Rosebank distillery

Where to find Rosebank

Rosebank Scotch Whisky

Rosebank  (Pronounced: ROSE-bank)
Lowlands
56 0'8.39"N, 348'12.47"W
Kinclaith, Glen Flagler, Saint Magdalene, Glenkinchie
1840
Closed
Carrow Valley Reservoir
1 Wash still, 2 Spirit stills (an unusual configuration)
Unknown
SMD > Diageo (since 1914)
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, FK1 5BW, Scotland
-
No
No -
Yes, but they are antiques
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor

Rosebank location

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Rosebank whisky

Rosebank distillery in the new millennium

2007 - A 25yo OB from 1981 is released by Diageo as part of the 'Special Releases' range.
 
2009 - An odd piece of 'news' starts circulating in the whisky media about the 'final' demise of the Rosebank distillery due to the theft of some copper distillery equipment by some of the more criminal elements of Scottish society. As far as I know, the distillery buildings were sold for redevelopment in 2002, so that's a bit odd...
 

Rosebank distillery, Scotland

The history of Rosebank starts in the late 18th century.
Some claims state that the distillery was founded as early
as 1773, but more conservative sources date an earlier
(illegal) version of the Rosebank distillery somewhere in
the 1790's. Many details of these early days are fuzzy,
but apparently two Stark brothers were involved. In the
early 19th century James Robertson operated a distillery
by the name of Rosebank; this may or may not have been
the same distillery as that of the Stark brothers.
 
The current Rosebank buildings were constructed in 1840
by James Rankine. The maltings were not built at the same
time as the distillery itself; to cut costs James decided to
use the maltings of the nearby 'Camelon' distillery. Within
five years Rosebank was expanded and in 1861 James
Rankine bought the aforementioned Camelon distillery
along the Forth-Clyde canal. Four years later James' son
R. W. Rankine replaced the distillery buildings of Camelon
with a new maltings, which was used by Rosebank.

Rosebank distillery profileInteractive whisky distillery mapScotland - whisky distillery informationScotch whisky bottlersScotch malt whisky brandsNew distillery projects
Rosebank Rare Malts whisky

In 1914 Rosebank was one of the distilleries to found Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD). The other distilleries that were involved were Glenkinchie (active), Saint Magdalene (1798-1983), Clydesdale (1825-1919) and Grange (1773-1927). So, that means that two of these founding distilleries were closed within a just few years after the SMD organisation was founded. In the year that the Clydesdale distillery was closed down (1919), Scottish Malt Distillers ceased to exist as an independent organisation as well; it became part of Distillers Company Limited (DCL).

Rosebank 1988 malt whisky by Gordon & MacPhail

After DCL took over SMD, Rosebank distillery enjoyed a prosperous
period that lasted for more than half a century. The only significant
change to the equipment in that period was the replacement of the
old maltings with a new installation in 1968. Rosebank was acquired
by United Distillers in 1986. They were part of the Guiness Group at
the time. Rosebank was closed in May 1993 and sold to the British
Waterways Board in 2002 for redevelopment.
 
In 1998 UD (United Distillers) merged with IDV (International
Distillers and Vintners, part of Grand Metropolitan Group) to form
UDV; United Distillers and Vintners. These days whisky industry
giant Diageo (proprietors of +/- 30 whisky distilleries) owns UDV.

The traditional Lowland method of triple-distillation was used at Rosebank distillery - as opposed
to the double distillation method that is used almost everywhere in Scotland. As long as the distillery
was merely mothballed it could have been started up with the same configuration. However, almost
every source claims that Rosebank was sold for good in 2002 and that the distillery buildings would
be converted to apartments, offices and a restaurant. With that in mind, reports in early 2009 that 
the distillery equipments was stolen seem to be mostly PR to keep the name in people's minds. 

Trivia about Rosebank

1) I'm not entirely sure if they used a different name for Rosebank beforehand, but in 1894 the name was officially changed to Rosebank Distillery Ltd.

2) In the beginning of 2009 some reports emerged in the media that most of the copper equipment at the silent Rosebank distillery had been stolen, making it highly improbable that the distillery would ever resume production. That's a little odd, because the distillery buildings had been sold for redevelopment in 2002. I would imagine that
a) Diageo would have already cannibalised the copper equipment before selling the distillery in 2002, and
b) if the distillery site was obtained in 2002, at least SOME building work would have been done by now.

3) The maltings which were reconstructed in 1968 used to be a separate distillery under the name Camelon.
 

Rosebank single malt whisky

Rosebank 18yo 1990/2008 (46%, Chieftain's, Sherry Butt, cask #614, 312 Bts.)
Nose: Fruity and sherried with a hint of pine. Granny Smith apples - sour rather than sweet.
More malty notes after a few minutes, followed by organics and spices. Something metallic.
Taste: Smooth, sweet and quite hot in the start. Beery bitterness in the centre. Hardly any tannins here.
Harsher in the centre and finish with some simple woody notes emerging. Feels more like a bourbon cask.
Score: 81 points - which isn't a very high score for a Lowlander this old - from a sherry cask no less.

Rosebank 16yo 1991/2008 (55.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, C#402, 249 Bts.)
Nose: Oy… Cardboard with light citrus overtones. Quite a shock. Growing complexity, but fairly subtle.
Taste: Round and smooth - Irish? Seems weak. Something faintly perfumy at the end of the finish.
Score: 80 points - borderline recommendable; I've tasted far worse bottlings of Rosebank whisky.

Rosebank 25yo 1981/2007 (61.4%, OB)
Nose: A punchy nose. Whiffs of tobacco and bicycle repair shop. Slowly exposing fruity complexities.
A whiff of beer? Sweetish undercurrent. With water the nose grows more prickly. More rubber emerging?
Taste: Solid sweetness; brilliant mouth feel. Just the right amount of tannins (for me) in the finish.
Weelll... Perhaps they are a little bit much… In the end they sadly evolve into the 'plywood' variety.
Score: 84 points - the 'plywood' finish (cheap casks?) kept it out of silver medal territory.

Rosebank 14yo 1991/2006 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Bourbon barrel #2024, 305 Bts.)
Nose: Fresh. Opens up nicely with organics. Some fruits - apple? Quite complex for a Lowlander.
A light malt that offers more depth if you dig a little deeper. You have to work at this Rosebank though...
Taste: A touch of liquorice on the palate? Not exactly my 'type' of malt, but enjoyable enough to reach the 80's.
Score: 85 points - when I gave it enough time it finally limped into 'upper 80's' territory in the MM Awards 2006.

Rosebank 1990/2005 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Casks #1518-1519-1520)
Nose: Sweet and lemony. Fairly bland, to tell you the truth. Or maybe I should say 'light'? Needs time.
Taste: Soft and sweet start. Starts sucking in your gums quickly. Very dry in the finish. Accessible.
Score: 76 points - pleasant enough mouth feel, but not spectacular in the nose - although it powers up.

Rosebank 13yo 1990/2004 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Nose: Very similar to the McGibbons Bladnoch; grainy and oily but not as sour and sharp.
Not quite as powerful either. Sweetish. Leafy. Menthol? Nutmeg? A little too flat and faint.
That being said, the nose grows bigger and sweeter with time, earning it some extra points.
Taste: Sweetish start, growing rather gritty towards the centre. Oily. Mocca? Coffee?
In this case I like the taste more than the nose, even though it gets very woody eventually.
Score: 74 points - it improves with time but I'd still have to classify this as 'sub-standard'.

Rosebank 12yo 1991/2004 (43%, Signatory Vintage, D. 27/11/91, B. 5/2/04, Casks #4700-02, 35cl)
Nose: Grainy and a little sweet. Veggy in the back of the nose. Faint sweet apple notes.
Prickly. Cider. Granny smith or golden delicious. I can't say I find the 'typical' Lowland citrus here.
It didn't make a big impression during the movie but upon closer inspection it's quite good.
Taste: Sweet, smooth start. Sweet and fruity on the palate with a hint of pine in the background.
Score: 75 points - which isn't that bad at all for such a young Lowlander.

Rosebank 10yo 1992/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 1413, Bourbon Casks)
Nose: Citrus & paint thinner. Orange skins. Sweeter & polished with time. Coastal & salty in the background.
Taste: Fairly weak start. Definite citrus. Sweet & sour like lemonade; hot centre. Bone dry finish; a tad winey.
Score: 72 points - perhaps ten years is just not long enough to infuse this Lowlander with enough character?

Rosebank 20yo 1981/2002 (62.3%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: Sweet and malty. Subtle spices emerge after adding water - and perhaps the faintest organics.
Veggier after a few minutes of breathing. Like its 1979/1999 sister bottling from UDRM, it's quite complex.
Taste: Matches the initial impression very closely; sweet and malty with a slightly smoky undercurrent.
Surprisingly drinkable at cask strength. After adding water some tannins reveal themselves in the finish.
Score: 88 points - I have a sweet tooth, so I liked this even better than its 1979/1999 predecessor.

Rosebank 20yo 1979/1999 (60.3%, UDRM, 70cl)
Nose: Smells like the attic of a grain warehouse. Wash in a washback. Salt. Vanilla. Menthol and some smoke.
Taste: Lemon. Sweet. Orange skin. I'm afraid these are all the notes I have on the palate - I got distracted.
Score: 87 points - my meagre notes don't do justice to the complexity of this dram. Great stuff.
I enjoyed this dram at the end of a long summer day in Inverness with a bunch of other malt maniacs.

Rosebank 8yo 1983/1992 (43%, OB, Bristol Brandy Company, American Oak Casks, 70cl)
Nose: Soft and fresh; something lemony. Sweeter and heavier after a few minutes. Becomes very fragrant.
Taste: Not as spectacular. Particularly dry. Clean and a little bit sweet.
Score: 73 points - if memory serves this was the first bottle of Rosebank I ever bought.
 

And there's more to tell about Rosebank...

These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Rosebank Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Rosebank page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Rosebank expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.) 
 

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