Home Distilleries Review: Balvenie “The Edge of Burnhead Wood”

Review: Balvenie “The Edge of Burnhead Wood”

by Chris Perugini

Everyone loves a good story.

The Balvenie realized this last year when they released the 2019 “Stories” range, featuring three very different expressions accompanied by the origins behind their creation. From a chance encounter of an errant barley delivery to an in-depth look at Balvenie’s annual “peat week” (where they create nothing put peated malt for a week), I’m guessing that there are no shortage of “Stories”-worthy releases maturing in The Balvenie warehouses. If you were ever wondering what a distillery does will all those experimental whiskies they create, this is certainly one way to get unusual releases to market.

The COVID-19 crisis slowed the global release of the 2020 Stories bottlings but the first release of 2020 (technically the 6th in the Stories series) is out in Europe called “The Edge of Burnhead Wood.” This release is unique in that it’s the first Balvenie expression made entirely with home-grown ingredients: their own barley, local water source, and heather gathered from the estate’s Burnhead Wood. The dried heather was used during malting similar to the way peat is sometimes added to the kiln during the drying process. This expression is aged entirely in ex-bourbon barrels and aged 19 years before being bottled at 48.7% ABV. The price for this hovers around £260 in the UK so I suspect a $350 MSRP when this eventually hits the US. With the 21 Year Portwood sitting on shelves for less, this price tag is likely to make people think twice when browsing the shelves.

Thanks to Andy at @whiskyprism for hooking me up with a sample of this and for supplying one of the only nice photos of this bottle out there right now!

Balvenie The Edge of Burnhead Wood
Photo by @whiskyprism
The Balvenie Edge of Burnhead Wood 19 Year - 48.7% ABV
Category Notes
Appearance Light gold
Nose Orange marmalade, fresh-cut flowers, lemon tart, malty, vanilla, honey, toasted oats, baked apples. There’s a really nice creaminess to this nose that I think is driven heavily by the casks.
Taste Chocolate orange candy, some really nice honey, lemon peel, marshmallow, oak, hint of clove, lavender, sultanas, ginger, hint of dates.
Finish First, a wave of sour, fruity candy (closer to Smarties than Sour Patch Kids), vanilla, rose petals, caramel, vanilla, the oak is the last note in and one of the last notes out. A long, well-layered finish.
Overall Thoughts If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that this was a well-aged Rosebank. Floral notes are nice in Speysiders but what makes this Balvenie expression work so well is how nicely complemented the floral notes are by the perfect amount and style of oak. The oak is vibrant and deep without giving off that “old oak” note. The big vanilla and creaminess hints at first fill casks though I’m pretty sure they used refill barrels for this one. This whisky exceeded my expectations and is extremely well-done.
Total Score 93/100
Balvenie "The Edge of Burnhead Wood"

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