June 1, 2007

Earliest Written Record of Scotch Whisky

On June 1, 1494, a Tironensian monk, Friar John Cor, paid duty on "eight bols of malt wherewith to make Aqua Vitae for King James IV." This was the first recorded evidence relating to the making of Scotch Whisky.

Aqua Vitae, literally "water of life", was a term for the distilled spirits of an area. In Gaelic the word is translated usquebaugh, which later became uskey, and then whisky. The eight bols, I am told, is about 1,120 pounds, and is enough to make about 1,400 bottles of whisky. King James would have been staying at his Falkand palace, a hunting lodge near Lindores Abbey, when he placed his order. James reportedly enthusiastically enjoyed the "ardent spirits", so it is not surprising that he would commission the order.

Why would monks be making whisky? At the time, whisky was valued primarily for its medical properties. Remembering what the hygienic standards of the time were, it may have been safer to drink than water.

Photo: © Rodolfo Clix

No comments: