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Lindores Abbey discovers medieval still

Archaeologists have unearthed a medieval structure at Lindores Abbey Distillery, which is thought to be one of the “oldest possible whisky stills ever discovered”.

Gary Haggart (left), distillery manager, and Drew McKenzie Morris (left) beside what is believed to be a medieval whisky still

The discovery at the Fife-based Scotch whisky distillery is believed to be an installation used for distilling during medieval times.

Archaeologists who were present at the dig confirmed the structure’s features are “characteristic” of traditional kiln stills used at the time, and also found residue inside that “is certainly in keeping” with brewing and distilling from medieval times.

Traces of charcoal, barley, oats, wheat and pottery were also found within the stone structure, which have been backdated to medieval times when monks distilled whisky.

The resident archaeologist at the dig said: “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.

“The evidence is however also commensurate with brewing, cooking and baking, which were practiced at the Abbey.”

Lindores Abbey Distillery officially opened in October 2016 and claims to be the site of first recorded whisky distillation in Scotland.

Exchequer rolls detail that Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey in Fife paid duty on eight bolls of malt to make aqua vitae (equating to 400 700ml bottles) for King James IV.

Founded by Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith, Lindores Abbey Distillery has the capacity to produce 150,000 litres of spirit a year.

Drew McKenzie Smith, managing director and founder of Lindores Abbey Distillery, said: “It’s hard to overestimate the potential significance of this discovery.

“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 is the spiritual home of Scotch whisky and this discovery underlines the historical importance of this site.”

The distillery launched its first spirit in June this year – an aqua vitae made with 100% Fife barley.

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