Ben Nevis Distillery of Fort William

The Ben Nevis Distillery is unique in many ways. Located at Fort William in Scotland, the distillery stands at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain after which it is named. Not only is it one of the oldest licensed distilleries in Scotland, Ben Nevis is one of the few distilleries in Western Scotland. It was built by John MacDonald (popularly known as Long John) in 1825 and he was succeeded by his son Donald MacDonald.

The distillery has a continuous and consistent source of pure clean water from the Allt a’ Mhuilinn, the stream that flows from Ben Nevis‘ northern face. There are two small lochans near the distillery. The water passes over peat bogs on its way down the side of the mountain giving the whisky its distinctive peaty flavor. The banks of the river near the distillery also provide an ample supply of peat for the fires that dry the barley.

Donald MacDonald had increased the production tenfold by 1887. The business was so successful that he started Glen Nevis Distillery to cope with demand. This latter distillery however was closed in 1908 and converted into a warehouse. Ben Nevis stayed with the family until 1955 when it was bought by Joseph W Hobbs. He installed a Coffey still making Ben Nevis the first distillery to produce both malt and grain whisky.

In 1981 Ben Nevis Distillery was bought by the Long John group which is a part of the Whitbread Group. They expanded and made alterations to the distillery, stopping the functioning of the Coffey still. Unfortunately it was closed down two years later. From 1984 it worked sporadically but was closed again in 1986. Ben Nevis was ultimately bought by the Japanese group The Nikka Whisky Distilling Company Ltd in 1989. They reopened Ben Nevis in 1990.

The Ben Nevis whisky is malted with a strong hint of chocolate flavor. Most of the whisky produced here is used in blends, mainly for Glencoe and Dew of Ben Nevis. The distillery’s single highland malt includes Ben Nevis 10 Years, Ben Nevis 26 Years Old Single Cask and Ben Nevis Still1990. The well-known blends are Dew of Ben Nevis 21 Years Old Luxury and Dew of Ben Nevis 20 Years Old Limited Edition in ceramic flagon.

A highlight of the Ben Nevis Visitor Center is the Legend of the Dew audio visual presentation that is conducted in an old warehouse built in 1862 and the former bottling hall, which still retains some of its original features. The story, The Legend of the Dew of Ben Nevis Distillery is revealed by their mythical giant Hector McDram. The presentation is followed by a tour of the distillery and a whisky tasting session.

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