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Banff is one of several tragically lost smaller distilleries that Diageo saw fit to mothball in the eighties due to the industrys spectacular and collective lack of common sense. It was beset by problems for most of its life, usually involving large fires, explosions and German air raids. However despite all this it still managed to produce a wonderfully old style and beautifully unsexy distillate that has found love on the taste buds of many whisky nerds around the world. Interestingly it was also a triple distilled malt up until 1924, but good luck finding a bottle of that.
Water Source: Fiskaidly Farm
1960-1983: Robust, Oily, Waxy and Unloved.
There are very few bottlings of Banff by comparison to other distilleries. Finding any distilled before the mid sixties would be a massive challenge, the result is that we dont know too much about the character of the old distillate seeing as the stills were converted to mechanical stoking in 1963 and then internal steam heating in 1970. How these upgrades affected the character of the distillate is unclear as by any standards Banff remained a pretty old style dram for most of the rest of its life. Some casks from the early eighties show its luster fading slightly but this may be down simply to a few dud casks. What is certain is that Banff was a charmingly unsexy and sinewy dram that was usually full of garden fruits, drying mineral characters and big hints of smoke, spice, herbs and some saline aspects as well. The best bottlings are wonderfully taught and well constructed drams full of boisterous old highland style flavours and are often quite difficult, but by the same token hugely rewarding, to wrestle with. There are great examples by most of the major independents but pay special attention to bottlings by Douglas Laing, Signatory, Blackadder, Dewar Rattray and Duncan Taylor with some excellent examples also available from some of the smaller niche European bottlers. Hopefully the stocks of this great whisky will last for a few more years to come.