Posts

The Rise and Fall of Rosebank Distillery

Rosebank is as mystical as a unicorn for some of us, perhaps a holy grail of sorts. It nestled along the banks of Forth and Clyde canal between Edinburgh and Glasgow, in the town of Camelon. As a closed distillery, its reputation grew as whisky lovers recognised the excellent liquid that the distillery once produced. There was, therefore, a lot of rejoicing, when Ian McLeod Distillers announced the intention of reopening Rosebank Distillery in October 2017. The esteemed company purchased the site from the Scottish Canals and the trademarks from Diageo with the full intention of rebuilding this once majestic Lowland distillery.

The Humble Beginnings of Rosebank Distillery

Historical records pointed to a distillery in Falkirk that existed as far back as 1798. Founded by the Stark brothers, this first distillery was the forefather to the currently mothballed Rosebank distillery. In 1817, a man named James Robertson opened another distillery nearby and called it Rosebank. The exact location was unclear, but it could be the same site as the current one. Unfortunately, the early Rosebank distillery closed permanently in 1819.

In 1827, John Stark (one of the Stark brothers) opened a distillery on the west bank of the Forth and Clyde canal and named it Camelon Distillery (after the town). He took charge of the distillery until his death in 1836. The distillery then passed to Thomas Gunn and his father. After four years, in 1840, a man named James Rankine approached the Gunns to lease or purchase the Camelon distillery malting grounds (on the east side of the canal). The deal went through, and Rankine set up a new distillery under the Rosebank name.

The Rise of Rosebank

The new Rosebank proliferated and expanded in 1845. Rankine also brought out the Gunns when Camelon distillery went bankrupt in 1861. He demolished the old distillery and left only the malting floors on the west side of the canal. By 1864, Rankine rebuilt the distillery, creating Rosebank as a distillery set across two sites on each side of the Forth and Clyde canal with a swing bridge to link them.

In 1886, Alfred Barnard visited the distillery, describing it as a distillery “set across two sites”. The former Camelon distillery’s malting floors on the west side of the canal produced the malt before transferring it to the distillery on the east side with the help of the swing bridge. Barnard also noted that Rosebank distillery had storage of 500,000 gallons of whisky in their warehouse.

By 1894, the Rosebank Distillery Ltd came into existence as further evidence of its success. It was also one of the many companies that amalgamated to form the Scottish Malt Distillers. The group later became part of DCL.

The Steady Fall of Rosebank

Rosebank was a premier Lowland whisky, but United Distillers decided to mothball the distillery in 1993. The company said that the distillery was no longer commercially viable as it needed a £2m upgrade to comply with the European standards of the time. Hence, the distillery closed with many historical features of whisky production within.

United Distillers sold off the warehouses on the west banks of the canals, and the new owners redeveloped it by 1988. In 2002, Diageo sold the distillery buildings and contents to British Waterways while the malting floors become a housing development. 2008 saw some hope for Rosebank’s revival as the new owners made plans to reopen Rosebank in Falkirk with its original equipment. Unfortunately, during the Christmas and New Year period of 2008/2009, metal thieves stole the original Rosebank stills, together with all the other material. Efforts of recovery were in vain.

The Planned Revival of Rosebank

The plans of revival continued despite the stolen equipment, culminating in the approval of the Scottish Government. News of setting the new building near the early distillery of 1798, near Laurieston, abound. Rumours float around with the hopes of the new distillery releasing its whisky under the Rosebank name, but Diageo, who owns the trademark denied it. In the meanwhile, it continued to release limited bottles of the original Rosebank whisky.

Finally, in October 2017, Lan MacLeod Distillers bought the Rosebank trademark from Diageo, purchase the land from the Scottish Canals and confirms the re-building of the Rosebank Distillery. The new distillery will produce the whisky in its old style, with equipment modelling after its original stills.

The Rosebank Whisky

Flora and Choc do not profess to drink many of the Rosebank whisky, but we have tried a few. Geek Choc loves Rosebank, and he believes that the new distillery will do well if it models the old style. Geek Flora agrees that Rosebank is a premium malt on its own, but she doesn’t like it as much as she loves Littlemill.

We did a couple of reviews of Rosebank earlier this week. The first one is an official bottling by Diageo – a 21-year-old whisky under the Roses series. The second is an independent bottling by Blackadder – a 14 years old cask strength Rosebank. Both have their merits, with Geek Flora liking the official bottling better and Geek Choc liking the independent bottling more.

The Future of Rosebank

We hope that the new Rosebank will be as successful as the old. With Ian MacLeod Distillers, we expect the distillery to flourish and grow under their able hands.

 

Whisky Review #95 – Rosebank 1990 – Blackadder

I am not fond of Blackadder as an independent bottler. I had tried more than a couple of Blackadder’s bottles, and none of them has impressed me too much. However, it changes with this one bottle of Rosebank 1990. I was completely bowled over and forced to admit that it is good. Nonetheless, I am still not convinced that Blackadder is consistent. I shall wait and see.

This review is another Rosebank expression distilled in 1990. It is a cask strength bottling from Blackadder’s Raw Cask series and only matured for 14 years.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dirty Gold
ABV: 56.3%

Nose: Sweet fresh berries such as cranberries and strawberries waft in before the sweetness of peaches comes for a visit. Vanilla, honey and hints of coconuts come after. Gentle spice hides in the background, a reminder of its high abv. (18/20)

Palate: Fresh cranberries and strawberries in the forefront before peppery spice assault the palate. A light sweetness of peaches appears for a brief moment before vanilla engulf the entire mouth. (17/20)

Finish: Long finish with vanilla cream lingering all the way to the end. Some fresh berries in the middle before it develops into a pleasant oakiness. (17/20)

Body: It is an interesting dram because the profile is far from its Lowlands characters. There are notes of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry which makes the dram both balanced and complex. The notes of sherry/bourbon influence also keep replacing one another, making this dram exciting and fascinating to enjoy. (37/40)

Total Score: 89/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I avoid Blackadder’s bottling usually because I never enjoyed any of them. However, this bottles came highly recommended by the owner of The Malt, Taipei. After trying, I got to admit that it is good, and hence, I will strive to keep my options open when I happened upon another Blackadder’s bottling.”

Geek Choc: “I love Rosebank, so I must try all the expressions that I came across. When the owner of The Malt recommended this, I jumped at the chance of trying it. I only regret that I cannot bring the whole bottle home.”

 

Like what you have just read?

Join WhiskyGeeks.sg as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!





[recaptcha]

Whisky Review #94 – Rosebank 21 (Cask Strength)

Rosebank…”The finest example of a Lowland malt” (Michael Jackson) is a whisky which creates many emotional outbursts amongst whisky lovers. Rosebank shares typical Lowland characters of grassiness, fruits and flowers with other famous Lowland distilleries such as St Magadelene and Littlemill.

Recently, we got lucky and tasted two Rosebank expressions bottled in the 1990s. Both of them are 21 years old, bottled at cask strength. The bottle that we tried in The Drunken Master Bar was from the 1992 bottling while the other one that we had in The Swan Song was from the 1990 bottling.

This review showcases the Rosebank 21 Years Old distilled in 1990 and released in 2011. Part of the Rose series, this expression is a heavenly dram which represents all the Lowland glory of Scotland.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 53.8%

Nose: Glorious Lowlands notes are immediately apparent. Grassy, herbal and slightly cereal. Then after a few minutes, the sweetness of fruits surface. Green apples, sweet pears and a hint of melons. Mintiness also appears with the grassy notes going into the background. Peppery spice combines with the grassy notes to give an extra complexity. (19/20)

Palate: The palate is herbal, grassy and fruity all at once. Green apples, sweet pears, peppery spice and mint come together after that. The oak influence becomes more prominent after a while and creates a slightly drying palate. The fruitiness of the dram combined with the gentle spice gives a comfortable feel to the overall experience. (18/20)

Finish: It has a medium to long finish that is oaky, minty and sweet. The drying effects from the grassiness of the dram lengthen the finish. (17/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram with typical Lowlands notes. The identity is Rosebank from the nose to the finish. Excellent dram! (36/40)

Total Score: 90/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I was not a Rosebank fan previously, but after drinking this expression, I was converted. It is light and floral but yet, complex. I especially love the minty notes that we get, as it is quite special to me.”

Geek Choc: “I am a Rosebank fan and can only love Rosebank more with every expression that I tried. Rosebank produces good quality whisky, and I am looking forward to the new Rosebank distillery.”

 

Like what you have just read?

Join WhiskyGeeks.sg as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!





[recaptcha]