Earliest Written Reference
Distilling was taking place on this site at least as early as 1494, although it was most probably happening long before that.
We know this because of the earliest written reference to Scotch Whisky (or Aqua Vitae, as it was then known), which appears in the Exchequer Roll of the same year, naming Brother John Cor, a Lindores monk, who was commissioned by King James IV to turn 8 bolls of malt into Aqua Vitae.
8 Bolls of malt amounts to around 500kg in modern terms and would have been enough to make about 400 bottles of today’s whisky.
‘To Brother John Cor, 8 bolls of malt, wherewith to make aqua vitae for the King.’
The Exchequer Roll
The excerpt from the Exchequer Roll of 1494 reads:
“Et per liberacionem factam fratri Johanni Cor per preceptum compotorum rotulatoris, ut asserit, de mandato domini regis ad faciendum aquavite infra hoc compotum, viii bolle brasii.”
Which roughly translates to:
“To Brother John Cor, 8 bolls of malt, wherewith to make aqua vitae for the King.”
This entry is recognised as the first written evidence of the production of whisky in Scotland.
Brother John Cor
The earliest modern record noting Brother John’s base at Lindores Abbey comes from a company report of Bonthrones of Newton, dated 1950. Bonthrones of Newton were maltsters and brewers, who supplied the Palace at Falkland as far back as 1600. Before that time, he appears at several other points in the annals of Lindores:
‘”Whereupon the said John Kawe [sic], bailie aforesaid gave heritable state and seisin thereof to the said John Malcoumsone. Done at the Monastery of Londoris near the stone dial, eleven o’clock forenoon or thereby…”
The Abbot of Lindores appointed ‘baillies’ of Newburgh and they were the Abbot’s ‘money men’, people of learning whom he could trust with the financial affairs of the Monastery. So it is no surprise to read that when Abbot Andrew Cavers (Abbot of Lindores, 1490 – 1511) sent 114 ounces of silver to John Leslie at Aberdeen Cathedral, it carried the seal of ‘Baillie John Kawe’ of Lindores Abbey.
His name appears here in the Chartulary as John ‘Kawe’, but we know that often names were spelt as they sounded, hence ‘Cor’ and ‘Kawe’. The Chartulary itself was written in the vernacular so that makes this difference in spelling even more likely.
That Brother John appears so regularly in ink, at a time when records were not always kept, further confirms that he held an important position.