Lindores Abbey Distillery: A modern-day pilgrimage in the name of Scotch whisky.
Fife-based distillery team head to France to reignite ancient links
The founders of Lindores Abbey Distillery, known as the ‘spiritual home’ of Scotch whisky, have made a pilgrimage to France to re-establish ancient links with the town which inspired whisky distilling in Scotland.
Drew and Helen McKenzie-Smith travelled from Newburgh in Fife to Thiron-Gardais in Northern France following an invitation from the town’s Mayor. They presented an engraved plaque to the town honoring the Tironesian monks who originated from the area and travelled to Scotland in the 12th century where they established Lindores Abbey.
Firm believers in hard work, the Tironensians worked the lands around their abbeys bringing modern methods of horticulture, brewing, animal husbandry and, most importantly, distilling from the continent.
Lindores Abbey is known as the ‘spiritual home’ of Scotch whisky thanks to Friar John Cor, who in 1494 paid duty on malt in order to make ‘acqua vitae’ for the king, a move that was recorded in the Exchequer roll and is the first written evidence of whisky distillation in Scotland.
The McKenzie-Smiths are more than one year into a multi-million project to create a brand new whisky distillery and visitor centre on the banks of the River Tay in north east Fife.
Speaking of their trip, Drew McKenzie-Smith said: “To us, the history of Lindores Abbey is just as important as the plans we have to create a distillery. If it wasn’t for the expertise of the Tironesian monks who came to Scotland in those dark and frightening medieval times we may not have the advanced industry we do today.
“Having been contacted by Victor Provot, Mayor of Thiron Gardais, Helen and I were delighted to be able to make the trip. Victor is forward thinking and is very keen to foster links with Lindores and exchange ideas, and likewise, we are keen to explore the wines and spirits of the region with a view to possibly incorporating elements into the Lindores Abbey Distillery.”
As a mark of gratitude, Drew and Helen presented a segment of Lindores Abbey roof slate, beautifully mounted on a slab of Caithness stone by local sculptor and stonemason Gillian Forbes.
“We very much look forward to strengthening ties between the two communities and when they host next year’s French Highland Games we hope to be able to take bottles of our own Lindores Aqua Vitae. If we can impress the good people of Thiron-Gardais we will know it’s good. Afterall, we have it on very good authority that the French absolutely love Scotch whisky.”
The trip to France came about following a visit to Newburgh in 2011 from L’order de Tiron which wanted to learn more of the famous orchards at the site and to take a cutting from the Lindoresii Pear Tree which had been cultivated by a local expert. The Tironesians came from the Perche region in France and within five years from 1107 they owned 117 priories and abbeys across France, England, Scotland and Wales.
The main links between Lindores Abbey and Thiron will be the ongoing re-creation of the ancient orchards at the abbey site. Plans are being put in place to develop the relationships between the two parties with the hope of exploring future opportunities.