms part of their 'Old Malt Cask' range, where they bottle just one cask at a time and at 50% ABV. This one was matured in a large sherry butt, so is one of 761 bottles and should cost around £45 a bottle.
The colour is light and golden with a fragrant nose that is feels fresh and clean. There is vanilla, some cereal grains, dried fruit (especially think of sultanas) and a sweet, rich floral note (this reminded me of honeysuckle flowers). On the palate, there is less freshness and more instant sweetness. It feels thicker in the mouth than the nose suggests and is sugary on the tip of the tongue (think of caramel). A combination of elements battle away to get your attention and creates a bit of an imbalance - some dried fruit (sultanas again), some spice (imagine cinnamon or nutmeg), vanilla, something grassy (think of dried grass or hay), a citrus tang (imagine lemon zest) and just a hint of smokiness (this is a fairly unpleasant acrid type of smokiness that reminded me of burning rubber/screaching tyres!). Some water was added due to the strength with the nose becoming more floral (think of a floral perfume) and the smokiness becoming more noticeable and more acrid. The finish is fairly light and pleasant enough with sweet vanilla and some zingy citrus notes. Unfortunately, the taste of that burning rubber spoils everything afterwards.