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History in the making
The Lindores Abbey story has been told a million times but by means of introduction I’ll run through it again here. Royal exchequer rolls of 1494 record duty paid on eight bolls of malt that were used to produce Aqua Vitae by one Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey. It is the earliest known record of distillation in Scotland and therefore, marks Lindores out as an important landmark in the story of Scotch whisky.
For more than 100 years, the preservation of the ruined abbey has fallen to Drew McKenzie-Smith and his family. Several years ago he learned of the abbey’s significance after visiting a website called Connoisseur Scotland. Further inspiration came when he was shown a copy of the late Michael Jackson’s book Scotland and Its Whiskies. In it, Jackson wrote of Lindores “For the whisky lover it is a pilgrimage”. After 15 years of careful planning, construction work began on a new distillery that would not only capitalise on this whisky connection but also provide the means with which to preserve the abbey for future generations.
I visited Lindores Abbey in November of 2017. The distillery was finished by then and ready to begin production but things were on hold whilst they waited for a distilling license to arrive. Within a couple of weeks of my visit, the new Lindores spirit was running from the stills. I thought then that the distillery was beautifully done but appearances are all well and good. Where whisky is concerned it is flavour that really matters. I remember thinking how distant the first Lindores malt seemed. How time flies.
The design of the new distillery was guided by the late Dr Jim Swan. Under his guidance a production regime was established that included perhaps the longest fermentation time in the whole Scotch whisky industry. A whopping 117 hours! Such a long period in wooden washbacks is intended to create a lot of fruity esters in the wash. Distillation, too, carries Dr Swan’s trademark. There are three stills: one large wash still and two smaller spirit stills. This method greatly increases copper contact in the spirit run with the end result being a clean, delicate flavour in the spirit.
To date, Lindores have released bottles of new make spirit and their very own Aqua Vitae bottling but 2021 has brought the first opportunity to sample their mature whisky.
The Lindores Lowland Single Malt MCDXCIV was matured in a combination of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and ex-burgundy casks that have undergone Dr Swan’s STR (Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred) process. It is bottled at 46% without added colouring or chill-filtration.
Smell: Really fruity. Orange. Peach. Nectarines. Ripe apples. Lemon. There’s also a pleasant malty note. Plenty of honey and a gentle touch of ginger. Total lack of spirit heat – impressive for a three and a half year old.
Taste: Still fruity. Orange especially. That peach note again, too. The malty note has become biscuity. Reminds me of Hobnobs. Hobnobs dipped in honey! After a while in the glass some sherry notes came through. Currants and sultanas especially. Wee touch of peppery heat at the back of the tongue. Nice oiliness to the mouth feel.
Thoughts: The nose is more mature than you would perhaps expect although the spirit’s youth is more apparent on the palate. By no means is it too young, however. Lowland malts used to be accused of lacking flavour but this is vibrant and exciting whisky from an intriguing new distillery. Lindores Abbey could so easily have gone through the motions to churn out any old whisky and cash in on the history of the location but they haven’t. They’ve produced a whisky of quality and they’ve given it a character and an identity that will stand it in good stead in years to come. There’s perhaps a wee touch of youth that holds it back slightly but given another year or two, this could be magnificent stuff. Altogether, an impressive debut that was priced commendably.
For more on Lindores Abbey visit here