Spiritual home of Scotch Whisky opens its doors after 500 years

Spiritual home of Scotch Whisky opens its doors after 500 years

Lindores Abbey Distillery in Fife, site of the first recorded whisky distillation in Scotland, will preserve historic landmark with revival of production and visitor centre.


Fri, 06 Oct 2017


Lindores Abbey Distillery

523 years after the first written record of Scotch whisky distillation in Scotland was recorded in the exchequer rolls, whereby Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey in Fife paid duty on eight bolls of malt to make aqua vitae (500 70 cl bottles) for King James IV, the water of life is to flow once more at Scotch whisky’s most historic location. 

Drew McKenzie Smith and his wife Helen - custodians of Lindores Abbey - unveiled the £7 million visitor centre and distillery today (Thursday, 5th October, 2017) in a ceremony opened by one of Fife’s favourite sons and whisky fan, author Ian Rankin, who welcomed future generations of whisky pilgrims through the doors of the innovative new distillery. 

Set on the pilgrim route of the banks of the River Tay, Lindores Abbey (Church by the Water) was founded in 1191 by David Earl of Huntingdon on land gifted him by his brother King William I. Tironensian monks from France settled on the site, rich with fertile lands and strong trade links, creating a place of significance to Scottish royalty, warriors and enlightened horticulture and brewing over centuries. 

Lindores Abbey Distillery will commence distillation of its first spirit in October, using 100% Fife barley, overseen by Distillery Manager Gary Haggart and whisky consultant Andy Cant. With three unique stills and four traditional wooden washbacks built by renowned coppersmiths Forsyths of Rothes, and a two tonne mash tun, the distillery will produce 150,000 litres of spirit a year, to be stored in Woodford Reserve and Old Forester bourbon barrels from Kentucky.

Membership of the Lindores Abbey Preservation Society ensures the future of the spiritual home of Scotch whisky, with 1494 members receiving a bottle from the first Limited Edition bottling of Lindores Abbey Aqua Vitae (50CL, 40%ABV); a bottle (one of only 1494) from the first distillery bottling of Lindores Abbey Single Malt Whisky (70CL, 40%+ ABV), delivered when the distillery manager declares it ready. Also, the 1494 members will be given first offer on any other Limited Edition bottlings and rights to their own bottle number each time. These much sought after memberships are available for purchase through the Lindores Abbey website. 

In a unique move, Lindores Abbey Distillery will not produce gin from its new make spirit in the interim three year wait for Scotch whisky status. In-keeping with its unique heritage, Lindores Abbey will produce aqua vitae, initially for sale exclusively from the visitor centre in Newburgh. Taking inspiration from the provenance of the original brewing and agriculture of the Abbey grounds, Lindores Abbey Aqua Vitae will include herbs and spices which would have grown on the site in 1494 and been used in the spirit production. Bee hives are also being reintroduced to revive the honey production of the monks, and orchards are being planted where Scotland’s largest pear tree once stood. To take advantage of this innovation, an apothecary has been created within the visitor centre, overseen by Heriot Watt Brewing and Distilling graduate, Tim Foster. Foster is working with Haggart and the award-winning team behind Timberyard restaurant in Edinburgh to produce recipes and distilling techniques for Lindores Abbey Aqua Vitae, which will be available later this year.

Built directly on the site of the Lindores dairy farm steading Drew McKenzie Smith’s great grandfather bought in 1913, the Lindores Abbey Visitor Centre has been crafted from original Abbey stone. It features an illustrated history of the Tironensian monks who founded the Abbey. Masons, distillers, brewers, carpenters, blacksmiths, sculptors, painters, gardeners, beekeepers, farmers and husbandmen, they all played a part in the work of the Abbey, with around thirty monks at any one time based at Lindores during its existence. The records, artefacts and scriptures of their time at Lindores are displayed within the stunning new Cloister of the venue, which will also serve as a unique event and private dining space which can seat 60 guests at its stately 52 foot oak table. 

Lindores Abbey ruins, where William Wallace rested after the Battle of Black Earnside in 1298, the burial site of the first Duke of Rothesay, and a place of exceptional tranquility and beauty, will be open to the public as part of the visitor centre experience.

Organic Architects have been responsible for the design and delivery of the distillery buildings, which champions local sustainability and low carbon footprints with Denmylne wood and stone from nearby Clatchard Quarry. Visitor experience experts Bright 3D are responsible for the interior design and the fermented wooden washbacks came from Joseph Brown of Dufftown. Distilling will flow this year from the very same water supply as was first used in 1494, with the glass-fronted stillroom looking directly out over the Abbey grounds in full recognition of the incredible historical provenance of Scotch whisky’s oldest location.

Drew McKenzie Smith, Custodian of Lindores Abbey, said:

“Opening Lindores Abbey Distillery, at the spiritual home of Scotch whisky, is a special day for my family, colleagues, and the whisky community around the world. 

“20 years ago, when I first read that the earliest written reference to Scotch whisky distillation in Scotland cited Friar John Cor of Lindores’ commission by King James IV to turn 8 bolls of malt into Aqua Vitae it changed my life and gave me the purpose and ambition to preserve Lindores Abbey for generations to come.

“The late, great whisky writer Michael Jackson wrote of Lindores Abbey that ‘For the whisky lover, it is a pilgrimage’, so we are honoured today to share our vision for the future and the  award-winning Lindores Abbey single malt whisky which will safeguard this tranquil site of historic significance for generations to come.”


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