Originally called Braes of Glenlivet, this distillery was one of several established on Speyside during a period of expansion in the early 1970’s, prior to a worldwide decline in demand for whisky. Nowadays known as simply Braeval following a name change in 1994, the distillery is capable of producing 4 million litres annually and this spirit is overwhelming destined for blends within the Chivas range. As for the name change despite its geographical proximity, Glenlivet distillery was voicing displeasure regarding the age old tradition of nearby distilleries of using its name in the title. This practice was due to the popularity of Glenlivet as a single malt and a benchmark of quality, but the widespread use of the suffix has mostly passed into the history books.
Braeval is a remote and isolated distillery that rivals Dalwhinnie in terms of its elevation. It’s situated in the midst of a glen that was popular in bygone times with illicit distillers and smugglers. Established in 1974, the distillery was designed to be operated by just a handful of employees with this becoming a solitary worker in 1997. An extremely efficient and automated process kept costs low which is a vital component for any supplier to blending stock. In terms of distilling history Braeval is extremely light on detail but has undergone various bouts of expansion with the number of stills being increased to 5 shortly after commencing production, and in 1976 these were increased again to today’s total of 6. Compared to other distilleries constructed during this period, Braeval at least looks like a distillery, with the distinctive pagoda present despite no floor malting ever taking place on the site.
Its efficiency is what kept the distillery open during the difficult 1980’s when demand for whisky slowly recovered. Other less viable and historical distilleries were closed in favour of newer producers. In 2001, after the acquisition of Chivas by Pernod Ricard, Braeval was closed the following year along with All-A-Bhainne, BenRiach, Caperdonich and Glen Keith, as another slump in whisky demand transpired. Only when the green shoots of recovery were firmly established in 2008, did Braeval recommence production.
Often compared to its sister distillery Allt-A-Bhainne, both remain efficient and typical Speyside distilleries with no single malt presence or visitor facilities. In fact, neither possess warehousing for maturation, as the spirit is shipped off via tanker to a central facility where it is then put into casks and laid down. They exist only to produce for various blends but this doesn’t mean that they don’t have value or worth as a single malt. Both distilleries via the independent bottlers have shown a confidence and the classic unpeated Speyside characteristics that ensure when such releases do appear, they are well received. It’s this sense of the unknown that attracts many to discover both distillers, with Braeval also occasionally making an appearance via the Deerstalker bottling.
Bottlings of Braeval due to its youthful age are mainly teenagers with some now reaching into the 20-year-old or above bracket. The main type of cask favoured are ex-bourbon with some whiskies matured in sherry butts also appearing in the marketplace. In recent times Chivas have sought to highlight distilleries within its ranks via the occasional special release at cask strength such as Tormore, perhaps one day Braeval will receive such an honour.