Raising a toast to the monks behind the ‘spiritual home of whisky’

Whisky chiefs from the "spiritual home of Scotch" have paid tribute to the monks who first introduced the national drink in a Scottish abbey over 500 years ago.

Lindores Abbey, founded near Newburgh in Fife in 1191, is where the first ever written record of Scotch whisky distillation took place in 1494.

King James IV commissioned Friar John Cor, a Tironensian monk at Lindores, to turn "eight bols of malt" into Aqua Vitae as it was then known.

Lindores Abbey Distillery, which restarted whisky production in 2017, has now bottled three casks of Lowland single malt Scotch in celebration of its historic links to the Tironensian order and l’Abbaye de Tiron, its 12th century "mother abbey" in France.

Drew McKenzie Smith, MD and Lindores Distillery Founder pictured with Gary Haggart, Distillery Manager on the maturation of the first cask of their inaugural Lindores Abbey whisky. Picture: Tina Norris

The virgin oak casks were made with wood from forests surrounding Thiron-Gardais, south of Paris, and bottles will be made available exclusively for the French market.

Drew McKenzie Smith, the founder and managing director of Lindores Abbey Distillery, travelled to the medieval French abbey last week.

He said: "Thiron-Gardais is home to Thiron Abbey, the mother abbey of all Tironensian abbeys including Arbroath, Kelso and of course Lindores.

"If Thiron abbey hadn't been built, the Tironensian order would not have existed, Lindores wouldn't have been built, and Scotland wouldn't have whisky.

"Friar John Cor was a Tironensian monk of Lindores, and it is he who was famously ordered in 1494 to make aqua vitae for the king.

"We went over to plant a ceremonial oak tree in recognition of the 831 years of historic friendship between Lindores and Thiron, but we have also arranged for 50 more oak trees to be planted around Thiron to replace the wood we used from their forests to make whisky casks.

"These casks of Thiron oak have now been bottled and we have just announced a new exclusive bottling for the French market."

Lindores Abbey was founded in 1191 by David Earl of Huntingdon, on land overlooking the River Tay given to him by his brother King William I.

Visited by Kings and Queens, warriors and statesmen, Sir William Wallace and 300 men are said to have taken refuge there after defeating an English force at the nearby Battle of Blackearnside in 1298.

The first written record of Scotch whisky distillation was documented in 1494 in the exchequer rolls of King James IV, who commissioned 'Fra' (brother) John Cor of Lindores Abbey, to turn "eight bols of malt" into Aqua Vitae as it was then known.

The abbey came to an end during the Scottish Reformation in 1559 when a rabble "overthrew the altars, broke up statues, burned the books and vestments and made them cast aside their monkish habits".

McKenzie Smith, who sampled the exclusive release with Victor Provot, Mayor of Thiron, in front of l’Abbaye de Tiron, added: "Preservation, both historic and environmental, are of huge significance to us at Lindores. Our trip to Thiron allowed us not only to further cement our historic relationship between our two abbeys, but also to give back to the surrounding forests which provided us with such special wood for our casks."

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