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