Banff distillery

Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Located on the Moray Coast, in distillery terms Banff was situated between Macduff and Glenglassaugh. In its early days, when still owned by the Simpson family, a single malt was bottled under the name Old Banff and supplied to the House of Commons. In the DCL era, it provided fillings for blends. There are very occasional bottlings, most notably within Diageo’s now discontinued Rare Malts range. The whisky had a slight smoky tinge underneath perfumed notes, a distinct apple note and the light oiliness of many of these older distilleries. 

  • Region
  • Production type
    Single malt
  • Distillery Status

Banff History

Banff could be considered Scotland’s most onomatopoeic distillery. Its entire history was littered with times when it went ‘banff!” and erupted into flames.

The original distillery was built in the Royal Burgh in 1824 by one Major James McKilligan before passing into the hands of the Simpson family. In 1863, James Simpson Jr. closed it down and resumed distilling at a new site at Inverboyndie, closer to the railway line.

Then the jinx started. In 1877, the distillery buildings were destroyed in a blaze. Undeterred, the Simpsons had rebuilt the plant and started production within six months. The family remained at the helm until 1932, by which time the economic downturn and subsequent drop in demand for whisky forced the firm into liquidation. That year it was bought by SMD (the malt distilling arm of DCL) but remained closed from then until after World War Two.

Its bad luck continued when, on the night of 16 August 1941, the distillery was strafed and bombed by the Luftwaffe. A warehouse exploded, sending casks flying into the air and a river of whisky flooding out over the fields and into the river. There was considerable devastation and tales of drunken cows that were incapable of being milked the next day.

Production resumed post war, but the jinx struck again in October 1959 when during the silent season there was an explosion in the still house which destroyed the spirit still and much of the distillery – amazingly no-one was hurt.

Banff started up yet again and ran until 1983 when the distillery buildings and warehouses began to be demolished.  Just before the final warehouse was due to be knocked down, it caught on fire. It seems like the most appropriate manner for Scotland’s unluckiest distillery to leave the scene. 


  • 1824 Major James McKilligan establishes the distillery
  • 1863 James Simpson moves the site to Inverboyndie
  • 1877 Banff distillery catches fire
  • 1932 The business is bought by DCL
  • 1939-45 The distillery is closed during WWII and used as a billet for troops
  • 1941 Banff is bombed by the Luftwaffe, causing the warehouses to explode
  • 1945 Production restarts following the war
  • 1959 Another explosion occurs in the stillhouse
  • 1983 The distillery closes once more
  • 1991 The last remaining warehouse catches fire


Current owner

Previous owners


Banff Distillery
AB45 2JJ
United Kingdom

See also

  • Auchroisk Auchroisk Auchroisk Distillery & brand


    One of Diageo’s ‘nutty-spicy’ sites.

  • Benrinnes Benrinnes Benrinnes Distillery & brand


    A highly individual Speyside whisky.

  • Blair Athol Blair Athol Blair Athol Distillery & brand

    Blair Athol

    The home of Bell's blended whisky.

  • Caol Ila Caol Ila Caol Ila Distillery & brand

    Caol Ila

    Islay distillery belonging to Diageo.

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