The Ben Nevis Distillery
One of the most famous distilleries in the UK, the Ben Nevis Distillery has been serving up deliciously crafted scotch whisky for nearly 200 years. Whilst exploring the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, give your tastebuds a holiday of their own with a guided tasting tour.
The Distillery’s History
It’s more than just a shot of whisky in a glass, the Ben Nevis Distillery takes you on a historical journey of how the distillery began, and why this famous drink has been pouring into tumblers for nearly two hundred years. Established in 1825, the distillery holds one of the oldest distillery licences in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the famous mountain range Ben Nevis, the distillery produces aromatic single malt scotch whisky. It was on the outskirts of Fort William where ‘long John’ Macdonald first took out a licence for the distillery nearly 200 years ago. In 1856, Macdonald passed away leaving the distillery to his son Peter, who then headed the business. As the distillery grew so did the demand for scotch whisky. This gave the distillery a huge boost, and it wasn’t long until it was crafting a successful single malt brand of whisky known as Long John’s Dew of Ben Nevis. In 1878, the demand for Macdonald’s brand of whisky was so immense that Peter had to build a second distillery known as Nevis. Both distilleries worked together as one overall unit crafting the much-anticipated whisky. There were over 200 employees covering both distilleries turning Ben Nevis into the hub of single malt whisky production.
Despite the popularity, the golden age of whisky came to an end in 1908 when the distillery was closed to become a part of the Ben Nevis estate and used as a bonding warehouse. A Canadian entrepreneur called Joseph Hobbs saw the potential in the distillery and purchased the distillery unit in 1941. The brand of Long John had previously been sold to Seager Evans and the selling didn’t stop there, as Hobbs then sold the second distillery to Associated Scottish Distilleries.
The distillery closed during WWII and it didn’t reopen until 1955, which saw a Coffey still also installed into the distillery production line making it the first-ever dual-operational distillery in Scotland. Almost ten years later Hobbs passed away and the production within the distillery halted in 1978 and didn’t start back up again until 1981, which is when Long John Distillers took over the unit. The distillery saw a dramatic refurbishment that cost nearly £2million and production was once again in full whisky flow. The Coffey still was also taken out to return the distillery to its former glory of being a solely malt distillation only.
Loyal distiller and customer of the Ben Nevis distillery, Nikka, had been buying malt and grain from the distillery for several years and in 1989 actually bought the distillery outright. In 1991, Nikka added a visitor’s centre for the public to learn all about the history of this famous distillery.
The Ben Nevis distillery still continues to produce smoky flavoured whisky and supplies smooth malt flavours all across the world.
Ben Nevis’ Famous Facts
There’s so much that goes into producing scotch whisky, way more than just deciding whether or not you want it served with ice. Here are a few facts about the malt that differentiates this drink from the rest.
- Fermentation time: 48 hours and longer at weekends
- Fermentation time is the number of hours the sugary liquid spends in the washbacks, which turns sugar into alcohol.
- Malt specification: Speyside type
- The type of malted barley required and used by the distillery.
- New-make strength: 70%
- The spirit’s alcoholic strength.
- Water source: Allt a Mhullin burn
- Where there water comes from that is used in the production process.
- Wort clarity: Clear
- The clarity obtained after the mashing process. The clear clarity allows for a much fruitier taste.
- Yeast type: Brewer’s/pressed
- The yeast used during the fermentation process.
- Condenser: Shell and tube
- Condensers are used to cool down the alcohol vapours and turn them into liquid.
- Heat source: Steam
- Heating is used to heat the stills for distillation. Steam is used to boil the water inside the still.
With wooden washbacks and brewer’s yeast used during the process, Ben Nevis remains the only distillery in Scotland to maintain the old traditional way of fermentation.
The Legend of the Dew of Ben Nevis
Aside from treating yourself to a delicious tasting tour, the Ben Nevis Distillery is also home to a visitor’s centre, which has been built into the old warehouse. Steeped in history, you’ll still be able to smell the aromas from the scotch whisky produced hundreds of years ago.
You’ll be greeted by Hector McDram in an incredible audiovisual presentation that transports you to a mythical land where McDram (a giant) reveals all of the hidden secrets about the Legend of the Dew of Ben Nevis. You’ll also learn about the legend of Hector himself, whose tales have been passed down generation to generation.
There’s also an onsite coffee shop and restaurant for you to relax with a delectable Scottish treat and to help wash down all of that whisky.
With rich, deep, and smoky flavours swirling around inside one glass, you definitely won’t forget the matured flavours on offer at the Ben Nevis Distillery. There’s a gift shop, too, where you can take home a bottle of the famous scotch whisky and have a taste of the Ben Nevis distillery history wherever you are.