It looked like Rosebank R.I.P. when the axe fell on this much-loved Lowland distillery in 1993 and talk of rescue plans soon came to nothing. For 24 long years it sat empty and forlorn awaiting demolition, or so it seemed, which makes the news of its revival, announced in October, all the more amazing.
There was a real sense of dismay among whisky lovers the day the stills at Rosebank ran cold. The closure of the distillery in 1993 was considered a “grievous loss” by the late whisky guru Michael Jackson who never doubted that Rosebank was one of the greats. Many felt the same way, and value began to soar for what was left of its precious stocks. ‘The King of the Lowlands’ appeared destined for a slow death, one bottle at a time.
Technically Rosebank was ‘mothballed’ for better times ahead, but as the years passed, any hope of re-opening began to fade. In 2002 the site was sold to British Waterways who owned the Forth & Clyde canal and the old maltings were converted into flats. Six years later, in what seemed to be the final death knell, thieves broke in and stole the three pot stills and the mash tun.
But as we know, Rosebank is to be reborn. It was rescued in the nick of time before it could be bulldozed into history and buried beneath housing or a new supermarket. The independent family-owned Ian Macleod Distillers managed to rescue the Rosebank name. “It needs a lot of tender loving care to bring it back to its former glory,” says the firm’s MD, Leonard Russell. “So we’re going to have to rebuild some of the site from scratch.” You can watch Leonard talk about this big whisky project here.
For those who know and love the taste of Rosebank, the new owners have vowed to restore this triple-distilled gem of a distillery as best they can in a world that has moved on 25 years. And for those who have yet to experience this beautiful and beguiling single malt, a real treat awaits.