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.
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.