#6 Lindores Abbey Road

Last of 2021 but not least


The last distillery visit of the year was in a very special place: Lindores Abbey! 

And, as quickly as it came, Christmas 2021 was gone, with the usual few pounds added to our waist, giving us a goal for the first months of 2022. We finally came back to Leith, what we now call “home”, and as we arrived, we felt relieved. Staying in Italy for over a month was really nice, but definitely an overkill.
We were eager to come back also because we had planned a visit to a new distillery: Lindores Abbey! The distillery is in Fife, just about an hour away from the city. We could have visited it in other occasions, but because of its wider historical interest, we wanted to wait for someone visiting us to make the trip. Occasion that finally arrived, as Gianluigi’s friends Roberto and Cecilia, with their wee one, were in town to spend New Year’s Eve with us!

Gianluigi and Roberto left early to pick up the car in a small rental place in Tollcross, a bit far from Leith but the only one applying a decent rate for an extra driver – Roberto was eager to try driving on the left side for the first time. After a small breakfast, we were on the road! The ride was smooth in a nicer weather than forecasted, Roberto had no problem adjusting to the different side of the road. After we left the Forth Road bridge and the M90 and right before driving into the village of Newburgh we spotted another distillery on our left: Aberargie. This is a new one as well, owned by Morrison Distillers (Carn Mor series, Old Perth, Strathern distillery) – from the road the building looked very nice, and we could even see the stills.

Warm-up pictures before the distillery visit.

We arrived at Lindores Abbey a few minutes later. The distillery is in a very nice setting, surrounded by hills and looking towards the water. We will learn that the barley used by them comes from the surrounding fields. The distillery was carefully designed in 2015, while production started in 2017, with their first single malt released just a few months back, in 2021.

We checked in, and after a wee while the tour started. First stop, the “table room”, just in front of the visitor centre hall, with (as you might have guessed) a huge table in the middle. Here, our guide Matt delved into the history of the site, starting from the Abbey, built in the 12th century and one of the centres of religious (but not only) power in the Middle-Ages Scotland, which was also visited by a number of kings and queens. Destroyed during the reformations, a farm was then built on the site. The history is made very interesting by a draw of the abbey reconstruction, and an actual wall of the original building wall still standing a few metres outside the window. And the old spirit line, dividing Lowlands and Highlands, was even closer.

Lindores Abbey now…
…And then.

We moved to production, first into the milling room, where, of course, they could not possibly have a Porteus mill as most older distilleries, because Porteus were making such fine machines that they went bankrupt during one of the few whisky downturns. Similarly to few other distilleries (Tullibardine being one), mashtun, washbacks and stills are in the same space.

What a shiny mashtun!

Here, there is also a remember of Dr. Jim Swan, the whisky guru who helped Lindores Abbey (among many other distillery) set up and passed away prematurely just days before their first spirit was produced. Back to the stills, there are one wash still and two spirit stills – a peculiarity is that the latter two work in parallel, not in sequence, so the spirit is distilled twice, first in the wash still, then half in one spirit still, and half in the other one.

Distilling lesson nr. 1 for the wee one.

The stills are very close to a huge window on the old abbey remains, but on the other side is also possible to spot the site where, a few years back, it was found a small crater which seems to confirm that distilling was actually happening in the Middle Ages, well before 1494, date of the king’s aqua vitae order to Brother John Cor. Unfortunately, the dig area was covered with a big plastic tarp for conservation reasons, and Matt told us that samples are being dated. This was quite exciting news, as the results could change the history of distilling in Scotland!
We moved to the warehouse, where many different casks were displayed on the metal racks: ex-bourbon barrels, ex-port pipes, hogsheads, quarters, octaves, and so on. Thanks to the Grattamacco visit, we could more easily spot (what we thought were) the ex-french red wine casks. Clearly, a lot of experimentation is going on here!

Uh uh, these are taller than me!

Finally, the tasting! First dram, their main single malt, the MCDXCIV (or 1494), slightly over 3 years of age, non-coloured and non-chill filtered, made up with 3 different types of cask: ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and STR (shaved toasted and re-charred, one of the many legacies of Jim Swan in the whisky industry). Second dram, the aqua vitae, a similar recipe to the one Friar John Cor used, but without some ingredients to avoid losing the “spirit” nomenclature. The smell and taste reminded us a hybrid between a grappa and an amaro – not our cup of tea honestly, but it might be very good in a cocktail.

The tasting.

After the tour we decided to have a snack at the distillery’s cafeteria, ordering a charcuterie board to share and thinking: “we will have something later”…however the plate was so abundant (and delicious) that no other meal was needed until dinner! Definitely recommended!

Back in the car, direction St. Andrews, as our friends had never been. The village was very quiet with that typical atmosphere of the days before a party. We did a long stroll between the university buildings, the cathedral and castle ruins, and our favourite part, the pier and the beach. As it became dark, we got back to the car and slowly drove back to Leith.

It’s getting dark in St. Andrews…

This was our last distillery visit of 2021. The year started with lot of uncertainty, but in spite of that we somehow managed to do some great whisky trips and visit quite a few distilleries all over Scotland. Still, there is a quite big gap in the whisky trips: Islay! Maybe 2022 will be the one….?

For now, sláinte, and see you soon!

Lindores Abbey Tour & Tasting

Price: £15.00 pp (December 2021)

Tasting: 2 drams, the MCDXCIV single malt (46%, NAS, NC, NCF*) and the aqua vitae (40%)

Target: casual tourists and whisky enthusiasts

Value for money: good

Highlights: the history of the site

Distillery exclusive expression: cask strength ex-sherry cask #18/95 (61.4%, NAS, NC, NCF)

Link: https://lindoresabbeydistillery.com/

*NAS: non-age statement, NC: non-coloured, NCF: non-chill filtered

#5.2 Run through the stills

Race day and Glen Garioch

(Day 2 & 3)


After weeks of training, the race is finally here! And after the run, a well-deserved trip to Glen Garioch distillery. 

(missed Day 1?)

The day of the Dramathon is here, finally! We woke up very rested after a dram-less night. Off to a quick breakfast (toasts and jam for Gianluigi, a huuuuge porridge bowl for Teresa), then we drove to Dufftown to the race meeting point, the Glenfiddich distillery parking lot. Because of Decathlon gear colour choices and a lack of attention, Gianluigi looked like a smurf…at least he matched Cliff!

The RunnerSmurf.

At this point our destinies separated, Gianlugi took the “half-dram” (i.e. half marathon) coaches to get to the start at the Tamdhu station, while a bit later Teresa got to the “wee dram” (i.e. 10k) start in Aberlour.

G.: As usual, I was a bit nervous before the race started. The day was ideal to run: not-too-cold and sunny-ish. The first part of the trail, along the former Speyside train line, was mostly downhill, therefore I could keep a nice and steady pace. A few kms in, I could admire the newly built Dalmunach distillery, on the site of the now demolished Imperial: a truly beautiful building, which I hope to visit someday. The middle of the course is in the Aberlour village, and from this point it’s almost all (very mildly) uphill. My GPS was a bit wrong about both the total ascent (180m on paper vs. 80m on my device) and the distance (900m short)…when I saw the Balvenie distillery I realised that I was about to finish, so I sprinted towards the end line, finishing in about 1 hour and 25 minutes. It was a very nice experience, and I loved the course, probably one of the best I ran so far (not that they are many…). The prize was quite fitting for the event: a wooden medal from a dismissed cask and four 50ml miniatures: Balvenie 12, Glenfiddich 12, Monkey Shoulder and Glenfarclas 12 (unfortunately, no Tamdhu, which I’d have loved!).

The prize: Speyside drams and the original “medal”.

T.: I strongly disagree with Gianluigi’s “not too cold”. After waiting 2 hours for the bus (with just a wee stop at the Dufftown whisky shop to nose around) and then at least half an hour for the race to start, I can safely say that it was freezing! Not too bad, as I normally perform (well, survive) better when it’s cold. I don’t have much to add on the course itself (the 10k course was the same as the second part of the half marathon), except that it was very enjoyable. The view of the huge warehouses as I was approaching Dufftown was stunning. Same prize at the end except for the Glenfarclas (fair enough, it was still the wee dram), and I was soooo happy for making it under the hour!

Hooray? Hooray!

After Teresa finished, we grabbed a warm soup and tea while waiting for the award ceremony and went back to the hotel in Rothes. A bit of relax sipping from the hardly earned miniatures, a shower, and for dinner we had a special plan: we had booked a table at the Station Hotel. This hotel/bar/restaurant is owned by the Forsyth company, and according to some is the place where the really important whisky meetings happen. We treated outselves with adult-cow meat and a delicious dessert. Then, a few drams at the bar (worth of mention, the now dismissed Arran 14y) before going back to the hotel for a well-deserved sleep.

We woke up quite early, and after breakfast Cliff drove us in a very foggy Speyside (the fog won’t leave us until we got in Fife, making Gianluigi homesick of Northern Italy). The first stop of the day was the Macallan distillery. Neither of us is particularly fond of this brand (it’s the only distillery not offering tours and tastings, rather “experiences”…) but we were curious to see the building. So, despite all available “experiences” were sold out for the day, we went in aiming for a coffee and the peek. We have to say, the building is quite spectacular, it felt like being in a modern art museum lobby…or in an airport.

The Macallan stills – hopefully one day we’ll get closer!

The courtesy of the receptionist, which welcomed us very warmly and explained where things were, was counterbalanced by the rudeness of the waitress who served us. After the quick coffee we could walk inside to admire the unique circular disposition of the stills. On the way out we also saw the old distillery building, and wondered if one of their “experiences” included that as well.

Back on the road, our next stop was a completely different one: Glen Garioch, in Oldmeldrum (Aberdeenshire), one of the oldest in Scotland. A few months back, in an interview on Mark Gillespie’s WhiskyCast, we learned that the distillery is undergoing many renovation works, including moving back to directly fired stills and the restoration of the old malting floors, which would be used to produce a peated malt, in contrast with what is produced today. Beam Suntory, the owner of this and a few other distilleries, is also pursuing a peatland restoration plan, since peat use has a fair impact on carbon emission.

Look what’s at the end of Distillery Road…a distillery!

The malting floors and the wee bothy.

As we checked in, our guide Rob walked us in a very nice bothy on the side of the malting floors, which used to be the excise man office. We sat on a very comfortable sofa with four drams in front of us, while Rob told us the story of the distillery and maaany details about the production (thanks for the patience answering all our questions!). We were very curious, since Glen Garioch is not one of the most common single malts for us – we had a bottle of their non-age statement core range expression (the Founder’s Reserve, 50%abv) early on but none since. The first dram was suspiciously transparent…In fact, it was the newmake! We moved on to the second (Gianluigi only sniffing), the Renaissance Chapter III (17y/o, 50.8%), a few years old series that marked a new phase in the distillery history. This was followed by a great dram: a 19y red-wine cask matured (48%). Finally, a very surprising dram: 2012 vintage cask strength, matured in a virgin American oak barrel from Missouri (single cask, 61.6%). This is part of a series as well, with the two others being matured in barrels made from Minnesota and Kentucky wood. The malt was really different, with very prominent bourbon notes (and colour), but still definitely a scotch single malt! Unfortunately, the price was a bit too steep, but definitely one to try!

The tasting.

Thanks to the lovely staff, at the shop we also tried the Renaissance Chapter II (16y/o, 51.4%), which we bought, and the Virgin oak (this time a vat of different barrels from North America, 2013 vintage bottled at 48%).

Back in the fog, destination Leith, happy for the Dramathon (yes, we’ll do it again) and another great whisky trip. Stay tuned and Slàinte!

Glen Garioch Masterclass

Price: £30.00 pp (October 2021)

Tasting: the newmake spirit and three drams: GG Renaissance Chapter III (17y, 50.8%, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry), GG red wine cask maturation (19y, 48%), and GG 2012 vintage Missouri virgin oak cask (61.6%)

Target: whisky amateurs and enthusiasts

Value for money: ok

Highlights: the tasting bothy and the kind shop manager

Things we did not like: we couldn’t take the newmake with us

Link: https://www.glengarioch.com/

#5.1 Run through the stills

Balvenie all the way!
(Day 1)


For the first post of 2022 we go back a few months: a trip to Speyside for the Dramathon and a couple of distillery visits, including our 50th! 

First things first, happy new year! And we hope you had good and resting holidays, possibly filled with drams!

In spite of the ongoing situation 2021 was a decent year, and we managed to “dram around” quite a bit and do a few whisky trips! One of the highlights was an event we attended back in October. This one has been on our radar for a while, but for various reasons we haven’t been able to attend before: the Dramathon! This combines two of our major extra-work activities, running and dramming.

Gianluigi has always been running, more or less. During his rugby years (first as player, then as referee) it was part of his training, of course. Since he moved on, running was the only activity he kept doing regularly. On the other hand, Teresa has never been a sporty lassie, but she recently got into running after realising she couldn’t run up the stairs without getting heavy breath. We already participated to a couple of races back in 2019, before the pandemic. For this one, we prepared for approximately a month and a half, and after recovering from Covid, so the aim was just to finish our respective races (Gian the half-marathon and Teresa the 10k) and have fun.

Of course, could we plan a trip to Speyside without visiting at least one distillery? Never! A couple of months before the race Gianluigi got in contact with Balvenie to ask if there were tours available and the answer was yes for the morning before the race, what a luck! That required our friend Justine handing over Cliff’s keys (don’t know who is Cliff? Read here!) the night before, and us leaving Leith early in the morning. The trip was smooth, except we had to refill gas at a gas station at Dalwhinnie, just a few hundred meters before the distillery. Getting off the car we realised that, when you read that Dalwhinnie is coldest place in Scotland, it might be right…the temperature drop from Leith was significant! From the gas station we quickly drove to Aviermore, Granton on Spey and finally entered mighty Speyside.

Celebrating the 50th distillery visit! (Credits to James for the pic)

Balvenie is a distillery we have been wanting to visit for a couple of years. However, during our first trip to Speyside in 2019 it was fully booked, while earlier this summer it was closed to visitors. The other important reason to celebrate is that we were reaching an important milestone, with this being the 50th (working) distillery visit! Nine of these distilleries were in Kentucky, US (including the Evan Williams micro-distillery in downtown Louisville), two in Ireland (excluding the former Jameson Bow St distillery) and 39 in Scotland (for the nerds: 3 in Campbeltown, 10 in Speyside, 6 in the Lowlands and 20 in the Highlands….still no Islay, thanks to Covid).

After checking in at Glenfiddich, the distillery ambassador and guide James met us at the visitor centre. While walking towards the maltings, he started introducing us to the history of the brand and the site.

We entered the malting building – we were really looking forward to this, and not just because it was freezing outside! The facility looked bigger than Springbank, and James told us that around 30% of the barley used to produce Balvenie gets malted here. We were really impressed by the golden “dunes” of barley, we could definitely see why this is one of the highlights of the tour! Next, the kiln itself (yes, we were inside the pagoda), where we got an understanding of the process, which very veeeeery roughly is a combination of heating and hoovering. James patiently let us take more pictures of the barley dunes on the way out.

Red Riding Hood and the Balvenie’s peat.

Then, we moved to the other stages of production. To our surprise, we discovered that the mashtuns and washbacks of Balvenie are just next to the mashtuns and washbacks of Kininvie, a sister distillery whose malt mainly goes into the Grant’s blends. So basically we visited one distillery and a half, yay! We could also see an extremely lively wort, double yay!

The still house was less of a surprise, but only because we had had the chance to briefly see it two years ago when we visited Glenfiddich. In the warehouse, James showed us a wooden tun used for the vatting.

A not-so-little gem in the warehouse: a wooden tun.

Now the tour (and what a tour!) was complete, so we moved to the tasting room, small and cosy.

An excellent tailored tasting.

When James heard that we had done a vertical Balvenie tasting very recently, he made sure the lineup for the tasting was completely new to us, so kind of him! First, we had the Balvenie Single Barrel. We both fell in love with this dram, and indeed this is the bottle we bought. Then the Distillery Exclusive Sherry Butt (61.3%), the 19y “Edge of burnhead wood” (48.7%, interesting experiment with heather, but not really our cup of tea), a yummy 21y Port wood (40%) and the Tun 1509 (Nas, 50.4%, batch 6). Chats around our whisky journey and the history of UK train lines (another James passion) accompanied the tasting.

Warm-up run along the river Spey.

This was probably one of the best, most complete tours we had so far, we couldn’t have celebrated the 50th distillery in a better way! We happily drove to Rothes, where we had our hotel booked. After a quick warm-up run (well, for Gianluigi, Teresa ehm….) we had a light dinner, resisting the drams temptation. We needed a good rest before the big day!

Balvenie Tour Tasting

Price: £50.00 pp (October 2021)

Tasting: 5 drams selected for us by the distillery ambassador – Balvenie Single Barrel (12y, 47.8%, ex-bourbon), Distillery Esxlusive Sherry Butt (16y, first fill oloroso, 61.3%), The edge of burnhead wood (19y, American oak barrels, 48.7%), Port wood (21y, 40%), and Tun 1509 (Nas but at least 21y, 50.4%).

Target: whisky enthusiasts and geeks

Value for money: good

Highlights: the kiln and the intimate tour

Things we did not like: nothing

Link: https://uk.thebalvenie.com/