Whisky Types: Single Malts
Typical Taste: The Single Malts have strong chocolate hints with a long finish
Nestled at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, is Ben Nevis Distillery. The distillery produces malt whiskies since 1825. With the water from “The Mill Burn”, the distillery produces 2,000,000 litres whisky a year. Established by “Long John” McDonald, the distillery is now in the hands of the owner Nikka, a company from Japan. Even though Ben Nevis Distillery used to produce both malt and grain whisky, only the production of malt whisky revived.
The distillery produces Highland single malts as well as blended whiskies. Its whiskies reach from Ben Nevis 8 year old to Ben Nevis 25 year old. The shop also sells a number of blended whiskies. Because of the different whiskies available it is difficult to describe general notes. However, one characteristic is the strong chocolate hints with a long finish. The Ben Nevis 10 year old single malt can be described as a taste of soft oils, citrus notes and a big oak on the malt. It has a long finish with hints of bitter roast coffee against the sweet oils.
The visitor centre is usually open Monday to Friday all year round between 9am and 5pm. However the opening times can vary depending on the season. Ben Nevis Distillery is situated near to Fort William and which has bus connections from Glasgow and several villages within the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
- Ben Nevis “10 Years Old Single West Highland” Malt – Green, orange, nutty
- Ben Nevis “12 Year Old Deluxe” Blend – Smooth, gentle peatiness and matiness
- McDonald’s Glencoe “8 Year Old Vatted” Malt – Spicy and oily
- Ben Nevis “Special Reserve” Blend – Toffee, oak, peat with hints of fudge
- Ben Nevis “Supreme Selection” Blend – Cereal and grain taste, smoky, honey
- Ben Nevis “Blue Label” Blend
Opening Times: Monday – Friday: 9am – 5pm,
Easter to September: Sat 10am-4pm
July to August: Mon-Fri: 9am-6pm, Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 12pm-4pm,
October to Easter: by arrangement.
Ben Nevis Distillery: A Visitors Guide to Whisky Excellence
Nestled at the foot of Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, the Ben Nevis Distillery has been a hallmark of Scottish whisky-making since its establishment in 1825. Located in the scenic town of Fort William, this historic distillery has continued the whisky-making legacy for nearly two centuries. Combining traditional techniques with the enchanting local surroundings, Ben Nevis Distillery remains an impressive and important site in the world of whisky.
Visitors to the distillery are in for a truly captivating experience; a journey through the revered secrets of the ‘Legend of the Dew of Ben Nevis’. An engaging audiovisual tour led by the character Hector McDram provides insight into the distillation process while sharing fascinating tales about the distillery’s history. Following the tour, guests have the opportunity to witness the production site and tasting rooms, offering an authentic and immersive understanding of Scotland’s whisky heritage.
For whisky enthusiasts and history lovers alike, a visit to Ben Nevis Distillery proves to be a memorable and educational experience. Advance booking for the distillery tours is essential, ensuring that guests can fully immerse themselves into their time at this remarkable location. With its history, charm and delectable whiskies, the Ben Nevis Distillery remains a key destination for those wishing to explore Scotland’s rich whisky tradition.
History of Ben Nevis Distillery
Founding and Early Years
Ben Nevis Distillery was established in 1825, in the coastal area of the Western Highlands near Fort William. The distillery’s water source is the Allt a’Mhuilinn, which originates from two pools on Ben Nevis, Coire Leis and Coire na’Ciste. The founder, John McDonald, or “Long John”, was a legendary figure in the whisky industry and initiated the distillery as an independent enterprise.
Throughout its history, Ben Nevis Distillery has changed ownership numerous times. One of the most notable transitions occurred in 1989 when the distillery was acquired by Nikka Whisky Distilling of Tokyo, Japan. This purchase has had a significant impact on its business operations and product development.
Expansion and Modernisation
Over the years, Ben Nevis Distillery has undergone various expansion and modernisation efforts. These upgrades have allowed the distillery to maintain its historic charm while incorporating advanced technology and innovations, catering to the growing demands of the whisky market. One of the main attractions in Fort William, the Ben Nevis Distillery is a popular destination for whisky enthusiasts and tourists alike.
Whisky Production Process
The first step in producing whisky at Ben Nevis Distillery involves preparing the malt. The distillery uses malted barley, which is first steeped in water to allow it to absorb moisture and commence germination. Afterward, the barley is spread out on a floor, turned regularly, and allowed to germinate for a few days. This process helps to break down the starches within the barley grains, converting them into fermentable sugars needed for producing alcohol.
Once the malted barley is adequately prepared, the fermentation process begins. The malt is milled into a coarse powder known as grist, and mixed with hot water in a large vessel called a mash tun. As the grist and hot water mix, natural enzymes in the malt convert the remaining starches into fermentable sugars, creating a sugary liquid called wort. The wort is then cooled and transferred to fermentation vessels called washbacks, where it is combined with yeast. Yeast feeds on the fermentable sugars, converting them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This fermentation process generally lasts around 48 hours, after which the liquid, now called wash, contains about 7-8% alcohol content.
Distillation is the next step in the whisky production process. The wash is heated in large copper stills, with two stages of distillation taking place at Ben Nevis Distillery. The first stage, known as the wash distillation, separates the alcohol from the wash using the principle that alcohol has a lower boiling point than water. The vapor rises through the neck of the still and is cooled as it passes through the condenser, turning it back into a liquid. This liquid, known as low wines, usually has an alcohol content of around 20-25%.
A second distillation, known as spirit distillation, is performed to further purify and increase the alcohol content. The low wines are heated in spirit stills, where only the liquid containing the desired alcohol concentration, known as the heart, is collected. The remaining liquid is either recycled or discarded. The collected spirit typically has an alcohol content of 65-70%.
The final stage of the whisky production process is maturation. The spirit collected from the distillation process is transferred to oak casks, where it matures for a minimum of three years, as required by law. During this maturation period, the whisky interacts with the oak casks, acquiring flavours and developing its unique character. The length of the maturation process can vary, with some whiskies being matured for decades to achieve the desired taste profile. After the maturation process is complete, the whisky is bottled and sold, allowing consumers to enjoy the final product of the Ben Nevis Distillery’s skilled craftsmanship.
Ben Nevis 10 Year Old
The Ben Nevis 10 Year Old is a popular single malt Scotch whisky, which showcases the distillery’s signature character. It often presents notes of honey, heather, and spice, along with a hint of peat smoke. This well-crafted whisky is aged in oak casks for a minimum of ten years, providing a smooth and enjoyable drinking experience.
McDonald’s Traditional Ben Nevis
McDonald’s Traditional Ben Nevis is a distinctive blended malt whisky that pays homage to the distillery’s founder, ‘Long John’ McDonald. This whisky combines a rich and full-bodied flavour profile, with a delightful sweetness and a touch of peat. The result is a finely balanced dram that showcases both the heritage and expertise of the Ben Nevis Distillery.
Limited Edition Releases
In addition to their core range, Ben Nevis Distillery also offers a variety of Limited Edition Releases. These whiskies are produced in limited quantities, making them highly sought-after by collectors and enthusiasts. Due to their exclusive nature, these releases can showcase unique and experimental flavours, as well as rare and aged expressions. Keep an eye out for these special bottlings, as they offer a remarkable insight into the diverse world of Ben Nevis whisky.
Tour Options and Prices
Standard Distillery Tour
The Standard Distillery Tour is a guided experience for visitors looking to learn about the history and production process of Ben Nevis Distillery. Visitors can explore the distillery, get an insight into the whisky making process, and enjoy a tasting of the distillery’s offerings. Advance booking for tours is essential, and bookings can be made via email or phone. Please note that children under 5 are not permitted on tour. The exact pricing for the Standard Distillery Tour is not available in the search results.
For those who want a more in-depth experience, the Connoisseurs Tour offers a detailed visit to Ben Nevis Distillery. This premium tour includes a more comprehensive exploration of the distillery, an opportunity to taste a wider selection of whiskies, and potentially, a chance to sample some rare and exclusive expressions. Pricing information for this tour is also unavailable in the search results. It is advised to contact the distillery directly for accurate pricing and booking details.
In addition to the guided tours, Ben Nevis Distillery also offers Exclusive Tastings for whisky enthusiasts who want to focus on the tasting experience. These sessions provide visitors with a curated selection of whiskies, including some limited edition and premium expressions that may not be available on the standard or connoisseurs tours. To find out more about the pricing and availability for these exclusive tastings, it is recommended to contact the distillery directly.
Please keep in mind that the prices and availability may change over time, so it is always a good idea to contact the distillery to confirm the most up-to-date information before planning your visit.
When visiting Ben Nevis Distillery, you’ll have the opportunity to explore their Gift Shop that offers a wide range of products. From their exquisite selection of whiskies to branded merchandise such as clothing, glassware, and souvenirs, you will undoubtedly find something to remember your visit by. Take the time to browse through their items and pick up a unique memento or a special gift for someone back home.
While exploring the Ben Nevis Distillery, do not miss the chance to visit their on-site café. The café provides a cosy atmosphere for guests to relax and enjoy some refreshments after their distillery tour. Here, you’ll find a variety of snacks, sandwiches, and beverages available to suit your taste buds. Whether you need a little pick-me-up or a place to sit and chat with friends, the café offers a comfortable setting to ensure a pleasant experience at the Ben Nevis Distillery.
How to Get There
If you’re planning to visit the Ben Nevis Distillery by car, it’s located near Fort William, which is easily accessible via the A82 road. To make your journey even more comfortable, consider using a GPS or navigation app, such as Google Maps or Waze. When you’re in the area, look for signs directing you to the distillery or input the address
Ben Nevis Distillery, Lochy Bridge, Fort William, PH33 6TJ on your GPS device.
Here is a list of approximate driving times from various Scottish cities:
- Glasgow: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Edinburgh: 3 hours 15 minutes
- Aberdeen: 3 hours 45 minutes
- Inverness: 1 hour 30 minutes
Please note that these driving times are approximate and may vary depending on traffic and weather conditions.
By Public Transport
If you prefer using public transport to reach the Ben Nevis Distillery, Fort William is well-connected by both train and bus. Once you arrive in Fort William, you can either walk to the distillery (approximately a 20-minute stroll) or take a short taxi ride.
By Train: Fort William has a railway station, and the West Highland Line connects it to Glasgow (about a 3-hour journey). You can find train schedules and book tickets on the ScotRail website.
By Bus: The Citylink bus service offers connections between Fort William and various Scottish cities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Inverness. Check the Citylink website for timetables and ticket information.
Remember to plan your journey ahead of time and consult up-to-date timetable information to avoid potential delays.
Places to Stay and Nearby Attractions
Visitors have a variety of options for accommodations near Ben Nevis Distillery. A popular choice is the Inverlochy Castle Hotel, which offers a luxurious stay in a historic castle setting with stunning views. For a more budget-friendly option, consider Victoria House Bed and Breakfast, which offers comfortable rooms, free WiFi, and access to a hot tub. There are also several hotels in Fort William, such as:
- The Moorings Hotel
- Premier Inn Fort William
- Alexandra Hotel
Apart from hotels, you can find charming B&Bs and loch-side hotels to suit your preferences and budget.
During your visit to the Ben Nevis Distillery, you can also indulge in various activities nearby. These include:
- Hiking: Take advantage of the proximity to Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, and explore its surrounding trails.
- Distillery Tour: Experience the history and craftsmanship of Scottish whisky production with a distillery tour. Be sure to book in advance.
- Outdoor Activities: Fort William and the surrounding area offer numerous outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, fishing, and skiing in the winter months.
In addition to visiting Ben Nevis Distillery, consider visiting other attractions and points of interest in the area:
- Glen Nevis: A picturesque valley located just a few kilometers from the distillery, offering beautiful scenery and hiking trails.
- Loch Linnhe: Enjoy the beautiful views of this sea loch, just 20 km from the distillery.
- West Highland Museum: Learn about local history and culture at this fascinating museum located in Fort William.
There is plenty to see and do near Ben Nevis Distillery, whether you’re interested in whisky, nature, or local history. Make the most of your visit by planning ahead, and enjoy your stay in this beautiful part of Scotland.