Banff distillery

A strong contender for the unluckiest distillery in Scotland, between repeated fires, exploding stills and a German bomb the distillery was repeatedly reconstructed but was eventually mothballed in 1983 the victim of the whisky crisis and strategic repositioning. By the late 1980s, most of the distillery’s had been dismantled or demolished, the final warehouse was destroyed in a fire on 11 April 1991.

Originally founded as the nearby Mill of Banff in 1824 the distillery was moved one mile south-west to the current Inverboyndie site in 1863. The new distillery had both a better water source in the springs on Fiskaidly farm and access to rail transport via the Great North of Scotland Railway, the ‘Boyndie siding’ was added especially to facilitate transports for the new distillery.

On May 9th 1877 the first of several fires gutted all production facilities at the new distillery aside from the floor maltings, fortunately the warehouses with their precious stock survived unscathed and amidst the ‘whisky boom’ James Simpson wasted started reconstruction immediately and by October 1877 the distillery was functioning again with a new on site a fire engine.

In 1921 the Simpson family sold some of their interest in Banff to a subsidiary of Taylor Walker and in 1924 Banff shifted from triple to double distillation. In 1932 the distillery was purchased by Scotch Malt Distillers, part of DCL Distillers Company Limited for £50.000 and immediately closed until the end of the second World War, though the site was used to house maturing stock.

During the war Banff was bombed and partially destroyed, Ulf Buxrud notes Saturday August 16, 1941 is a day Banff will never forget. During the late afternoon of that day a solitary German Junkers Ju-88 blasted the building complex with machine-gun fire, emptied its bomb cargo over the distillery and got a perfect hit at warehouse No 12. The blazing fire that broke out was fed by the warehouses highly flammable content of exploding whisky casks. Some casks it was said went propelling high up in the sky crashing to the ground quite a distance away. A river of burning whisky surrounded the place. Several hundred casks were lost that grim afternoon. Not all become victim of the flames. Thousands of litres found their way to farmlands and watercourses. Farmers claimed that the cows were not milkable days afterwards -they were too unsteady on their feet (the cows, not the farmers). Waterfowls, wild and tamed were found flapping drunkenly on the brinks of the Boyndie Burns and its mouth. A fireman, passing his helmet to colleagues, filled to the brim with rescued whisky, ended up in court accused for pilfering. It’s unlikely that the loss of 63,000 proof gallons was accidental however, as the Banff distillery was being used as a training camp for foreign RAF. Repair work after the bombing started during the winter of 1941 and in 1943 the buildings of Banff distillery formally became home to No. 248 Squadron RAF until the end of the war.

During a restoration operation on October 3rd, 1959 while one of the stills was being repaired by a coppersmith, vapours inside the still were ignited causing an explosion that destroyed the still and damaged much of the distillery, surprisingly nobody was seriously injured. The distillery was one of 10 mothballed in by DCL, Banff had in part been selected for closure in due to ongoing water supply problems at the site.

Banff factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Banff ban*ff Inverboyndie Speyside Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Lost 1863 - 1983 Malt Banff Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group

Banff Timeline:

1824: The first distillery at Mill of Banff was founded by James McKilligan

1837: Ownership was transferred to Alex Mackay

1852: Ownership was transferred to James Simpson Sr. and James Simpson Jr.

1863: The first distillery at Mill of Banff was closed and a new distillery was established in Inverboyndie

1877: A fire guts the Banff distillery leaving little but a warehouse standing

1921: The Simpson's family sold a portion of the distillery to the London-based Mile End Distillery Company

1924: Banff stops triple distillation

1932: A subsidiary of Distillers Company Ltd. bought the entire distillery for £50,000, and stopped production immediately.

1941: On 16 August 1941, a Nazi Junkers 88 attacked the Banff distillery and destroyed warehouse No. 12

1943: No. 248 Squadron RAF was moved to the site of the distillery and stationed there until the end of the war.

1983: The distillery was mothballed In May 1983, Banff was selected for closure in part due to water supply problems

1991: The last warehouse was destroyed by a fire

Useful Banff links:

Banff at ScotchWhisky

Banff at MaltMadness

Banff at Whisky

Banff at Wikipedia

Banff at WhiskyPortal

Banff at MasterOfMalts

Banff at WhiskyExhange

Banff at SMWS

Banff at Wormtub

Banff at Whiskybase

Interesting Banff links:

Banff at Rootsweb

Can I tour Banff?

No, unfortunately Banff distillery is not open to the public for tours