SMWS Advent Calendar: Day 23

Christmas is coming ever closer, with Christmas Eve being just a day away. It’s also Friday night, so all things considered it’s a time well suited for a special dram. And thankfully, the SMWS agrees! For today we find a 23-year-old Braeval behind door number 23 of the SMWS Advent Calendar. They nicknamed this refill ex-bourbon aged dram: Thumbs-Up. So, lets find out if it also gets the Thumbs-Up from me!

Tasting Notes: Society Cask 113.43 “Thumbs-Up”

ABV: 55.6% (111.2 proof)

Age: 23 years old

Distillery: Braeval

Bottled by: The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Category: Single Malt Scotch Whisky

SMWS Flavour Profile: Sweet, Fruity & Mellow

Chill-filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes


I’ve let Thumbs-Up sit in the glass for a minute or twenty. After all you know what they say: A year in a cask needs a minute in the glass. When I dive in, I’m finding a rather delicate nose with plenty of fruity sweetness. There’s plenty of yellow grape, with a hint of tangerines and orange zest. But there’s also vanilla, apple and a little bit of oak. The strangest note I’m getting is pickle water though. And though that might not sound all that appealing, it comes in a rather unobtrusive way. Water reveals a cherry cream kind of note. Like a cherry flavoured yoghurt candy.


A gorgeous, light, sparkling cider comes first on the palate. Followed by quite a bit of ethanol heat. There’s some spice to it as well, which seems to give me a mixture between cinnamon and red pepper. There’s some papaya in here as well, which I absolutely adore. And there’s more tangerine, but this time it’s the peel that shines through. Some vanilla and tannins seem to have formed an alliance in the best sort of way. This is a very pleasant palate indeed. I added quite a few drops of water in the end, as I felt that especially the palate needed it. I wanted to have a better look behind that ethanol layer. And I’m glad that I did! It transformed this dram into a dream. It added powdered sugar, nutmeg and cotton candy to the mix. While taking away the sharpness of the ethanol as I had hoped.


The finish is medium long, and finds itself somewhere between a trifecta of sweet, sour and bitter. The sweetness could be best described as vanilla ice cream, the sour note would be passion fruit, and the bitter note comes from a popsicle stick. I wouldn’t have minded if it lasted even longer, but it still has a decent length finish as it is. Water doesn’t really lengthen the finish, but it doesn’t cut it short either. It does bring forth the sweetness a bit more and plays the bitterness down a bit. Just what this dram needed.


What a lovely dram this turned out to be. The palate was a bit too hefty for me from the get-go, but water revealed an amazing dram. With water it became one of my favourite drams from this calendar. But without it I’m afraid it wouldn’t fare as well. Nonetheless, if you find the right amount of dilution, you’ll have yourself an absolutely stellar dram. And that makes Thumb-Up a whisky I would love to own a bottle from, just so I can keep experimenting with it. Pick this one up and see for yourself if you can!



How did I know this was a Braeval? Just look at the code and find it in my SMWS bottle codes list!

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