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Lindores Abbey – The Spiritual Home of Scotch Whisky

Lindores Abbey, on the outskirts of Newburgh, has many claims to fame. It was a wealthy monastery founded in the 12th century, entertaining monarchs like David II and Edward I of England.

03 March

Year of Stories

One of Scotland’s greatest national heroes William Wallace is even believed to have walked through its doors, seeking shelter after a small skirmish nearby.

There are plenty of stories to be found in these ruined walls, but Lindores Abbey will always be known for one thing above all others. This is the spiritual home of Scotch Whisky.

It wouldn’t have been the first time the spirit was distilled in Scotland, but the earliest mention of whisky is in the Exchequer Rolls of 1494. King James IV ordered 8 bolls of malt for Brother John Cor of Lindores Abbey to make Aqua Vitae, Latin for the Water of Life. That phrase translates into Gaelic as Uisge Beatha which would eventually morph into the word whisky.

That much malt would have been enough to make around 400 modern bottles of whisky, but it hasn’t been a steady stream of spirit since that day. Lindores Abbey would face the same problems that many church buildings did after the Scottish Reformation. This monastic house was abandoned, and its lands sold off. The building crumbled as walls were quarried for valuable cut stone. Fortunately, this wasn’t the end of the Lindores Abbey story.

As current custodians of the Abbey, Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith eventually decided it was time to bring Scotch Whisky back to its roots. Before construction, a detailed archaeological survey allowed them to discover more about the abbey’s history lying beneath their feet. The farm buildings just across the road from the ruins were then transformed into Lindores Abbey Distillery. Finished in 2017, spirit was finally being distilled there for the first time in over 500 years.

Making Scotch Whisky is a slow process, legally it must be matured for 3 years before being bottled. Many distilleries will release a gin straight away, so they have some income while waiting for the good stuff, but not here. Lindores paid homage to the history of the abbey by creating a botanical spirit which they called Aqua Vitae.

The authenticity of Lindores Abbey Distillery is astounding, every part of the process is kept as local as possible. Fife barley is used, grown on what was once abbey lands and the water comes from the same supply those medieval monks would have used. It might be a more sophisticated method of distilling these days, but it’s not too far away from how things were in the 15th century.

Not only can visitors tour the distillery, learning the story of Scotch Whisky while tasting delicious products. They can also wander the ivy clad walls of Lindores Abbey and see exactly where Brother John Cor may have carried out his King’s orders. Catching sight of the enormous copper stills from these historic grounds, ties everything together perfectly.

When it comes to history, whisky or more importantly both, Lindores Abbey is an unmissable location.

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