How about another review of a rare whisky from another closed distillery, like maybe a Banff 35 year-old whisky bottled by Duncan Taylor as part of their Rarest of the Rare range, a collection of cask strength single cask whiskies from distilleries which no longer exist! This is a bottle I bought back in 2013, opened a while back and am now getting to the last few drops.
About the Banff Distillery
The original Banff distillery was built by James McKilligan & Co. in 1824, but in 1863, while under the ownership of James Simpson, Jr, the distillery was relocated to take advantage of the expanding rail system then reaching into northern Scotland. The railway offered superior transport of grains into the distillery and improved access to the growing markets in England. Sadly, after a century of operation, the years of economic depression and wars in the early decades of the 1900s caused financial difficulties and nearly 80 years of ownership by the Simpson family, bankruptcy led to the sale of the distillery to Scottish Malt Distillers in 1932 for £50,000. Exactly why the new owners bought the distillery is uncertain as they stopped production immediately after acquiring the distillery, although they continued to use the warehouses. The distillery remained mothballed until after World War II.
Over it’s nearly 100 years, Banff had a rather colorful – and a rather difficult – existence. Within the whisky industry, an unfortunate, but all-too-common, risk were fires and explosions and, during its history, Banff seemed to suffer more than its share of damaging fires. A particularly bad fire in May 1877 destroyed a majority of the distillery, yet, with determination, and motivate by the ongoing whisky boom period, by October of the same year, the distillery had been rebuilt and back to full operation. Learning from the past, Simpson purchased and kept a fire truck on site to protect against damage from future fires.
Not only did the distillery suffer various (and numerous) fires, the distillery was struck by another disaster when, on 16 August 1941, a Nazi Junkers Ju 88 bombed the distillery, destroying one of the warehouses. It was reported that in aftermath that a lot of whisky spilled from the destroyed casks made its way into the nearby water supplies, intoxicating much of the local animal population. Despite the damage from the raid, Banff survived. Repair work started shortly after the bombing, but then was put on hold in 1943, when the RAF took over the site and remained there until the end of the war.
After World War II, renovation of the distillery restarted but, in line with the unfortunate side of its history, while repair work was underway, on 3 October 1959, vapors inside were ignited and caused an explosion that again damaged part of the distillery. When renovation was finally complete, the distillery returned to operating status and continued to produce whisky until it was finally mothballed by Diageo in 1983. By the late 1980s, most of the distillery’s buildings had been dismantled or demolished. As fate would have it, the last remaining vestige of the Banff distillery, a warehouse, was destroyed on 11 April 1991, by, you guessed it, another fire.
Review: Banff 35 year-old, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare
Distilled 11.1975, Bottled 03.2011, Cask No. 3350, Bottle 109 of 289, 45.4% abv
Color: a soft yellow gold.
Nose: The nose starts as a veritable fruit basket – both orchard and tropical fruits: ripe red apples, black cherries, a hint of orange peel, gooseberries, and a touch of mango. The fruits are follow-up by a warm vanilla and delicate baking spices, think apple pie with whipped cream and cooked pears with cinnamon and honey. After a moment, there is a growing soft floral/grassy note that adds a subtle “outdoorsy” touch. With time, an interesting cedar wood notes pop up. The baking spices become more prominent as the fruits settle into the background. There is just a very light touch of black pepper. With water, the nose becomes “softer”, rather delicate, but remains beautifully fruity. There are traces of orange and a supple lemon tanginess that mixes well with the underlying vanilla and honey sweetness. With a few minutes, the peppery note grows bolder, the fruits become softer, more subdued, and those dried flowers/grassy notes pop up again.
Taste: The arrival is a mix of sharp citric notes and sweet, ripe fruits. It starts with a slightly bitter “lemony” sharpness, tart and effervescent, then the sweeter fruits, – red and green apples, pears – sweep over the tongue. There is a subtle vanilla and a rich maltiness with a light dusting of herbal spices and a hint of peppery heat. With a couple drops of water, the arrival is much softer, more inviting. There is something that reminds me of a Witbier – with its lightly lemony, slightly bubbly profile. Honey, more soft fruits, and some pepper. An icing sugary sweetness, more vanilla, and more of the ripe fruits. This has a wonderfully rich, oily texture that makes you want to sip slowly and enjoy.
Finish: The finish is moderately long with that tangy lemon, sweetly fruity with a balanced yet slightly bittersweet maltiness. It becomes a touch drying, and slightly hoppy.
Overall: This whisky definitely improved with some oxidation. When I first opened the bottle, the whisky was rather “tight”, but time and air seems to have acted like yeast to bread dough, enabling the aromas and flavors to rise. Now, as the bottle comes to an end, the whisky shows its wonderfully sharp, tangy and sweet profile that is thoroughly engaging.
Distillery: Banff (closed/demolished)
Bottler: Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare
Type: Single Malt
Age: 35 years
Maturation: “oak casks”, likely ex-bourbon
Price: Specs Feb-13, $207.99 (Note:*The Whisky Exchange currently lists a Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare Banff 1975, 31 year-old on sale for £550)
Availability: Secondary market
Sample Source: My own bottle
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.
(Distillery photo) https://www.whiskyforum.se