From Barley to Bottle
During our distillery tours we are asked lots of questions about making whisky at Lindores Abbey Distillery, what we use, how long it takes and what will make our whisky different from everyone else’s. Now, we aren’t going to give any trade secrets away but we are going to explain the 5 parts of our whisky making process for you!
There are 5 parts in the process of making whisky at Lindores Abbey Distillery – from barley to bottle.
Our aim has always been to use local malt and we are delighted to have now secured all production for 2020 to use local barley from fields that would have originally have been abbey lands.
Barley is sown in the Spring and harvested in the late Summer.
28 tonne loads are delivered every 3 and a half weeks to us at the distillery.
We mill the malt ourselves on site to our own specifications.
Any draff  leftover gets sent to feed the cattle on the farm from where our barley is grown, so it all goes full circle!
How the grist is broken up – the flour, the grits and the husks
The process is mashing is a bit like making a huge vat of porridge, and getting to the sugars that we need for making whisky.
We mash 4 times per week and produce 9,500 litres of wort per mash.
The aim is to get a clear wort. To help with that we use vorlauf pipework.
9,500 litres at a time then gets pumped to the washbacks.
We use traditional wooden washback’s, rather than metal ones, here at Lindores as we believe they impart more flavour to our spirit.
Cleanliness is very important for the washbacks, so we always steam clean them before filling and after emptying to kill off any unwanted fauna.
Fermentation happens in the washbacks. We add in yeast at around 32 degrees C as we believe this is a good temperature to help us get the fruity character we are looking for.
Research was done with the help of a well-known Japanese distillery to help us decide on that temperature.
We then cool down the wort to 18 degrees C, and are left with 9,500 litres of wort.
We allow this to ferment for 96-114 hours as we believe that longer fermentation allows for the esters to develop both character and flavour. Ester is a chemical compound.
The first distillation happens in the wash still (she is called Dodo after Drew’s Mother) and takes a 9,500 litre charge. She is the largest still in the corner of the distillery overlooking the abbey grounds.
Copper stills are used for 2 reasons, one because copper is a soft malleable metal so is easy to shape, and copper helps strip out the heavy sulphurs and compounds in the spirit.
We run the stills slow and we use twin spirit stills to give a higher ratio of spirit to copper contact which in turn leads to a lighter spirit.
Steam is applied and normally within 45 minutes the temperature gets up to 95 degrees C and that’s when we start to see frothing at the windows.
When we see that the distillery operator will knock off the steam to the still. He will let it rest for 15 minutes then after that slowly start to apply steam again. This is a skilled process that you learn over years of distilling and is all done by “feel” and experience.
We then leave the heat at a constant pressure until the end of the run.
The low wines (or clear liquid) that first come into the safe from the still have got a very tropical nose with touches of pineapple, pear, coconut or mango.
This is used to charge the spirit stills on the next run. These stills are called Poppy and Gee after Drew and Helen’s daughters.
Both Poppy and Gee take 3,500 litre charges at the same time. After approximately 40 minutes spirit starts to go into the safe.
This is known as the foreshots. We normally take the first cut at 20 minutes, but if the demisting test is clear before that, we take the cut then.
We start the middle cut at around 75% strength. This will run for approximately 90 minutes where we will come off the cut at 67% strength. That is as low as we will go! Below that the feints become too powerful.
We then continue to run the feints, driving the condensers slightly hotter at the end of the run to clear them out for the next distillation.
The character of the spirit is very fruity, with a touch of apples and dark fruits at the high end of the strength. In the high to middle cut we are getting a raspberry ripple scent, and the middle strength is sweeter, with caramel and butterscotch elements. The lower end is malty with a more cereal sense.
We normally collect 3,200 litres of pure alcohol per week.