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Lindores Abbey Distillery - Front | Abbey Whisky Online

Friday Focus - Lindores Abbey Distillery

Back in the early years of Abbey Whisky, some 12 or so years ago, we visited the nearby village of Newburgh, scrambling onto a wall to view the inconspicuous and somewhat overgrown ruins of a 12th century Abbey associated with the earliest recorded written documentation of Scotch Whisky production. At the time, we didn't venture further to explore and so it seems appropriate that we are returning many years later to tour the mysterious ruins and visit the more recent distillery which was built in 2017 on the original site of the Abbey. This lowland distillery is very local to us and holds a fascinating back story, so we're excited to learn more.

Lindores Abbey Distillery | Corrugated Side of Distillery | Abbey Whisky


It's a sunny day as we drive through the pretty Fife countryside with its quaint villages of pan-tiled, sandstone cottages and you certainly get a sense of history in the area. Lindores Abbey is located on the outskirts of Newburgh overlooking the River Tay. On arrival, we're struck by the bold, black corrugated barn like appearance of the new distillery which hints at its farming connections. This is very much farming country and the rich fertile banks of the Tay were celebrated by the monks at the Abbey who were known for their growing skills and working the land. Barley grown in the surrounding fields once tended by these monks is used in the production of Lindores whisky today.


We're met at the entrance by Murray from Lindores who's kindly going to show us around. The interior of the distillery is lovely, a stunning mix of wood, stone and glass letting the sunshine stream in and our eyes are immediately drawn to the long exhibition hall with its vaulted ceiling and beautifully restored stone wall (originally belonging to the farm's barn). The most beautiful bespoke oak table carved from the wood of one tree runs the length of the room, adorned with a mixture of artefacts found during the archeological digs which took place prior to the construction of the distillery, as well as information about the history of the Abbey and the monks who resided here many centuries ago. The foyer area at the entrance leads off into snug spaces, beautifully lit and set up for whisky tasting. The place is surprisingly busy for a Wednesday morning in early Autumn. A real buzz of activity with visitors enjoying tours and nosing glasses.

Lindores Abbey Distillery Ruins | Abbey Whisky


As we pass through the courtyard and cross the road from the distillery into the ruins of the Abbey, Murray informs us that we're technically crossing from  Lowland region into Highland region, at least in Scotch Whisky terms. The original Abbey, some of which still stands today, can be dated back to 1191AD. Built by 'Guido' the 1st Abbot of Lindores, the son of the Earl of Warwick who came from the Abbey at Kelso with fellow monks from the Tironesian order to build the Abbey. On its completion, the Abbey measured 195 feet long by 110 feet wide and would have spanned both sides of the road including the land on which the distillery now sits. Standing on a grassy lawn, the surrounding red stone walls of the Abbey tower above us in places, reminding us of its scale and historical significance but the trees and vegetation reclaiming what remains, adds to the quiet tranquility of the place, a reflective place you want to spend more time in. Scottish Kings, William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots were amongst its notable guests. Sadly much of the Abbey was destroyed and abandoned between 1543 and 1559 prior to the reformation and what we see today is all that's left. One fascinating fact we learned from Murray was that stones from the destroyed Abbey were taken by locals to use for building many of the houses and buildings that still stand in Newburgh today.


The Grandfather of Drew Mackenzie Smith (Lindores Distillery founder) bought the farm, house and Abbey in its entirety in 1913 and the family were unaware of its links to Scotch Whisky until esteemed Whisky writer Michael Jackson included a chapter in his book Scotland and its Whiskies about Lindores Abbey and declared 'For a whisky lover, it's a pilgrimage'. Through his research, he'd discovered an entry in 1494 from the Exchequer roll of Scotland "For Friar John Cor (of Lindores Abbey), eight bolls of malted barley wherewith to make Aqua Vitae for the King" which happens to be the earliest known written reference to the production of what we now call whisky. This revelation was the seed that started the journey to build a distillery on the site culminating with its opening in 2017. As Murray points out, extensive archeological investigations prior to the building of the distillery have found evidence of an early still, possibly used in the production process.

There is authenticity and history here in abundance and that's something Lindores are clearly very proud and protective of. However, this isn't a whisky theme park style visitor attraction set up to play on the back of a historical connection to whisky. There's evidently a great deal of focus on the future with subtle nods to the past and great excitement for the whisky yet to come. Lindores Aqua Vitae is a nod to the past. This malt spirit was distilled in a pot still and infused with herbs and botanicals that grow in the gardens at Lindores, just as the monks would have done in the production of the Aqua Vitae they were producing in 1494.

Lindores Abbey Distillery Washbacks and Stills | Abbey Whisky


All barley used in the production process is grown locally in the fields surrounding the distillery and harvested by a local farmer before being transported to Alloa for malting. All barley used at Lindores is unpeated and has sweet characteristics. Water is sourced from a borehole in the nearby Ochils rift. 

Now in the still room, with its huge glass frontage overlooking the Abbey ruins, the contrast between history and modern production is very evident. Traditional washbacks built from Douglas Fir trees dominate one side of the room housing the wort for the fermentation process. Lindores differs from a lot of distilleries in that they keep the liquid in the washbacks for longer, (approximately 119 hours) allowing bacteria to increase and giving rise to more fruity characteristics. The beautiful twin spirit, copper stills gleam in the sunshine. Again, differing from other, traditional distilleries, the process of having smaller twin stills over one larger single still is said to allow for greater copper contact, adding a depth of flavour to the liquid. These tweaks to traditional methods combined with a slower fermentation process allow Lindores to create characteristics and a depth of flavour within their award winning spirit, even prior to maturation. 

Lindores Abbey Distillery Cask Bung | Abbey Whisky Online

Distillery Manager Gary Haggart shows us round the distilleries on site warehouse to view some of the slumbering casks. A fascinating place with all the aroma you'd expect from spirit resting in oak. Taking an approach to maturation favoured by the late and esteemed Jim Swan, Lindores mature their spirit in 3 types of cask, ex Bourbon, ex Sherry and STR Wine Barriques and then combine these to produce their core single malt whisky, the first batch of which was released in 2021 along with a commemorative bottling. The "Casks of Lindores' series showcases the characteristics of Lindores spirit matured exclusively in each type of cask. The first release has been matured in an ex bourbon cask, the second in an STR wine Barrique and we're excitedly expecting the imminent release of the Sherry expression any day now.

Gary was excited to show us a particularly special and mysterious collection of casks currently maturing Lindores spirit. The dusty, old, blackened and seeping characteristics of the wood had us excited for the day we get to sample the results. You can tell there is experimentation in maturation being conducted here and the enthusiasm from Gary, Murray and team about what to expect in the future is infectious. We sampled some exceptional drams at Lindores and one in particular stood out for us with its rich, fruity and robust character. It's evident the work Lindores are putting into production is having clear results. With such a rich and colourful past, they certainly have the recipe for a bright future just right.

The knowledge and enthusiasm of the Lindores team and the captivating history of the Abbey's past combined to create a memorable experience that we can't recommend highly enough. 

Lindores Abbey Distillery Cask Sample Which was Devine | Abbey Whisky Online

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