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Rosebank Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Site of the Former Rosebank Distillery
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, FK1 5BW Scotland
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Alfred Barnard visited the Rosebank Distillery a few years before the publication of his book in 1887, The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom. Rosebank, he wrote, "is one mile from Falkirk, and half a mile from the River Carron, and is built on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal. It is not isolated as many of the distilleries are, being placed by the main road, on which there is a constant stream of traffic, and also fronting the canal, where boats and steamers are continually passing to and fro".

The site, according to Barnard, "was chosen on account of the inexhaustible supply of water"; but it had other advantages. Its proximity to a coalfield must have reduced the cost of transporting fuel, and the canal provided an economic route for incoming barley and for consignments of whisky to Glasgow, Leith, and other seaports.

Rosebank Distillery was recorded in 1817-19, when it was managed by James Robertson. Its history on the present site seems to have begun in 1840, when James Rankine, a former grocer, acquired the maltings of Camelon Distillery, on the east bank of the canal, and began operations as a distiller. Five years later, according to Barnard, "the buildings were considerably enlarged", and Rankine got into temporary financial difficulties. They were "entirely rebuilt in a modern day form" by his son, R.W. Rankine, in 1864. Offices, described by Barnard as handsome and newly-built were later added. The red-brick buildings, facing the canal and backing on to the road, were grouped around an interior courtyard, and designed to make the best use of a restricted space.

Rankine demolished the main buildings of the Camelon Distillery in 1865, three years after it ceased trading, and replaced them with a maltings. The two ranges of buildings were connected by a swing-bridge and covered three acres (1.2 hectares). They adjoined another two acres accommodating "the grounds and gardens of Rosebank House, one of the residences of Mr. Rankine", who lived mainly in Edinburgh.

Rankine achieved his object: to distil a whisky that would stand comparison with the best Scottish makes. By Barnard's day, output had reached 123,000 gallons (319,000 litres), which was sold mainly to the Edinburgh and Glasgow markets. In the 1890s, at the height of the distillery boom, there was an extraordinary demand for Rosebank and many customers had to be content with an allocation of a smaller amount than they had ordered. The proprietor was the only malt whisky distiller at the time who was able to charge his customers warehouse rent.

The business was converted into a limited liability company, under the name of Rosebank Distillery Ltd. in 1894. The share capital was £120,000, of which 6,000 Ordinary shares of £10 allotted to Rankine as vendor, and 6,000 Preference shares of £10 were taken up by others. Three years later when James Rankine had become managing director, the capital was increased to allow an issue to the public of 4,000 Ordinary shares of £10 each at a price of £20. Despite the premium, the issue had an immediate success. Not long thereafter, the notorious failure of Pettison Brothers, a Leith blending company, created a redundancy of stocks on the whisky market; but prudent management enabled Rosebank Distillery Ltd. to stay the course until July 1914, when Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. (SMD) was formed to concentrate the resources of five Lowland malt whisky distilleries, including Rosebank, at a time of deepening recession in the industry.

The Forth & Clyde Canal

All malt whisky distilleries were closed, by Government order, from 1917 to 1919, in the interest of conserving barley for foodstuffs. However, Rosebank was one of the distilleries that remained in production throughout the WWII.

Rosebank is widely regarded as the most distinguished of the Lowland malts. Its House Style as described by Michael Jackson is "Aromatic, with suggestions of clover and camomile. Romantic. A whisky for lovers."

Rosebank was mothballed in 1993 and sold to British Waterways. The site of this former distillery has since been developed for residential use.

Courtesy of Diageo Scotland


Rosebank 1991 Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Colour: Pale gold.

Without Water:

Nose: Delicate with heavy marzipan - almonds.

Palate: Mouth warming - spicy with heavy sweetness and a nice creaminess.

Finish: Long and nutty.

With Water

Nose: Soft leathery influences, prominent dark chocolate with a smooth sweetness.

Palate: Initially hot and peppery. Much sweetness - toffee and chocolate influences.

Finish: Long.

Body: Medium.

Cask Type: First Fill Bourbon Barrel.

Tasting Notes by Gordon & Macphail


Rosebank 20 Year 1981 from the Rare Malts Collection
Description: Old gold in appearance. Soft and comfortingn in body. A class expression of Rosebank. Typical Lowland profile - a perfect example of a flowery whisky.

Nose: Sweet fruits and meadow-flower aromas.

Palate: Long and lively. Intensely sweet floweriness, developing sweet, clean lemon flavours, then some spiciness, remaining clean.

Finish: Short, fresh, dry ginger.

ABV: 62.3

Year of Release: 2002

Tasting Notes by Diageo

Rosebank Whisky Distillery
Rosebank Distillery Photo Courtesy of Diageo Scotland

Rosebank and its surroundings had undergone major changes. In 1875, Murray's Handbook for Travellers in Scotland noted that Falkirk, "a busy town consisting chiefly of one long street", was then celebrated for its great "trysts" or fairs: "about 300,000 head of cattle are sold on these occasions and are brought from great distances - ponies from Shetland, sheep from Ross and Sutherlandshires, and horned cattle from the Western Isles." Murray added that Falkirk had "of late years acquired importance from its situation on the coalfield, as testified by the number of blazing ironworks and collieries." The cattle fairs are a thing of the past and Rosebank had lost its original setting of wooded parkland, and was located in an industrial area.

There had been technological as well as environmental changes, but none had affected the character or the reputation of Rosebank's make. In 1926, the malt mill, the screws and the elevator in the maltings were operated by an electrically-driven motor, and the machinery in the distillery was driven by an overhead crank engine of 20 h.p. which was said to have been on duty for almost fifty years. The maltings had vanished and all power was later supplied by the national electric grid.

Process water was drawn from the Carron Valley Reservoir, and cooling water from the Forth and Clyde Canal. This waterway, a monument to the first Industrial Revolution, built by John Smeaton in 1768-73, has been closed to navigation. Its banks have been landscaped by local authority.

Triple distillation was a characteristic of the process traditional to the Rosebank Distillery. It had one wash still and two spirit stills. Their furnaces were hand-fired with coal until 1959 when a mechanical stoker system was installed. Steam heating from an oil-fired boiler was substituted in 1972. Rosebank was one of the few distilleries to retain worm tubs, used to condense vapour passing up the wash still during the first distillation. They were all set in the wall facing the road.

Courtesy of Diageo Scotland