On this day in history : 1st June 1494 – The first known batch of Scotch whisky is recorded by Friar John Cor at Lindores Abbey, Fife….

“Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae”….is how a commission from King James IV is cited on the exchequer roll for 1494…. Now the King is known to have liked a drop of the hard stuff but this is an order for a huge volume, even by his measures….

Exchequer Rolls mentioning Aqua vitae and Lindores Abbey – Image credit : DehraSw – CC BY-SA 4.0

A ‘boll’ is an ancient unit equal to 64 ‘pecks’ – another ancient unit – but equalling to two ‘dry gallons’ of material (usually food based)…. So when we do the maths : 8 bolls = 1,024 gallons of malt – and that’s enough to produce around (gulp!) 800 gallons of whisky….or as they liked to call it back then ‘aqua vitae’…. Latin for ‘water of life’ if substituted for Gaelic it becomes ‘uisgue (pronounced ‘oos-key’) beatha’…. Say that after a few gallons and you can bet your bagpipes it would come out as ‘whisky’….

Whisky barrels – Image credit : High Contrast via Wikimedia

Brother John Cor was a Tironensian monk – the order of Tiron being a medieval monastic order named after its French mother abbey ‘Abbaye de la Saints-Trinity de Tiron’…. Lindores Abbey, on the outskirts of Newburgh, Fife and now a ruin on the banks of the River Tay, was an abbey of that order…. In 2018 a distillation vat was discovered within the ruins – giving evidence that at one time it is highly likely that whisky production played an important part in abbey life….

Ruins of Lindores Abbey – Image credit : Bubobubo2 – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0
Eastern entrance – Image credit : Bubobubo2 – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0
Abbey ruins – Image credit : DehraSw – CC BY-SA 4.0

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