Lindores Abbey

Address

Abbey Road
Newburgh, Scotland KY14 6HH, UK
Website
Lindores Abbey
  • Lindores Abbey
Featured Spirits
Single Malt, Other Spirits

Wish List (Log in)


 

Welcome to Whiskey Lore's Whiskey Flights, your weekly home for discovering great craft distillery experiences around the globe. I’m Drew Hannush, best selling author of Experiencing Irish Whiskey and Experiencing Kentucky Bourbon and today we leave behind two unique distilling locations in South Africa and Lebanon and make our way back to the islands where it all began. And what better place to visit first, than the so-called Spiritual Home of Scotch Whisky. As we fly into Edinburgh, we’ll get a car hire, then its only a 50 minute car ride up the M90 before we reach our destination, the Lindores Abbey Distillery.

With a little time to spare, I’ve got a little side trip for us to take before we get there.

And while we wait for the keys and I convert some US dollars into Rand’s, let’s take a moment to learn a bit more about the town of Parys, South Africa, where the distillery is located. 

Fife, Scotland

Fife, Scotland, is a fascinating region brimming with historical charm and beauty. Situated between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay, on a peninsula north of Edinburgh, Fife offers a unique blend of coastal beauty and rolling countryside. Lovers of history and architecture will find plenty of castles in the region as well as the ancient ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral. If you’re looking to unwind, its always nice to take a walk down the areas sandy beaches or through its picturesque fishing villages. And of course, this is the home of Scotland's rich golfing heritage, touting the world-famous St. Andrews Links. Surrounded by waterways and filled with fertile lands Fife features plenty of opportunities for fresh culinary experiences, and its art scene includes several folk and contemporary art museums. Whether you're a history buff, nature enthusiast, or foodie, Fife promises a delightful escape filled with unforgettable experiences.

As for me, I’ve a little time to kill before meeting with Drew McKenzie Smith, the founder of the Lindores Abbey Distillery, so it's off to Dunfermline to pay my respects to Robert the Bruce and the Kings and Queens of Scotland who are entombed in historic Dunfermline Abbey. The town itself is built on hills, so, besides having to argue with my 6 speed manual transmission as I leave the roundabout heading up to the Abbey, I’ll also be anticipating a bit of a climb to get to a cafe for lunch. Between the Abbey, the photogenic town itself, and the Andrew Carnaige birthplace museum, there is plenty to keep me occupied.

But alas, we must break away from these distractions and get to the business at hand, which is our visit to Lindores Abbey, the Spiritual Home of Scotch Whisky. For me, this is will be a return visit, I was here back in 2019, when the distillery was still so new, it hadn’t had time for its Scotch whisky to reach maturity. My goal with this interview is to find out how things have changed over the last 5 years, and what the tours are like now, but its always good to start at the beginning, so I asked Drew to start us off by telling us how Lindores Abbey Distillery came into being - and why it is known as the Spiritual Home of Scotch Whisky. 

The Interview

Drew Hannush (00:02.181)
Well, let's start off first by kind of talking about how your family discovered this origin of a whiskey history at your distillery.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (00:16.478)
It's a pretty unique tale I should imagine in the Scotch whisky industry. Basically my great grandfather bought Lindor's Abbey farm in 1913 and it was just been our small family home and farm since then and we were just busy getting on with our life. And then in 2001 a guy came and knocked on the door so our farm, we live.

on the farm if you like. And I wasn't here, my father was here. This gentleman came and knocked on the door and asked my father if he could walk around the Abbey ruins. Now the Abbey ruins are 20 meters outside the window here and they just happened to be in the middle of the farm. It used to be a monastery, very important monastery, but it ceased being a working monastery in 1600 and it's now a very pretty ruin. So the guy knocked on the door,

asked if he could walk around and my father thought it was quite a strange request because it's really just our back garden but he said you know knock yourself out and thought no more of it and then about six months later a book arrived in the post called Scotland and its whiskies and dad opened it and on the inside sleeve it said dear Ken thank you very much turned to page 127 so that was all a bit strange and we looked at it and anyway the guy who

wrote it and the guy who had knocked on the door was someone called Michael Jackson which we didn't, we weren't a whiskey family, we didn't know who Michael Jackson was. We obviously do now. He was the leading, arguably the leading whiskey beer writer of his day. And so it said turn to page 127 and Dad did that. And there's a lovely picture of the Abbey ruins and the chapter is titled For the Whiskey Lover, It is a Pilgrimage.

Drew Hannush (01:51.845)
Hehehe.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (02:12.402)
and we're kind of scratching our heads thinking, wow, why is our back garden a pilgrimage? And so we read further down and Michael Jackson, he writes about walking around the Abbey saying a silent but happy Dionysian prayer of thanks to Friar John Core of Lindor's Abbey. And we're still slightly scratching our heads thinking, well, who's Friar John Core? As I say, because we weren't from the industry, we'd never heard of Friar John Core. So.

Drew Hannush (02:17.381)
Hehehehe

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (02:42.494)
I then made it my job to see what's this guy talking about? Why is our back garden a pilgrimage? And of course then I came across a very famous entry in the King's tax records, the Exchequer Rolls of 1494. They still exist, I've had the honor of seeing it. And basically it's a 30 yard long scroll. And it's all the...

financial transactions of the royal household of Scotland in that particular year. So it's purchases, et cetera. And buried right in the middle of it, and it's in Latin and barely legible, translated, what it says is this one line that sort of changed my life, is, to fry a John Corr eight bowls of malt, wherewith to make aqua vitae for the king. And that was King James IV. And the important, I suppose the,

Drew Hannush (03:33.411)
Mm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (03:38.302)
The real crucial thing there is that is the earliest written referenced production of what we now know as whiskey. So he turned a bowl of malt, which is barley, into aquavitai. Now aquavitai became uskabar, became whiskey. So it's the earliest written reference. We've always been open about the fact that there could have been aquavitai produced before.

But I suppose what cemented it here is the industry celebrated the 500th anniversary in 1994, which was 500 years, obviously. I mean, the slightly odd thing is they celebrated the anniversary about all this, and we still didn't know it was happening. So that was a big, big deal for us. So the first we heard of it was when this book arrived in the post. I then made it my...

Drew Hannush (04:20.281)
Mm -hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (04:29.726)
We had a lot of people say, well, there should be such a hugely important thing. There should be a distillery there, especially from America. And I would be saying, well, yeah, I couldn't agree more, but I don't actually have that much money to make a distillery. So that's why it took from sort of 2001 to starting building in about 2014. So I had a long time, A, to raise the funds, but also,

Drew Hannush (04:44.229)
Hehehehe

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (04:56.574)
to learn the history, which has been a huge pleasure for me, is learning far more about what's in my back garden than I would have known, because you kind of tend to take things for granted when you're on the doorstep. So, no, very lucky.

Drew Hannush (05:10.437)
That's an amazing story. And of course, you have this idea that you want to start a distillery. You've never been in the distilling business. You don't have family roots in the distilling business. Where do you get started on the actual construction of a distillery and getting the equipment?

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (05:20.798)
Nope. Nope.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (05:30.814)
I think where I was very fortunate is in a funny, I didn't feel fortunate at the time that it was taking so long to make things happen, but I managed to make a lot of good friends in the industry. Whilst Helen and I hadn't worked in the whiskey industry, we were for a while employed by Glamorangee because Helen ran a place called Cabble House. You may have even been there. It's owned by Glamorangee Distillery.

but it's like their kind of maison, like a chateau in France. And I was the chef and Helen ran it. So we did have friends at Glenmorangie, so that was where we met some of these people. But through these contacts, I was very fortunate to become friends with Dr. Jim Swan, and Jim was hugely influential in the industry. And he was always...

Drew Hannush (06:21.221)
Mm -hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (06:27.518)
asking about lindau's and i met a lot of other very important people ken robertson of diazio bill lumson of glamor and jude all these people and so i got all sorts of free free advice from from from all these people but jim was great so eventually when i managed to sort of scrape the money together jim came on board as a as a proper paid for consultant and he he was crucial

Drew Hannush (06:42.245)
You

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (06:56.194)
through his connections and his wisdom because yet I wouldn't have known where to begin. I've always believed that if you can, surround yourself with people that know what they're doing and Jim certainly did. So really it was him, his introduction to Richard Forsythe, because I'd learned from others. So another very important connection was Anthony Wills at Kilhoman and Anthony is probably

Drew Hannush (07:07.205)
Mm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (07:26.098)
He's an unsung hero, I think, in many ways, of the new distilleries, because when he opened Kilhoman, that was the first new distillery, certainly on Islay, but almost anywhere for a long time. And Antony has got a fantastic place by his own... In conversation, there's things he would have maybe done differently, et cetera, but he was so generous with his time, he would share his...

Drew Hannush (07:39.683)
Mm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (07:53.726)
you know, this is what I did wrong, this is what I did right. So, and really, one of the crucial bits of advice was, if you're gonna use someone like Forsythe, which we were lucky enough to maybe have a turn key operation, so basically, they work directly with the builders, and you don't have all these different, because there will be things that go wrong, undoubtedly, and if you've got all these different companies, the blame game,

Drew Hannush (08:16.771)
Mm -hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (08:23.134)
can get quite a long chain of whose fault certain things are. In this case, if it's something in the distillery end, well then it's for size I pick up the phone to. If it was the architects, then fair enough. So between Jim and for size, they delivered a sort of world -class distillery. So I was very fortunate to make these connections along the way.

Drew Hannush (08:44.677)
Very nice. Well, and one of the challenges of starting a distillery too, is getting your distillate right at the beginning. And so I'm sure having somebody like Dr. Swan, who has a variety of distilleries under his belt across the globe, it was a big help.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (09:02.366)
It was, I mean it sounds kind of corny to say it but tragically Jim died the day we were having our topping out ceremony so we're not open to the public but we're ready to start and tragically that morning Jim passed away which was a huge blow to us and the wider industry and more importantly to his family but I've got to know as a friend as well as a colleague but

He was instrumental right the way through. So I had a number of discussions about the direction that Lindor's would take, et cetera. And the one promise I made him is that having the history, having being seen as a spiritual Homescotch whiskey in Freyer, John Core, we have William Wallace, we have all sorts of things, it would have been easy to go down. The easy thing would have been to be a bit gimmicky, a bit Loch Ness monster, et cetera.

Drew Hannush (09:59.491)
Hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (10:00.478)
people would buy one bottle of whiskey in a month bottle and put it on the shelf and never come back. So it was an easy decision to make that tourism is hugely important to us, but the spirit has to be top notch. And I made a promise to Jim very early on, I said, well, look, whatever you think we need to help deliver the best spirit, I'll try and find the money. Hence for size and a turnkey operation.

Drew Hannush (10:26.213)
Hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (10:29.502)
It was all going well and we had had several visits to facades and we had earmarked, you know, one wash still, one spirit still, we had decided the shape, et cetera, et cetera. And then quite a long way down the process, Jim came in one day and he had this new -make spirit. And he was saying, God, you've got to try this. This is some of the best new -make spirit I've had. And he was rubbing his hands, he said, smell this. And eventually I kind of said, well, why are you telling me this? You know, why are you kind of pushing it so hard?

He said, well, remember that promise you made me? And quite nervously, I kind of hoped he had forgotten, but he hadn't. And he said, well, remember you said, if we needed something to just make it that bit special, and he said, this comes from another distillery he was working with. And he said, it's a different setup. It's one wash still, two smaller spirit stills. And that's given it more copper contact.

Drew Hannush (11:06.455)
Ha ha ha.

Drew Hannush (11:28.643)
Hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (11:29.086)
which takes out the impurities. So I kind of, I had to be a man of my word and I very naively, and this absolutely proves I never built a distillery in my life before, and I thought, this is true, I thought well, one big still would cost roughly the same as two small stills. And I was obviously about a decimal point wrong because obviously all the infrastructure.

Drew Hannush (11:54.149)
Bye.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (11:57.726)
But that's what we did. So we have a quality. In fact, you can, I'm just looking at the picture behind me. You might not be able to quite see there, but so we have the one large wash still, the two smaller spirits does. And it costs a lot more. However, when our New Make spirit was voted the best New Make in Scotland, the World Whiskey Awards in, it was 2020. That.

Drew Hannush (12:10.149)
Nice.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (12:24.542)
that ticked the box for me. It meant that the money was well spent. Because in my opinion, whether it's a small distillery or a big distillery, your new make is your DNA. And for us, it took a long time to get there because, so our distillery manager, Gary Haggart, who came from Craigham Moor, he's been with us since day one and he's doing a fantastic job. But his job was slightly unique because,

Drew Hannush (12:37.059)
Mm -hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (12:53.982)
normally with the Jim Swan distillery, he would work with you on and off with the stills, all sorts of parts of the process, stay at the end of the phone for six months, probably help you find a distillery manager and you'd then get the process, et cetera, but for obvious reasons that couldn't happen. So really it was a case of saying to Gary, look, here's the keys over to you. And he, you know, there was all sorts of...

Drew Hannush (13:19.693)
Mm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (13:24.478)
I think with any new distillery, it takes a little bit of time, but I suppose it took about six months to really hit our stride. And I suppose taking along the analogy of it's all about, for us, it's about quality and not quantity. I'd said to Gary, look, let's see what it takes to get great new -make spirit. And what it's taken in our case, one of the pillars of that.

is that we have a very, very long fermentation. Our fermentation is about 115 hours. Now that's one of the longest in the industry. We could shorten that, but then the quality would fall, and we could produce more whiskey, but it's a kind of testament, I like to think, that we put quality first. We don't wanna have a brand that just is a bit average.

Drew Hannush (14:00.579)
Mm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (14:19.006)
So winning that award with a new mate was a real slap on the back. And then we've since, with our whiskeys, won a double gold at San Francisco. It was really good. There's a lot of whisky competitions. I mean, arguably too many. There's some. If you just enter it, you'll get a prize. So we're delighted it's getting prizes at things like San Francisco that people acknowledge is a good one. So yeah, it was an interesting journey.

Drew Hannush (14:34.445)
Hmm

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (14:47.71)
We're a few years in now and the whisky's flying out the window so we're doing well.

Drew Hannush (14:51.78)
That's fantastic. And in thinking about the way that your stills are set up, it might give the impression that you're triple distilling, but you're actually double distilling the whiskey. Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (14:59.87)
Yeah, yeah, exactly. A lot of people understandably make that assumption, especially because you can see them from the window and I think people drive past and assume that's what we're doing, but no, no, we're definitely not.

Drew Hannush (15:15.909)
So when I traveled there and we met for the first time, there's a photo that had taken where you and I are standing by the first cask. What happens to that first cask? Has it been used or is it something that's held onto?

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (15:35.486)
It's a good point. We're holding on to it for a very special release at some point. I I've got cast, so personally got cast number two, but it keeps being used for tastings and things like that. It's getting lower and lower and lower. But it was a huge day for us when we hit the three years in a day. And that came out. We took some from cast number one. So we had all the staff came in.

Drew Hannush (15:50.949)
You

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (16:04.286)
And it was a real moment because A, you've got there, you've kind of got over the three years and a day sort of hiatus. But more importantly, we all then realized that even though it was young spirit, three years and a day, the hallmarks were there, that we knew it was gonna be good. And that was, because don't forget, it's always a funny thing that cast number one is a really valuable one.

But arguably, in fact definitely, it won't be the best one. Because in a way it's during the experimental thing. Sorry, no, I was just going to say that with Gary and us and the cast like that, he's far younger than I am and we have these team meetings about what we'll release when. It's all very exciting, but then he starts talking about the 20 year old and the 30 year old.

Drew Hannush (16:36.389)
Right.

Yeah, I think that's

Drew Hannush (16:57.891)
You

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (16:59.39)
I start zoning out a bit at that point. I very much doubt I'll be trying that, but I'll do my best.

Drew Hannush (17:04.837)
Yes, good for the next generation, right? Yeah. So you started out in a very interesting way because there are a lot of distilleries that will start using their new make to make vodka and to make gin, but you went a different direction that plays into your history. And so tell me about that particular spirit and.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (17:10.214)
Yeah, exactly.

Drew Hannush (17:33.797)
are you still making that spirit? Is that still part of your,

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (17:38.846)
Yeah, yes we are. Just going back to when I was saying it was a long time between 2001 and us actually getting going. During that time, I was interviewed in magazines and things about the project, et cetera. And in many, many interviews, I was asked, will you be doing a gin? And I kept resolutely saying, we won't be doing a gin.

Meanwhile, watching the gin market go up and up and up, and think the bank manager was saying, but I felt strongly that I'm not a, I like gin, but certainly in the UK, there was just more and more and more. I thought this is, it was getting a bit crazy, but more importantly, I always felt with Lindor's, our story is sort of rock solid in a sense, that we're kind of bringing back distilling to a place that it happened centuries ago.

Drew Hannush (18:08.261)
Ha ha ha.

Drew Hannush (18:14.297)
Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (18:35.55)
And we know the monks made beer. We know they made aqua vitae. Equally, we know they didn't make gin. And so if the first product that came from Lindor, however you sort of dressed it up, for me, it would have undermined the story a bit. So we stuck to our guns, but we did think, well, God, we need some sort of revenue stream. We have tourism, et cetera. So it was racking my brains. And then it was one of those light bulb moments was,

to fry a jonkor, eight bowls of malt, to make aquavitai. So I said, well, look, let's find out really what aquavitai was. And in very simple terms, it wasn't just at Lindor's, it was at monasteries around Europe, is that the monks were making, it was much more like rubbing alcohol, so it was barley spirit, but you can imagine it was not the smoothest barley spirit you can imagine. And it was infused with plants, et cetera, but mostly,

Drew Hannush (19:30.061)
Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (19:35.582)
I detect from rubbing it on wounds and for medicinal purposes. So we started working with Heriot -Watt University, which is in Edinburgh. It has a world famous degree course in brewing and distilling. And people, students come from all over the world. So we started working with the PhD students there. So say, well, look here, this is the idea behind Aquavita. We can supply you with barley spirit.

We can also tell you what plants grow around the monastery. So to give the student said Jew, they were kind of doing what I'd asked them to do. And then they would call us through once every fortnight. So we got a new batch. And each time we went, Helen and I would go through and come back absolutely disheartened because it wasn't nice. It was really rough. It was clear as well. So they were using things like sweet Sicily, et cetera.

So we kind of thought, well, what do we do? Because we want it to be historically accurate, but equally it's got to taste nice or you forget it. So we kind of continued working with them, but we introduced some mixologists and say, well, how do we make this sweeter? How do we make it nice? And the game changer was introducing dates and raisins, which sweetened it, but also an unexpected consequence, but a good one, is they make the spirit.

Drew Hannush (20:39.141)
Mm -hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (21:04.254)
Amber so it looks like whiskey because if you're saying to people there's a prototype whiskey and it looks like gin or vodka is quite hard to psychologically get over that But where we were also fortunate because we try and make sure that anything we do here we can back it up with With it's not just a marketing thing pulled off the shelf. So people could quite understandably Say well, hang on a minute. You've got sweet Sicily, which we still use but which gives it a slightly cinnamony

Drew Hannush (21:13.923)
Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (21:34.462)
and a seedy taste, and that grows in the ruins. So people can come and grow that or cut it and use that. Dates and raisins, people could quite understand, they'd say, well, hang on a minute, whatever happened with climate change, you didn't have dates and raisins in Scotland then. But what we do know, because again in those 10 year hiatus, if you like, when I was learning about it, I three books about Lindor's Abbey.

Drew Hannush (21:38.179)
Mm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (22:02.174)
I'm sure I'm the only living person that's read these books, but I had 10 years to do it. So I know a great deal of the minutiae. And these are the bits that we were talking about, history and things earlier on. These are the bits I love, the bits that aren't important anywhere else. They're not world news. So one of the things I read, for instance, is a little entry and it's 14 barrels of salmon to Flanders. Two thrown overboard because they were rotten.

Drew Hannush (22:05.541)
Ha ha ha.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (22:32.254)
So what this was, was the monks sending barrels of salmon trading with Flanders in Europe. I love the fact that even in the 13th century, no one's gonna buy two barrels of rotten salmon, so they're thrown overboard. No one's gonna get kind of ripped off with rotten salmon. But what it means is, I know they were trading with Flanders. And we know the spice root came up from Venice to Flanders. So they have access to dates and raisins. And when visitors come here,

Drew Hannush (22:32.453)
Mm.

Drew Hannush (22:44.815)
Hahaha.

Drew Hannush (22:49.093)
Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (23:01.918)
they'll see this lovely map we have from the 15th century kind of demonstrating this route that the dates and raisins take. So that's why we could put them in the Aquavita. So the Aquavita is great. I mean, I love it, it's different. One thing I didn't know, which is a great thing, perhaps for the American market at some point, and a lady phoned me up from America, this was a while back.

and she was wanting to buy some aqua vitae but we couldn't it was before we had distribution in the States so sadly we couldn't send it to her but we sent her some whiskey glasses and things like that but the reason she was looking for aqua vitae is her and her husband were both children as maybe sons and daughters of the Mayflower and I had no idea it's great you know it's great finding these things out so I said well that's great but what's the connection?

So she sent me over this list of all the stuff in the cargo hold of the Mayflower. And there's all sorts of things, you can have a flower, you name it. There was also aqua vitae. Now I'm not saying for once, I think it's unlikely the aqua vitae came from Lindor's Abbey. So, but there you go, they had water of life on the Mayflower. So, no, it's great, we still do it. Our focus has obviously shifted to the whiskey.

Drew Hannush (24:06.819)
Mm -hmm.

Drew Hannush (24:18.597)
Hahaha

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (24:30.27)
But now that the whiskey is almost taking care of itself, we're keen to really start pushing the aquavitai, because I personally feel it's got huge potential, because it's unique. There's no other aquavitai. There's Aquavit. There's all sorts of other products. There's gin, vodka, rum, you name it. But the aquavitai is literally in a class of its own. In the early days, I put it into a couple of competitions. And because it was in a class of its own,

Drew Hannush (24:49.221)
Mm -hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (24:59.678)
it would kind of come first. It would kind of come first and last. But I only told people about it coming first.

Drew Hannush (25:07.077)
Probably only coming in last because whoever was tasting it was not sure exactly what they were

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (25:13.752)
Yeah, well, to be fair to them, that was where we'd kind of, where we'd given ourselves a challenge. If we were a big brand, a big name, we would have the funds to really push, we could have done all sorts of marketing activity and things around, but we couldn't afford that. And so for our very small team of one, sort of sales person, for instance, if you're going into a,

a whiskey shop or a spirit shop and you've only got a few minutes to talk to the staff about your new product. If it's a gin or a vodka or rum, at least you're halfway there and then you can tell a nice story about it. If you go in and you start talking about monks from the 14th century, it's quite, it's a bit of a hard sell. But we're really proud of it and it was a big moment for us that we got to three years in a day.

Drew Hannush (26:04.013)
Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (26:11.39)
without doing the gin and continue the acro. We felt that we'd kind of held the moral high ground. We didn't sell out and do the easy. I mean, again, the bank managers kind of said, well, you maybe should have, but yeah, we got there. And we will, I'm sure we'll start, we have distribution in the States now and they're doing really well with the whiskey, et cetera. We will start with the acro VTi probably either later this year or next year.

Drew Hannush (26:37.669)
Yeah, I would imagine on your tours, it's a great thing to really add to your story when you're talking about the history.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (26:46.366)
It is, it's a big part of it. Well, we're kind of lucky how things have happened. So with the Newmake, for instance, it was never in our plans to sell Newmake. It's not selling, you know, 62%. But because it won that award, everyone wanted to buy it. So we only sell it in five CL and 20 CL. I think people buying 70 CL in Newmake, I would get a bit worried about. But I think...

Drew Hannush (27:06.019)
Mm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (27:14.494)
what most people are buying it for, and certainly the way we use it, is when people are doing tasting. So you can start with a new make, then move on to the aqua vitae, then move on to the whiskey. So it's a really nice way of kind of following the genesis of our whiskey, if you like. And I suppose what we especially like is that you can still detect the Lindor's house style in the aqua vitae. You can get the new make that's in it.

Drew Hannush (27:41.701)
nice.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (27:43.803)
One of the things we're really proud about, funny enough, when I talk about some of the awards we've won, it's when we do our Bourbon casque release, because in a Bourbon casque, there's nowhere for the new make to hide, if you like. In a sherry, if the new make's not great, you can probably mask that, et cetera. So we're really proud that it's there, it's front and center, and it's really, really nice for us.

Drew Hannush (27:57.765)
Mm -hmm.

Drew Hannush (28:12.325)
I would imagine with your long fermentation times that you get a lot of fruity notes in that.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (28:17.838)
Absolutely, we do. Orchard fruits are a big part of us. And the casks are a very important thing. When I was saying we have sort of these three pillars, the long fermentation is one of them. The two twin sister stills, as we call them, is a second one. And the third, and this goes back to Jim Swann, is, you know, Jim was good at lots of things, but arguably his...

His biggest skill set, or the thing he was maybe most famous for, was his maturation skills, et cetera. And huge early on in our process, before the stills, before the place was complete, I was having a meeting with Jim and Ed and Helen and I were meeting him to talk about Mary Sings. And we were talking about cast and he looked at his phone and he suddenly said, well, you guys have got to get across to the States. You've got to get down to Louisville and meet...

meet my cost guy he's about to get the best bourbon cost and we say yes great you know we're really keen to really keen to go there he said you need to get down there that kind of thing we so well yeah you gotta get visa as a world is false that good and but he said that the reason i'm telling you this is his guys from coverland which is one of his distilleries they're heading down that way in a in a few weeks time and if they get the

Drew Hannush (29:27.205)
Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (29:42.622)
for you, they're going to clean the place out of all the best cast. So we headed down, met Jim's guy, but what I really liked about it, he said, look, the reason I'm saying this as well is you need to go and meet, I could introduce you, but the way these guys were, they want to meet you, make eye contact, shake your hands, which we did. And I'm delighted to say we still use the same people. There's no written contracts or anything like that. And I...

That's a part of the industry that I really, really like. So the very, very good quality casks we use are the third part of, we believe, what makes our spirit as good as it is. However good you make is, if you start putting in tired old casks, it's not gonna be great. So we commit to that, and obviously casks like everything else have gone up in price, but we just have to suck it up and sell more.

Drew Hannush (30:41.221)
Yeah. Is that Kelvin Cooperage that you're using?

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (30:43.934)
We do use some of Kelvin and actually we went there during that visit and that was an eye -opener going into the actual Coopridge itself. But no, the company has actually changed now, I can't remember the guy's name, because they've been bought over, but it's still, yeah, Jim Ratcliffe. Tim Ratcliffe. He was the guy that Jim introduced us to and he's still there, but I think he'll be on.

Drew Hannush (30:52.773)
Mm.

Drew Hannush (31:04.741)
Okay. Tim Rallick, okay.

Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (31:14.938)
He's probably younger than I am, but I think the actual company has been bought out by another, but we still get really, really good Woodford Reserve. The important thing is we're still kind of using the same cast that Jim had really wanted us to do right from the very beginning.

Drew Hannush (31:35.589)
Yeah, so let's talk a little bit about the tours and what people experience as they go along. What parts of the distillery are they going to get a chance to see?

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (31:39.036)
Mmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (31:47.166)
every bit of it. We go all the way through into the warehouse. It probably won't affect so many Americans because they don't travel with their dogs, but we're one of the, we're dog friendly as well, and we actually have floored the still house so the dogs can come in as well, so it's quite nice. But where I suppose we're unique is we have the distillery, but we also have the Abbey ruins as well, so people can spend hours here.

again where we're different perhaps to lots of other ones, the first three quarters of the tour is really you're in a museum. There's not a huge, you know, we talk about the aqua vitae. You don't really move into the whiskey element till you go through the great big glass doors and then you're in a genuine working distillery. So there's all sorts of different, there's things for everyone, because we get some people come here who are kind of here really more for the...

Drew Hannush (32:28.037)
Mm -hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (32:47.87)
for the Abbey and the history and the whisky. So we have all different tours for different people.

Drew Hannush (32:49.669)
Mm -hmm.

Drew Hannush (32:53.765)
Nice. And even while you're on the tour, if you're looking out over the fermenters, you're getting a bit of history there too.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (33:00.286)
Well that's it, but we do that because as you can imagine if you're looking down you're looking right into the abbey so if some tours have less time because we don't, we charge for a tour but you could be here for hours and especially in this kind of weather you get people having picnics outside so we don't say to people though you've had your tour you now must go so it's a really nice thing and we've got a lot of people that have come several times because there's always a new bit they can learn about.

really more because of history. The whiskey element, I suppose, doesn't change a huge deal in a funny way. The tour, the process is day in, day out, and I suppose that's what I learned in my chefing days, that it's all about keeping it the same each time, consistency, so we do that. But around the fringes with different casks, et cetera, then they get to learn a bit more about the Lindor's style.

Drew Hannush (33:56.229)
Very nice. Can people just come up into the tasting room and do a tasting if they want to do that instead during the tour? Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (34:00.466)
Yeah, yeah, we do a lot of different sorts of tastings because of course we have, so our core expression is our MCDXCIV, which in simple terms means 1494. I think when it came out a lot of people were scratching their heads and I don't blame them to be quite honest. So it's 1494, but what that is is it's a marriage if you like of bourbon.

Drew Hannush (34:16.035)
Hehehehe

Drew Hannush (34:20.517)
Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (34:28.324)
STR, which is a Jim Swan cast, a shave toasted and re -charred, and Sherry. So it's a marriage of those three types of cast. So when we first started doing tastings, as I say, we can have the Newmake, the Aquavitai, our core range MCDX -CIV, but then what we do is we deconstruct that so you can have the Sherry, the Bourbon, and the STR. But now that we've been going for a few years, we've used a lot of different types of casks.

and do short runs and things. So we have runs of seven, you can have seven tastings, we do chocolate pairings, we do all sorts of kind of interesting things. The other thing we do, which some people love, is we do the Apothecary tour. The Apothecary is that lovely room which is really all about the Aquavitae. So people can come in, our team will take them out, for instance, into the Abbey ruins, and if it's the right time of year,

They can harvest the sweet Sicily and they can make their own version of Acro Vitae. We write down the recipe and some are good and some are less good. But if you get five friends or six friends it's quite a competitive thing. But it's nice. They're learning about the history but they're also spending half a day making their own drink which they can take away with them. So that's a popular thing as well.

Drew Hannush (35:49.989)
That's what I love is that you have really turned it into almost an adult playground to come in and really experience whiskey from its origins all the way through to now.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (36:01.086)
Yeah, we have and what we're finding is a lot of, I don't want to generalize in that if you have a couple, you know, the husband will like whiskey and the lady will like gin, but that does happen quite a lot. That it is mostly the man will like whiskey and sometimes you'll find that the wife or the girlfriend are kind of long suffering. They're just being dragged around every distillery in Scotland. So we're finding that the aqua vitae, because it's a different type of drink.

It's a much easier thing. You have it with ginger ale and orange and ice. And so people really like that. And so I think it makes it more enjoyable than just people ticking off the 50 distilleries in a year kind of list. And they can learn about the history. So no, it seems to tick a lot of the boxes.

Drew Hannush (36:50.853)
Very nice. I noticed too that you do sharing platters. So is that coming in from your chef days, bringing some food in with?

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (36:56.414)
Yeah.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (37:00.35)
Well, what we found was, we did, although there's a funny happy ending to it, but when we first opened, we didn't put in a cafe or restaurant because, but maybe because the family had been here for 110 years, et cetera. When we put in the planning, note we had not a single objection, which was really nice. In the UK, I'm not sure what it's like in the States, but in the UK, if you want to put a shed in your garden, someone will probably complain.

all that so it was really nice that we didn't and because of that there's a couple of cafes and things locally and we thought well if we open one we'll be taking business away from there so we made a point and thought well you know we won't do it we don't want to take business away from there and then sadly they both closed down just because the economy so we got a we started a small cafe and but we couldn't really work out what do people want.

Drew Hannush (37:39.747)
Hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (37:58.206)
Do they want soup? Do they want scones and things like that? And eventually it worked out the best thing was platters because you can get people order them in advance on a day like this. You can be sitting outside so there's meat or there's cheese. Again, they can have that with a whiskey pairing. So it works really, really nicely. There's also less waste and things. So it's quite a nice way of doing it. We always use local cheeses and meats, et cetera. And we also just seafood hampers and things like that.

So it works, it's a really nice way because sometimes people have traveled quite a long way and they're hungry. And for a while we just had nothing to give them. But where there's a nice twist in the tale, when we did have the cafe for a bit, a local lady applied for the job and she's a lady called Lorena and she is originally from Chile. And she moved to the village.

10 years ago with a husband who works in forestry and very, very nice. And she's a very good cook, I'm sure, of Chilean food. Scottish food maybe wasn't her thing. And also at the time we thought, well, actually the cafe's not really working. But she was far too nice, et cetera, to just say, well, we don't need you anymore. So we realized she was very, very organized.

Drew Hannush (39:03.033)
Mm -hmm.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (39:20.126)
We also realized she had a degree in food science from Santiago University. And this was just about the time we were beginning to get ready for our whiskey. So we brought Lorena in to organize our tasting panel. So we had about eight of us on the tasting panel to try and work out, okay, because this is our first release, we've got to get it right. And over those...

meetings, it became more and more apparent each time that actually Lorena had a far better palette than any of us. So to cut a long story short, Lorena is now our chief blender. And she's now, I mean, this has only obviously only been a couple of years. So now Lorena is not only our chief blender, she's traveling the world doing shows because her children are university age. So she's freer to do that.

Drew Hannush (39:53.477)
Hahaha.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (40:15.806)
But even better, and I think it's such a nice story, that Lorena is now invited to be a judge and a panelist on things like the World Whiskey Awards. I mean, she's gone from being the cook to being Lindor's chief blender, and she's absolutely amazing doing it. And she's loving it, which is great to see someone find a career that never would have crossed anyone's mind. And as we speak, she's in Sweden.

Drew Hannush (40:26.819)
Wow.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (40:45.022)
doing tastings and things like that. So that's a really, really nice thing.

Drew Hannush (40:46.661)
Wow. She, she probably could open up a whole Spanish market to you as well. I mean, that's.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (40:52.798)
Well, well, she, yes, I mean, she sometimes she's really busy and she gets called in because we get quite a lot of Spanish here as well, which is great. So we have, we're also, we've ended up kind of being a family distillery, wasn't in all the plans, but there's Lorena and both her son and daughter when they're not at university work here. We've got a lot of families working here, which we love, you know, because my family will work here and things like that. So it's.

It's a nice sort of vibe to it.

Drew Hannush (41:24.645)
It's, it's wonderful to see what you are doing there and to see how it's just evolved over time. And it's like you had a vision for it, but boy, I mean, from the time I was there five years ago to where you're at now and everything's really running on, on all cycles. It's, it's impressive to see. I, I appreciate you, taking the time and talking through all this and, getting people. Yeah. Getting people interested in heading out that direction.

Andrew McKenzie-Smith (41:48.157)
No, it's a pleasure.

Closing Details

I hope you enjoyed this virtual flight to Fife and the Lindores Abbey Distillery. If I piqued your interest in tasting the spirits of Lindores Abbey and touring its grounds, make sure to head to whiskey-lore.com/flights, find the Lindores Abbey profile and use the site’s handy wish list feature to keep track of that and all of the other great distilleries you want to remember for your future travel planning. With over 200 distilleries listed, including 76 in Scotland, it is the perfect planning tool for a world of distilleries. That’s whiskey-lore.com/flights.

Now, stay tuned because I’ll have some closing travel tips if you plan on visiting Lindores, but first, it’s time for This Week in Whiskey Lore.

This Week in Whiskey Lore

It was 108 years ago, when Georgia decided it was finally time to go all in on Prohibition, three and a half years before National Prohibition. It wasn’t Georgia’s first tangle with Prohibition. In fact, the state was already under a form of prohibition, but lax enforcement forced legislators to add teeth to the law. South Carolina would follow with its own form of prohibition a month later.

As for this week, South Carolina also made the news in regards to a prohibitory law. After lobbying by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, the state opted to join the growing lists of states taking a zero-tolerance approach to Driving Under The Influence or DUI convictions. A single conviction for a DUI offense in South Carolina means a driver has to have an Ignition Interlock Device or IID added to their car. This GPS system incorporates a breathilizer that won’t allow the car to start without the driver blowing into the device, confirming that they are not above the legal limit for alcohol in the state, which in South Carolina is currently at .08% blood/alcohol content. Currently 31 other states have just as stringent first time offender rules on the books, with many others taking a less aggressive approach.

The Wrap Up

As we prepare to leave the Lindores Distillery for our next Scotch whisky destination, I asked Drew to recommend a nice non-whisky side trip that might blend perfectly with a partial day at Lindores Abbey.  He highly recommended taking a 15 minute drive to the south, to visit to the Falkland Palace & Garden. For those that love the feel of the Renaissance era, you’ll get a chance to step into the pleasure palace of royalty. As one of Mary Queen of Scot’s favorite haunts, you’ll see instantly what drew her to this palace. Tour the castle, roam its beautiful gardens, see the tennis courts built during James V’s reign, and hear tales of an era that brought the world out of the darkness of the Middle Ages.

Closing and Three Things

As we make our way west from the distillery, I want to take a moment to give you my three reasons why I think you should add Lindores Abbey Distillery to your wishlist.

  • First, for the history love, there is nothing like standing on hallowed ground. And Drew went all in on his historical research. The distillery is like a shrine to the memory of Friar John Corr and Scotch whisky’s origins
  • Second, besides taking their whisky, you’ll get an opportunity to taste a recreation of the spirit that John Corr produced for King James IV, the forerunner to Scotch whisky, Aqua Vitae.
  • And third, if you’re a fan of Braveheart or love the story of Robert the Bruce, make sure to look out the window over the fermenters to catch a glimpse of the hillside where William Wallace fought his last battle, before making a stop at the old abbey. And honestly, I’d love to spend a day just exploring those old ruins and soaking in all of that history.

I hope you enjoyed today’s journey, and if you did, I’ve got one more stop in Scotland before we head back to the states and Tennessee. It is a trip into the town of Falkirk and the one time “king of the Lowlands” distillery known as Rosebank. It has been closed for over 30 years, but will be reopening on June 7th, and in our next journey, you and I will get a sneak peek at what Rosebank has in store for us. Make sure to subscribe to the Whiskey Lore podcast, so don’t miss any of the great Whiskey Flights to come. Until we meet again, cheers and Slainte mhath. 


For transcripts and travel information including maps, distillery planning information and more, head to whiskey-lore.com/flights

About Lindores Abbey

Come experience "The Spiritual Home of Scotch Whisky." It's not the distillery, but the nearby Lindores Abbey ruins that lay claim to this title. It was here, in 1494, that the earliest recorded mention of Scotland's whisky heritage is recorded.

What a surprise it was to the owner of the farm, when spirits writer Michael Jackson appeared one day, asking if he could see the revered grounds. This inspired the property's owner Drew McKenzie Smith to build the Lindores Abbey to celebrate that history. During a tour, you'll be taken deep into that well-researched history and you'll hear additional stories about the abbey, including stories of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. As you walk through the rustic distillery, you'll get a feel for the distilling process, ending up in the beautiful tasting room overlooking the ruins of the abbey where you'll enjoy two Lindores Abbey selections. There is even a whisky and chocolate pairing available in the Legacy Bar. And there is also plenty of rich history on display in the Visitor's Center and guest area. Lindores Abbey is a must for any lover of Scotch whisky and history. Driver's drams available.

Take a Whiskey Flight to Lindores Abbey

Map to Distillery

Find on Google Maps

Start a Wish List of Distilleries

By creating a log-in, you’ll gain access to start your own wish list of distilleries, suggest distilleries we should add, get access to discounts (when available), and get expanded access to quick booking of tours and more. Join now.

Note: This distillery information is provided “as is” and is intended for initial research only. Be aware, offerings change without notice and distilleries periodically shut down or suspend services. Always use the distillery’s websites to get the most detailed and up-to-date information. Your due diligence will ensure the smoothest experience possible.