The first noted reference to whisky is recorded in the National Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, dated in 1494, in which Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey in Dunfermline receives an order from King James IV to purchase “Eight bolls of malt” with which to make Uisge Beatha the “Water of Life”. Scottish farmers were quick to acquire the skills of distillation and were able to reap some of the rewards for harvesting barley on their lands.
The Benedectine Monks from Pluscarden Priory were known in the 15th Century to be brewing and distilling their own form of beverage, christened “Aqua Vitae”.
By the 16th Century distilling was becoming quite common with a good portion of the spirits being used by the Barber Surgeons for medicinal uses, but by the mid 16th Century Scots Law had intervened with prosecutions as drinking whisky had become very popular.
In 1781 private distillation was prohibited causing illicit distilling to go underground, with excise officers being given the power to seize and destroy the illicit stills. The Whisky Industry has come a long way from those illicit distilling days, with Scotch Whisky sales exceeding 2.8 billion pounds sterling in 2007.