Banff is one of several tragically lost smaller distilleries that Diageo saw fit to mothball in the eighties due to the industry's spectacular and collective lack of common sense. It was beset by problems for most of its life, usually involving large fires, explosions, and German...
Banff is one of several tragically lost smaller distilleries that Diageo saw fit to mothball in the eighties due to the industry's 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 the Banff distillery still managed to produce a wonderful old style and beautifully unsexy distillate that has found love on the tastebuds of many whisky nerds around the world. Interestingly it was also a triple distilled malt up until 1924, but bottles of this are incredibly rare - we've only ever seen one, and it sold for £16,100 on our sister site Whisky-Online Auctions in October 2021.
Founded: 1863 Closed: 1983 Water Source: Fiskaidly Farm Owners: Diageo
1960-1983: Robust, Oily, Waxy and Unloved
There are very few bottlings of Banff in comparison to other distilleries. Finding anything Banff distilled before the mid-sixties is a massive challenge, meaning that we know very little about the character of the old distillate - 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 lustre fading slightly, but this may be down 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 of Banff's single malt whisky are wonderfully taut 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.
Sadly, recent bottlings of Banff have slowed to a trickle, with only a handful of casks surfacing in the last few years. It seems that very soon the last of this great Highland distillery's whisky will have gone for good.