The opening of the Lindores Abbey Distillery on August 30th, in the county of Fife—and its first spirit run on December 13th—was a step back into Scotch distilling history—way back. Lindores features in the first recorded evidence of Scotch distillation in the Exchequer Rolls of 1494/95, noting in translation from the Latin: “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae.”
Cor was a member of the Tironensian order of monks who had constructed Lindores Abbey during the late 12th century, and it was probably an apothecary. The bolls of malt in question were used to make aqua vitae—or whisky—for King James IV.
Today, the ruins of Lindores Abbey are in the ownership of the McKenzie Smith family. The new Lindores Abbey Distillery, with husband and wife Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith at the helm, is located in the converted and expanded abbey farmstead that was built using stone from the original abbey.
The distillery includes a visitor center and on-site warehouses. “We are starting out making 150,000 liters of spirit per year from our two stills, but we have left space to double the number of washbacks from four to eight, leading to a theoretical total of 850,000 lpa [liters of pure alcohol annually],” says Drew McKenzie Smith. That’s about 4,000 barrels per year.
The spirits are true to tradition, using local barley and water sourced from the same well used in 1494. Their single malt will be “light and floral, a classic Lowland style,” according to McKenzie Smith. “We are filling most of what we make into first-fill bourbon casks from Old Forester and Woodford Reserve,” he adds.
Lindores is also producing a flavored malt aqua vitae that replicates a 15th century spirit. “This was exactly what friar John Cor and his fellow monks made. We use ingredients found locally, including honey, along with dried fruits and spices, which we know the monks imported,” says McKenzie Smith.
Ultimately, McKenzie Smith hopes to import aqua vitae into the States, and he notes that, “We will also be releasing some new make spirit for sale, and are looking at offering regular ‘work in progress’ bottlings until the whisky comes of age.
“I’m hugely excited to see distilling return here after 500 years. We’re bringing Scotch whisky home, and I hope John Cor would be proud!”