Scotland boasts a long tradition of whisky making. Tales handed down through generations have led us to believe that the finer details of production were gleaned during the past few centuries by trial and error in mountain bothies and old town closes. However, John Cor a monk at Lindores Abbey in Fife was busy distilling way back in 1494 thus production of Scotch Whisky has actually developed from learned establishments and over at least half a millennium. The strong desire amongst whisky enthusiasts to connect with Scotland’s whisky heritage has enlightened the Scottish whisky industry. But why has Lindores Abbey and the home of Scotch Whisky been somewhat lost?
The enthusiasm, desire and love of Scotch Whisky has driven the opening of distillery visitor centres and tours around working distilleries. Even more recently Whisky Trails and Whisky Festivals have embraced an ever-expanding and appreciative audience. Numbers, and especially age, are the new keys in the whisky world for they have the potential to open hitherto unexplored avenues. Individual distilleries are now promoting their unique characteristics. Highland Park is closest to the North Pole and Bladnoch the most southerly. Braeval sits at the highest altitude whilst the floor in a warehouse at Bowmore is below sea level. Kilchoman is the newest on Islay and Glenturret is the oldest in the whole of Scotland. Over the years many distilleries have closed, some are still standing including Port Ellen, some have been demolished and lost forever including Caperdonich and Littlemill. Others closed so long ago that their whisky may be found in a museum, for example Stromness. So for those seeking a different whisky experience distilleries offer a wonderful opportunity to open new doors. Just as mountain walkers “bag” Munroes and birdwatchers “twitch” rare birds, so whisky enthusiasts may “dram” distilleries, for the footprint of each and every one is out there to be discovered.
So, Lindores must be at the top of any “draming” list for it is the oldest recorded site of distilling in Scotland. During the late fifteenth century Falkland Castle, now Falkland Palace, was the seat of the Scottish Royal Court and the exchequer roll for 1494 states that King James IV of Scotland granted Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey ‘eight bols of malt’ to make whisky. Spring water from the slopes of Ormiston Hill fed the Monks Well and the Abbots Well which supplied the abbey with cold fresh water. The malt would have been ground in the abbey’s mill and during summer the monks cut peats on Our Lady Bog at Monkstown, Ladybank to fuel the fires which heated the water for mashing and a still or two for distillation. Eight bols, slightly less than Edradour currently uses in one mash, may have produced a cask or three, however, given the poor quality of the barley and inefficient production methods in the fifteenth century it most probably produced our equivalent of a couple of hundred bottles.
Founded in 1191 by Benedictine monks of the Tyronensian order from Kelso Abbey who originated from Abbeville in France, Lindores was an important place for a battle weary William Wallace visited in 1298 and the Duke of Rothesay was buried there in 1401. But in 1559 it caught the attention of John Knox and his crew who vandalised the abbey. The buildings were ruined and distilling was brought to a premature end. All that remains are sections of its red sandstone walls that have survived and continue to mark the place at Newburgh on the north Fife coast. It is a wonderful gem and a site of national importance that is somewhat overlooked. It should be a place of pilgrimage for all Scotch Whisky enthusiasts.
Here at TheWhiskyBarrel.com in our on-line whisky shop we stock a rather wider range of whisky than John Cor might have imagined in his wildest dreams. Whisky from all corners of Scotland, from new distilleries and old distilleries and very old distilleries, from working ones and closed ones and lost ones. Here you have the key to connect with and enjoy some of Scotland’s fine traditions and finest whiskies.