The Tangled Roots of Rosebank Distillery

We know that Rosebank distillery closed in 1993, seemingly for good. However, what is less clear is the date of its birth, and who was responsible. Officially the distillery was founded in 1840 by James Rankine in the old maltings of the Camelon distillery that sat opposite on the banks of the Forth & Clyde canal. But if you delve deep into the parliamentary papers of the time, you will find someone called James Robertson recorded as Rosebank’s distiller from 1816-18.

Robertson, Rankine and Stark – who were they?

Rankine was a licensed grocer in Falkirk before he took up whisky making. But who was this mystery man Robertson who arrived, distilled for three years, and then disappeared without trace? And was his Rosebank distillery really the same? There is also a vague possibility the Stark brothers, who seem to have been local farmers, were involved as early as 1798. They were distilling at the Camelon distillery a few decades later.

Confusing times

It is a confusing picture. This was a very volatile period for Scotch whisky. Illicit distillers came in from the cold, opening distilleries that were forever going bust, changing hands and sometimes even changing names. As we uncover the story of Rosebank in future articles, perhaps you can help us solve the riddle of its birth.

If you have any clues … maybe a Rankine, Robertson or Stark in your family tree that fits the bill …. do let us know, we would love to hear from you.

2018-03-02T12:52:30+00:00March 2nd, 2018|History, Photos|


  1. Alistair Dick March 2, 2018 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    I’d love to be able to photograph the buildings. What’s happening here is very exciting and since I live a stones throw away, I’m looking forward to seeing and perhaps even documenting progress

    • Rosebank March 2, 2018 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Alistair. Thanks so much for your interest. We are currently doing lots of assessments and planning. Once we have that in place we will know better whether and what kind of access we can grant. Please keep in touch and thanks for following us.

  2. John Ferris March 2, 2018 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Used to live in Milton of Campsie and saw both Glengoyne and Rosebank as my local distilleries. One I could see and the other I dreamt of.
    Used to be a small off sales not far from the distillery site who sold the smallest bottle of whisky in the world. Still have that.
    Certainly looking forward to purchasing a bottle of the new Rosebank once it is available.

  3. Charlie Beaumont March 4, 2018 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    What a fascinating history! Are you looking for any help conducting the research?

    • Rosebank March 5, 2018 at 5:00 pm - Reply

      Hi Charlie. We’re receiving help already. People, like you, have been so excited about this project, which is great for us to see. So we don’t really need more help, but thanks for the kind offer. If you do come across any detail that may be of interest, though, please do share!

  4. Robert Clyne April 28, 2018 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    We live opposite the distillery and have several questions about the project. Our main concern is the smell which would pollute the environment. Do you plan a meeting with the residents in the area to give us more information?

    • Rosebank May 8, 2018 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your enquiry. There was a public consultation held in May 2016 for a scheme to redevelop the site back into a working distillery which was well received by neighbours and the wider community. Any comments made back then have been incorporated into the developed design we have today. There are no further public consultations planned before the full planning application is submitted, however neighbours to the distillery will be sent notification once the application is submitted and will then have 21 days to submit any comments.

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