Whisky to be produced at abbey after a 500-year gap

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A derelict abbey in north east Fife is to be restored to its former glory as a whisky distillery more than 500 years after the first drop was produced.

Lindores Abbey near Newburgh – where monks made whisky for King James IV in the 15th century – will undergo a £5 million makeover.

The project will include a visitor centre that it’s hoped will attract whisky lovers from all over the world.

The abbey is known as ‘the spiritual home of whisky’, thanks to Friar John Cor, who in 1494 paid duty on malt in order to make ‘acqua vitae’ (sic) for the king, a move that was recorded in the Exchequer roll and is the first written evidence of whisky distillation in Scotland.

Andrew McKenzie Smith, whose family has owned the land the abbey stands on for a century and is heading the project, said: “I only came across the actual whisky link relatively recently and realised I should try to do something about it.

“The place has an incredible history. We’re very excited about getting the project off the ground and having a working distillery once again.”

The whisky will be distilled using barley from nearby fields and the water will come from the ‘Holy Burn’, which was dug by the abbey’s monks to make whisky, meaning it is likely to bear at least some ­resemblance to the original whisky made more than 500 years ago.

The distillery itself will be built on farmland near the abbey, along with a visitor’s centre. Iain Cram, project director for Bell Ingram, which has been involved in the project from the beginning, said: “The original steading’s stone walls will play a significant part in the construction as we’ll use part of this structure to make the visitor centre which will hopefully encourage locals and tourists to find out more about the whole distillation process.

“However, there was never a fully functional distillery on the site like we see nowadays with copper stills which is what we wish to create here. It will attract people from across the world as well as create jobs and give a great boost to the local area.”

It’s hoped that, as part of the whisky project, the abbey itself can also be restored.