Has The Oldest Whisky Still In The World Been Found? - The Whiskey Wash

Has The Oldest Whisky Still In The World Been Found?

By Katelyn Best / December 13, 2018

Archaeologists have dug up what looks like a very, very old still at Lindores Abbey, a Scottish distiller that was put back to work in 2017 after some 500 years of inactivity. And by “very, very old,” we mean possibly the oldest in the world.

The stone structure that was excavated was found to contain traces of charcoal, barley, oats, wheat and pottery that date to the medieval era. “The structure was unearthed next to the site of the original grain store, suggesting that grain was essential for its function,” according to a recent statement from the distillery. The structure is said to be characteristic of stills in use during that era.

Drew McKenzie Smith, MD of Lindores Abbey Distillery and Gary Haggart, Distillery Manager, inspecting the new discovery. The background shows the original grain store of the Abbey. (image via Lindores Abbey Distillery)

The earliest known records of whisky distillation in the British Isles are found in the Exchequer Rolls of 1494; the site referenced in that record is believed to be Lindores Abbey, but this archaeological find appears to represent concrete evidence that spirits were being distilled there around that time.

The evidence isn’t necessarily clear-cut, however.

“It would be fair to say that the archaeological structures and environmental deposits that have been found are commensurate in character with distilling,” said an archaeologist on the dig. “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.”

What is known is that Lindores Abbey itself is a very old site, founded in 1191 by David Earl of Huntingdon King William I’s brother. William Wallace once took refuge there after a victory over the English. Even before this archaeological discovery, it was known as a “spiritual home” for Scotch.

About the author

Katelyn Best

Katelyn is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon. She's a regular contributor to the Whiskey Wash with an affinity for the unique and weird side of whiskey.