For whatever reason, the Braes of Glenlivet, now known as Braeval, filled a lot of fresh bourbon barrels in 1994. Dozens of single cask bottlings have hit the market over the last couple of years. It seems probable this is because the casks are approaching or over two decades old and the small bourbon barrels will impart more oak to the spirit than slightly larger hogsheads would.
This whisky going into this expression was distilled in 1994, aged in two ex-bourbon barrels, then proofed down to 46% and bottled without coloring or chill filtration in 2014. I purchased a sample from WhiskyBase, which is unfortunately sold out now.
Càrn Mòr Braes of Glenlivet 19 Year 1994/2014
Nose: generically malty with somewhat tired bourbon barrel influence, hints of caramel, something a bit metallic, tropical fruit esters, musky melon, a touch of solvent in the background, cinnamon graham crackers. After adding a drop of water, it becomes more integrated, though the fruit becomes more grape-y and less tropical, and the wood becomes more evident.
Taste: solid malt and barrel sweetness up front, mixed bourbon barrel fruit (almost sherried) emerging with time, fading through slightly tired oak with a savory/yeasty edge and a touch of green malt. After dilution, it comes together better - the malt and oak integrate, the wood becomes a bit perkier, balanced by the fruit esters and some citrus top notes (lemon curd).
Finish: very pleasantly malty, lingering mixed fruit esters, mild oak, vanilla
This is one of those whiskies that really seems to suffer for having been bottled at 46%. There are hints of better things that might have been more readily apparent at full strength, but as is they're too indistinct. At the same time, it gets a bit perkier with water, so it may just be that 46% isn't the sweet spot. There's nothing wrong with it as it is per se, but neither is there anything that grabs me. I can see how this would be a solid base for a blend, but it needs something more to really come together. Perhaps unsurprisingly Càrn Mòr bottled another barrel of Braeval from the same vintage at full strength, which seems to have gotten much better reviews.
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