Rosebank is a highly sought-after and respected Lowland producer, famed for its triple-distilled whisky, that was mothballed in 1993 and resurrected in 2022.
Although illicit whisky distilling is thought to have taken place near Rosebank, in Falkirk, since 1798, the distillery as we know it wasn’t built until 1840.
Rosebank’s location on the banks of the Forth & Clyde Union Canal was integral to its prosperity and eventual closure. In many ways the distillery’s fate was sealed when the canal which connected Scotland’s two main cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, closed in 1963.
Rather than build maltings on the Rosebank site, owner James Rankine opted to use the nearby Camelon distillery. Rankine would later purchase the distillery on the west of the canal when he expanded the Rosebank distillery in 1861.
In 1914, Rosebank was one of the founding distilleries of the Scottish Malt Distillers, alongside Glenkinchie, Saint Magdalene, Clydesdale and Grange. Five years later, Scottish Malt Distillers became part of Distillers Company Limited, which later became part of United Distillers and, latterly, Diageo.
Rosebank, which was named after the flowers which grew along the canal, remained open for the majority of 1840 to 1993, only closing its doors temporarily during the First World War.
In 1993, owners made the decision to officially mothball Rosebank when they had to choose between it and Lowland stablemate Glenkinchie. Rosebank’s less desirable location on an disused canal lost out to the lush, bucolic surroundings of Glenkinchie.
In the years that followed, Rosebank joined Port Ellen in Islay and Brora in the Highlands as one of the hallowed, and highly collectable, trinity of lost distilleries. The so-called “King of the Lowlands” developed a cult following for its triple distilled whisky – a practice that is highly irregular in Scotland as most double distil.
The distillery boasted three squat stills with worm tubs attached, which produced a heavy, oily spirit that has, since its closure, become incredibly desirable.
While in operation, Rosebank’s primary focus was blends, but stock for single malt was laid down from the 1970s. Bottlings from the late 1960s are of keen interest to collectors, as changes in production including mechanical stoking (1959) and internal steam heating (1972) are detectable in the official and independent bottlings.
To great surprise, Ian Macleod Distillers announced in 2017 that Rosebank would be revived. In many ways it was the least expected silent distillery revival – both Port Ellen and Brora have been reopened – as Diageo had offloaded the Rosebank distillery site to British Waterways in 2002, and the original three pot stills and mash tun were stolen by thieves in 2008.
Ian Macleod Distillers secured the site from Scottish Canals – a former division of British Waterways – and acquired the remaining stock from Diageo in preparation for the £10 million project to bring Rosebank back to life.
With new whisky from the distillery unlikely to appear until 2030, there will be heightened interest in and demand for the last remaining bottles from the original distillery.