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Issue 123 - River Deep Mountain High

Whisky Magazine Issue 123
October 2014


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River Deep Mountain High

Hans Offringa takes us hill walking this time, in the twelfth and last episode of our label series

The Scots call a valley a glen (or strath), a mountain, a ben. The highest one in the British Isles is found on Scottish soil and is called Ben Nevis which dominates the old garrison Fort William. At the foot of this feared and famous mountain stands Ben Nevis Distillery.

It was built in 1825 by a farmer from Wester Ross, who was known as John Macdonald. He sold his whisky as Long John's Dew of Ben Nevis. The name stuck and was later used for the blended whiskey Long John. In 1848 Queen Victoria visited the distillery as part of her journey around Scotland. Soon after her departure an entire cask of the whisky was sent to Buckingham Palace as a present for the Prince of Wales' 21st birthday.

In 1865 the distillery was rebuilt, followed by some modifications in 1887, among which a pier in Loch Lhinne. In 1894 a connection to the West Highland Railway was realised. The year 1955 witnessed the arrival of a Coffey still for the production of grain whisky. It offered Ben Nevis the opportunity to create blended whisky. In 1989 the company was sold to the Japanese Nikka Whisky Distilling Company, which is one of the reasons why their blend Black Nikka contains very young Ben Nevis whisky.

The water comes from Allt a Mhullin, the ‘Mill Stream' in English. It sprouts from two small lochs north of Ben Nevis mountain. The distillery uses a huge stainless steel mash tun, six stainless steel and two wooden washbacks, and four pot stills. The yearly output is around 1.8 million litr...

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