Lindores Abbey Masterclass

Years ago in Dubai, I had the opportunity to try a new make spirit – enthusiastically shared by a whisky fan. Interesting but filed it away in the category of many upcoming distilleries which need time to develop their whisky ways. Fast forward to 2023 The Village whisky festival in Nurnberg, and Lindores Abbey was the one and only Masterclass I was able to attend.

Elliott Higgins was our Masterclass host – sharing up front that his style is focused more on storytelling, enjoying the whiskies along the way rather than dissecting and diving deep into every technical detail. Suited us just fine!

He shared how the family was unaware of the history of the Lindores Abbey ruins in their backyard til one rainy night in the 1990s Michael Jackson came calling… prompted by finding documentation of whisky distilling by the monks in 1494. Fast forward many years, and they created a distillery next to the ruins, just on the edge of the Lowlands. You can read more about their story here.

So what about the whiskies? Read on…

Lindores Abbey MCDXCIV (1494) 46%

  • Nose – Fruity, initially a touch acidic, then vanilla cream honey, warming into a soft buttery caramel, at the end was that a touch of sweet peat or grass? Goes back to warm vanilla sponge cake, which is then smothered in a red berry compote
  • Palate – Sweet, elegant creamy with dry fruits with a spicy woody undertone, quite a mouthfeel for its early age – oily and a bit waxy
  • Finish – The spicy wood undertone lingers

Elliott shared how their blender Lorena Baez Subiabre was part of crafting something to bring back a Lowland “style” of spirit that is balanced and elegant. Their 1494 is aged for 3.5 years with a blend of three casks: ex-Old Forrester bourbon, Red wine STR, and Olorosso Sherry. We sampled their 1st release from 2021.

I really enjoyed this one – particularly the nose. This was a perfect “starter” whisky, approachable, enjoyable and one I would like to return to enjoy again. I didn’t finish my entire sample all at once…. instead set it aside to return to juicy red gummy bears on the nose, red apples with a dash of cinnamon spice on the palate, carrying through in the finish.

What more do they have to say?

  • Colour: Golden
  • Nose: Elegant, soft, mellow vanilla, caramel notes playing with orchard fruits and sweet pear drops. Reminiscent of toffee apples!
  • Palate: Smooth with a creamy texture and a perfect balance of mellow vanilla, dried fruits, citrus touches with a hint of spice.
  • Finish: Medium length, delicate but lingering finish.

This expression retails in the UK for GBP 41.

We then moved on to the 2nd expression, which was also their 2nd release. Elliott shared it is part of a “cask deconstruction” series of limited editions, showing off the different dimensions of the three different casks that go into their 1494 expression. In this case, a vatting of old Forrester casks.

  • Lindores Abbey – The Casks of Lindores Bourbon 49.4%
  • Nose – Very clean, lots of hay, then a bit of lemon, followed by apples and a bit of vanilla marshmallow
  • Palate – Smooth and waxy, red apples with quite a decent spice kick!
  • Finish – A spicier finish than I had expected

Not quite as balanced as Lindores’ 1494 expression, however, it was still a satisfying dram. I recall my tasting companions at the Masterclass were also rather pleased with this one.

What more do they have to say?

The first “Casks of Lindores” bottling featured exclusively bourbon barrels, one of the three core cask types used at Lindores, and was limited to 11,000 bottles. We believe that the Lindores spirit goes extremely well with bourbon casks and helps showcase its early maturing characteristic. The very long wash fermentation period in our Douglas fir washbacks, coupled with our “Sister Spirit stills distillation” helps create a spirit that matures early but we also believe will continue to develop over time.

And their official tasting notes are:

  • Colour – Pale gold
  • Nose – Mellow vanilla, fruity, vibrant and buttery with citrus touches and a hint of pepper from the wood
  • Palate – Vanilla mixed with orchard fruits like green apples, then peppercorns, lingering with a long finish.

We then moved on to their 2nd Casks of Lindores expression, with an STR Red Wine Barrique. In case you’ve missed a major trend in the whisky world – there are two clear camps: Those who are fans of “Shaved, Toasted, Recharred” red wine barrels as an alternative to Sherry cask scarcity and those who are purists, eschewing such novelties. I’m a little in the 2nd camp only as I’ve found the results mixed. However, I keep an open mind and am always open to try so… what did I find with Lindores?

Lindores Abbey – The Casks of Lindores STR Wine Barrique 49.4%

  • Nose – Melons, appricots, caramel, butter brioche, vanilla pudding
  • Palate – There were a lot of juicy red berries, and plums, chased by a gentle spice
  • Finish – The spice carried through with woody cinnamon bark with a drizzle of honey

Now, I gotta admit when I was sniffing in Nurnberg, this was my least favorite. However, when I brought it home to properly taste, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the palate – quite a sipping dram. I was also amused at how close my tasting note scribbles were to their official tasting notes.

PS with a pairing tip – this whisky goes fabulously with milk chocolate.

Here’s what they have to say:

The second “Casks of Lindores” bottling features exclusively STR Wine Barriques. Matured exclusively in Shaved, Toasted and Recharred Red Wine Barriques from Spain.

And their official Tasting Notes:

  • Colour – Dark Chestnut
  • Nose – Mellow fruity apricot jam, toffee notes and a hint of cinnamon combined with butter and custard
  • Palate – Sweet and spices. Mellow plums and red berries, treacle, cinnamon spice and a pleasant woody smoky note. Very smooth, silky texture
  • Finish – Medium to long with spices, honey and caramel notes

Clearly getting into a rhythm here, I expected the last whisky to be the 3rd “Casks of Lindores” expression with Olorosse Sherry. Nope! Instead, we were treated to a surprise Germany-exclusive single-cask, cask-strength whisky, aged for 3.5 years,… and yes it was from an ex-Sherry cask!

Lindores Abbey Single Cask 59.1%

  • Colour – Rich dark red oak wood
  • Nose – Sweet, coppery, espresso coffee, earthy undertone, rich plum, and dark fruits
  • Palate – Spicy, intense dark fruity flavours, then creamy
  • Finish – Nice creamy finish with a dash of spice for good measure

Well, this was one powerful dram – full-force, don’t be mistaken, sherry! I particularly enjoyed the plummy quality and must admit a few drops of water opened this up in a lovely way. My only complaint was my sample was too small! However, this is also a “less is more” kinda dram where a little goes a long way.

We also were teasingly told about the Friar John Cor Cask Strength Congregation Chapter 1… my friends checked it out at their booth and instantly fell in love, purchasing a bottle!

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