For whisky lovers, the closure of Rosebank in 1993 appeared to symbolise the demise of the Lowlands as a once great whisky region. Today few people realise that the Lowlands was the cradle of the Scotch whisky industry in the late 18th century, when it produced far more than the rest of Scotland.
Of course, there was something incurably romantic about Highland whisky distilled deep in the glen on an illicit still as the big blenders realised a century later. Their brands were invariably advertised against a backdrop of misty lochs and mountains, reinforcing the bond between whisky and the Highlands.
But those in the know – those lucky enough to have tasted what little Rosebank was bottled as a single malt, knew just how beguiling Lowland whisky could be. Part of what made Rosebank special was its unique combination of triple distillation and worm tubs. Having matured in cask, the result was a wonderfully fragrant whisky that balanced soft fruit and citrus zest with an earthy, fulsome body. It was complex, long-lasting and pretty irresistible.
In good Lowland tradition, Rosebank was never a spirit to put hairs on your chest. Instead of a raging peat fire in its belly, it offered something far more subtle and complex. What was true then, will be true of the new Rosebank whose owners, Ian Macleod Distillers, have pledged to restore every detail of the old production process. If anything it will be even better because the focus will be on Rosebank as a single malt.
Meanwhile, in the past decade, new distilleries have sprung up across the Lowlands from Fife in the east to Dumfries & Galloway in the west. Whisky-making has also returned to the Borders for the first time since 1837 and has now spread to Glasgow and soon Edinburgh. Clearly the region is enjoying a real renaissance which makes the revival of Rosebank, the undisputed ‘King of Lowland whiskies’ so timely.
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