A medieval structure, believed to be the remains of one of the oldest whisky stills ever discovered, has been unearthed at Lindores Abbey. During the archaeological dig, experts uncovered what they believe to be an installation that was used for the distillation process during the Middle Ages.
The stone structure has been excavated and found to contain traces of charcoal, barley, oats, wheat and pottery that have been dated back to medieval times, when the monks first began to distil their bols of malt, the product that we now know as Scotch whisky. The structure was unearthed next to the site of the original grain store, suggesting that grain was essential for its function.
The archaeologists present at the dig confirmed that the structure’s features are characteristic of traditional kiln stills of the medieval period era, and that the residue found within is certainly in keeping with brewing and distilling practices of the time. “It would be fair to say that the archaeological structures and environmental deposits that have been found are commensurate in character with distilling – they have also been found at a medieval monastery known, from historical records, to have been distilling on an industrial scale in the late medieval period,” they said in a statement. “The evidence is however also commensurate with brewing, cooking, and baking which were practiced at the Abbey.”
Lindores Abbey, located in eastern Scotland, was founded in the late eleventh-century for the Tironensian Order, also known as the ‘Grey Monks’. The monastery was attacked and destroyed in the sixteenth-century, but some parts of the original structures remain. It is now home to Lindores Abbey Distillery.
“It is hard to overestimate the potential significance of this discovery,” commented Drew McKenzie Smith, MD and founder of Lindores Abbey Distillery. “Many signs point towards this being one of the earliest stills ever discovered, and this is almost certainly the site referenced in the Exchequer Rolls of 1494 that include the first ever written record of aqua vitae or whisky, as we know it today. Lindores Abbey has long been considered the spiritual home of Scotch whisky, and this discovery underlines the historical importance of this site.”
Top Image: Drew McKenzie Smith, MD of Lindores Abbey Distillery and Gary Haggart, Distillery Manager, inspecting the new discovery. Photo courtesy Lindores Abbey Distillery