Ruins of Lindores Abbey

Whisky History: Lindores Abbey, where it all began…?

Lindores Abbey on the outskirts of Newburgh, Fife, where the first documented production of Scotch whisky took place in 1494.

Well, OK, it might have been 1495 (the records are not that clear) but somewhere between June 1494 and June 1495  ‘eight bolls of malt’ where sold to a Tironsenian monk, Friar John Cor, to produce aqua vitae (water of life, Scottish Gaelic: Uisge beatha, which later became known as ‘whisky’).

Friar John Cor
The Tironsenian monk John Cor, who produced aqua vitae (whisky) from eight bolls of malt in 1494

The monastery had an otherwise unremarkable history, apart from being sacked twice by a protestant mob (once in 1543 and again in 1559), but it will forever have its place in the history of Scotch whisky.

As recorded in the Exchequer Rolls 1494-1495, Friar John received permission to produce ‘water of life’ from King James IV., thus making Lindores Abbey the (unofficial) birthplace of Scotch whisky and turning Lindores Abbey into something like a sacred place for whisky nerds from all over the world.

And it is well worth the visit! The abbey lies on the eastern outskirts of Newburgh and although there is no sign pointing to its location and most ordinary tourists will probably ignore it, the ruins offer something for everybody interested in history. I found most remarkable the empty sarcophagus that allegedly was once the resting place for one of the monastery’s founders children.

As another proof that history sometimes moves in circles came the news, in September 2013, that the owner of the abbey, Mr. Drew Mackenzie Smith, received planning permission to turn the adjacent farm into a whisky distillery (article in The Scotsman).

 

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