Rosebank Distillery

Address

Camelon Rd
Falkirk, Scotland FK1 5JR, UK
Website
Rosebank Distillery
  • Rosebank Distillery
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Welcome to Whiskey Lore's Whiskey Flights, your weekly home for discovering great craft distillery experiences around the globe. I’m Drew Hannush, best selling author of Experiencing Irish Whiskey and Experiencing Kentucky Bourbon and today, it’s time to catch a glimpse of distilling history with a distillery that was once one of the most important in the Lowlands, but that faded away in the 1990s. Its name is Rosebank, and its not an exaggeration to say, the entire Scotch industry has been waiting with eager anticipation to catch a glimpse of this fully restored icon. And on June 7th, that day will be here. And today, you and I are about to get a sneak peek into what visitors can expect when they make the pilgrimage to Rosebank. 

And, as I make my way down the M9 motorway looking for the Earlsgate exit to Falkirk, let’s take a moment to learn a little bit about the town we’re heading to - before diving into the history, spirits legacy, and tour experiences of Rosebank.

Falkirk, Scotland

Smack dab in the heart of Scotland's economic center, Falkirk is a town that stands in the shadows of Scotland’s two largest cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Yet, for the curious traveler Falkirk adds further dimension to the story of the Scottish Lowlands. Rich in history, the area’s significance stretches back to Roman times, through the pivotal battles of the Wars of Scottish Independence, and into the transformative Industrial Revolution. Today, Falkirk is perhaps best known for the towering steel horseheads, The Kelpies, which proudly stand alongside the M9. But a deeper exploration offers so much more. Wander through the elegant 14th-century Callendar House and its lush gardens, explore the ancient remnants of the Roman Antonine Wall, or marvel at the engineering wonder of the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift that seamlessly connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. For those who want to see beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh, a detour to Falkirk unveils another chapter in the story of Scotland. 

For me, the drive from Lindores Abbey to the Rosebank Distillery requires retracing my steps down the M90 and then west past the airport on the M9. It’s a little over an hour to drive it. It is a car friendly distillery, with limited electric charging ports and free parking. The distillery also provides samples for drivers to take away and enjoy later. For those wanting to use public transportation, so they can sip spirits worry free, a ride from Edinburgh’s Waverley Train Station or Glasgow’s Central Station takes about an hour to the Camelon Station and then another 15 minute walk to Rosebank. Or if you want to ride, Midland Bluebird offers options to take the wear off of your feet. 

Now, as we make our way from the parking lot to the entrance to meet Stuart Hendry, our host, let me tell you what little I know of Rosebank. Its origins are fuzzy at best. There apparently was a distillery named Rosebank that existed in the area between 1817 and 1819, but it didn’t survive. There was also distilling in the area as far back at the 1790s, but it's a hard sell to say this has anything to do with what would become the legendary Rosebank Distillery in the 1840s. Built across the canal from the Camelon Distilling malting house, the new Rosebank of the 1840s was an instant success. It became known for its triple distillation and the floral and fruity notes it delivered. In an era of blended whisky, it was a prized component for whisky. But the Scotch whisky industry as a whole suffered after rampant speculation all but destroyed the industry in the 1890s and a large monopoly known as the DCL bought up many of the old distilleries, including Rosebank, and shut many of them down. But this was not the end for Rosebank. Being a prized whisky for blends, its value to blenders kept it going until in 1993, United Distillers mothballed the distillery. There was hope in bringing it back, but it took over 30 years and a change of ownership to get it done. Today, Ian MacLeod has take what remained of the old distillery and attempted to recreate its character - a character that is unique, even with over 140 distilleries dotting the Scotch whisky landscape.

As we take our seats and begin our discussion, I wanted to have Stuart give me a sense of why Rosebank became so important to the world of Scotch distilling in its heyday. 

The Interview

Drew Hannush (00:00.185)
Let's go back to the origins of Rosebank. I'm a big history lover, but sometimes it's a little bit foggy on the beginnings of distilleries. And because back then, sometimes they came from being illicit distilleries to being...

legal distilleries and the rest. So what do we know about the early years of Rosebank?

stuart (02:40.487)
The location that they chose is obvious in terms of, for that brief period where canals, before railways properly kicked in, when the canal system was the be all and end all, this is exactly between Glasgow and Edinburgh. And you can export in both directions, you can bring goods in from both directions. Your casks can sail out down towards Edinburgh for export.

Drew Hannush (03:38.617)
Yeah.

stuart (04:04.199)
your materials can be sent down from Glasgow down the canal. So it was just this perfect sort of central location at what was the kind of the freeway of its day, I guess.

Drew Hannush (04:15.481)
Yeah. So, so the name Rose bag, where does that come from?

stuart (04:19.975)
Even that's a wee bit disputed. So I mean, the obvious one is there's a canal banks right outside us. And when we arrived, there were still a couple of rose bushes there and we're planting some more. There's another school of thought that relates it to a family going back, the rose family go back a couple hundred years, but I'm happy enough with the banks of the canal being covered in roses because...

Sometimes when you look back, it's what makes the most logical sense out of your options is you've got to plumb for something and with a caveat that there's no guarantees, but I think it's strongly likely to be Rosies and the Canal Bank.

Drew Hannush (05:02.361)
We always gotta hope that somebody would have written this down somewhere, but there's fun in the mystery too.

stuart (05:08.487)
Yeah, yeah, I guess that's right. Yeah, yeah, there is an I mean, it's a look, it's a beautiful site. It's a really, really great location. And I think what we've done with the with the buildings is quite remarkable, actually. But I mean, even just simply from an architectural point of view, before we start looking at the wonderful process that's been plumbed in here and the sort of spirit that it makes, you know, that's that that's truly remarkable. But, you know, we found.

We found some rundown, some brilliant buildings along the canal side that were a malt deposit and a three level high dunnage warehouse with a sort of old antique lift inside it to move the casks up and down. And they were wonderful buildings that were very much, I'm sitting in one of them now in this little tasting room here. They are beautiful old historic buildings and rightly there's a protection order on them that we had to use them but.

There's no way we're knocking these guys down. The other half of the site where we built the brand new steel house, mash house, et cetera, that was a jumble of sort of 1950s and 60s buildings that didn't really work. And the way the process was laid out, my goodness, it just didn't follow the logical order physically. You would do your mashing here.

and then you would have your washbacks away over there and then you would come back over the side to do that and then that tank would be over there and then the stills are over here. It's all just crammed in and everything's on top of each other. So we took one look at that and thought, you know, let's, because I think the key is like, ultimately it's about the spirit and we're trying to replicate or even potentially improve if we can on something that was considered the.

Drew Hannush (06:47.801)
Hehehe

stuart (07:04.903)
you know, a real iconic whiskey, the so -called King of the Lowlands. And in order to quickly work out that we can get the still designs, we've got them. So there's three stills and they're quite unusual shaped, especially the first still because they had to fit in a low -roof building. So it looks like one of them's got his head chopped off.

And even though we've now got a taller roof, we thought we've got to replicate these. So the stills are identical replicas, engineering wise, of what we had before. But everything else we've done in a way that allows us to sort of vary the spirit as much as possible. So the way the washbacks and the mash tun work, we can get plenty of different styles of wash going down into the

Drew Hannush (07:33.689)
Hehehe.

stuart (08:03.335)
into the stills. So we want the stills to be identical, but in order for us to hit the right profile, we thought if we can kind of play tunes on everything before that, if we can create all sorts of different versions of things, you know, that gives us more opportunity to hit the perfect profile to set off wash to send into that still, which then comes out the other side, having been distilled three times and through the old, beautiful old worm tubs outside.

to get the right spirit character. So it's identical stills, but married up with, to be honest, quite a few modern bits of kit that allow us to really tweak things in very fine detail before we send it to the stills, just to give us the best chance of replicating what was there before. So that's been the approach. So the kit that's in here is brilliant.

Drew Hannush (08:46.745)
So.

Drew Hannush (08:51.161)
So, so many questions now brewing in my mind from just the few things that you talked about right now. One thing that this sort of reminds me of is Old Pulteney because Old Pulteney, they didn't have a lot of room to put those stills in. So one of them is sort of chopped off at the top. It's a very odd looking still. But how much of this also kind of goes to the fact that most of the distilleries I've been to in Scotland besides maybe Oban and, and,

stuart (09:08.615)
Yeah.

Drew Hannush (09:20.857)
a couple of others are out in the country. So they have room to build. How much of this design was because you're building in a city.

stuart (09:28.775)
Yeah, I mean that would have absolutely been the case. The land at first was slightly bigger than the land that we inherited because there was a nice little restaurant, bar and hotel across the road which was originally a warehousing site for the distillery and there are 60 flats, 60 apartments beside us.

Drew Hannush (09:51.577)
Mm -hmm.

stuart (09:58.567)
which were also, the buildings were knocked down in the, I mean, even before Diageo finished with the site, that bit was flattened and they put these really nice flats up. So we've got great lovely neighbors and they're delighted that what was a kind of, bit of a rat infested crumbling ruin is now this beautiful iconic thing that the world's kind of looking at. I think it's probably, I think they think it's a good thing. But anyway, those flats are now there.

And again, that used to be more warehousing. So we've got a great site, but we're hemmed in on three sides. On one side, we've got the canal running right along. On the other side, we've got the main Camelan Road running up beside us. And on the third side, we've got these nice neighbors next door in their apartments. And that brings building challenges. And that's one of the reasons it took quite a bit longer than we thought. Apart from there was a pandemic or something similar that happened at one point and a few other issues.

Drew Hannush (10:53.592)
Yes.

stuart (10:57.223)
wars, plague, pestilence, you know, the whole gamut of stuff. But we've got there now. But yeah, I hemmed in sight. And actually, we have no, we've got a small warehouse on site that will literally hold a few dozen casks, you know, will have just under 100 casks on site next to nothing. And the rest of it is going, it's still being matured in the lowlands, but another site. Currently, that's Glen Goyne.

Drew Hannush (11:16.985)
Mm.

stuart (11:24.039)
because the Glengoyne warehouses are in the lowlands, even though the stills are in the highlands. Strange site, that one. But we're building a nice new warehousing complex so we can mature it perfectly. That's not far from here, but on site, it's the bits where we stored it that we've lost over the years to businesses and other developments. So it's a really cool site.

Drew Hannush (11:30.169)
you

stuart (11:54.311)
The buildings are big, they're spacious. The still house is like a cathedral. It's an amazing big still house. It's needlessly large. It's very grand, it's beautiful. But when you go outside, there are virtually no grounds at all. We've filled it all with really cool buildings.

Drew Hannush (12:01.817)
Mmm.

Drew Hannush (12:09.185)
Hehehehe

Yeah, so in its heyday, it was making blends and it was a pretty large output for that distillery as I understand.

stuart (12:23.431)
Yes, the output was larger before than we're currently doing it. And I guess it's, you know, I mean, Rosebank, you're absolutely right. It was really coveted by the Blenders back in the day. And there's a little, if you'll allow me to go down this route, that's when our family that owns it. So we're Ian McLeod Distillers, but we're owned by the Russell family. That's Leonard and his son, Tom.

is in the business as well. Leonard's grandfather, Leonard Senior, was had in the 1930s gave up the business that he was in. He used to supply insurance and other services to distilleries around Scotland. So he would travel around these distilleries in a relationship with all the distillery managers. And he was a big, big whisky fan and he thought about this for years and eventually

he got into brokering in a very small way and he would purchase a cask from a distillery that would sell him it. And then quite quickly you get into the, the broker becomes a middleman between the blenders and you know, you make Famous Grouse and I make Bell's Whisky and now I was wanting each other to know the recipe. We go through a broker, then what we're buying from each other can almost be a bit kind of secret or whatever. And it used to be particularly more like that back then than I think it is now. So.

Leonard's grandfather started buying and selling and trading casks from distilleries in the 1930s and a good colleague of ours was going through an archiving job, Philip, and about only two months ago Philip gave me a phone and he said you'll never you'll never guess what I found and there was a there was a page from the he'd found the very first ledger showing the all handwritten beautifully showing the initial purchases that Leonard senior

our founder had made. And the first thing he bought was Rosebank. And that's the very first thing. And I think the fifth, seventh and ninth thing he bought was also Rosebank. And on his books at the end of year one, he had something like 38 casts of Rosebank and the next biggest distillery he had four or five casts from. And that's because of how coveted it was, because he knew that there was people looking for that stock and he could effectively profit from it by holding the stock and then.

stuart (14:48.071)
and then selling it on to them. So Rosebank was the thing that our original founder in the 1930s really treasured. And if you go through a couple of generations, his son actually, who was Peter Russell, and unfortunately, Peter was an absolute legend in the industry. I mean, I don't use that lightly. I mean, Lerner's the same, very well regarded, but everyone knew his father.

and a really honorable and decent man that everyone loved, but also a man that loved to have the best lunches and the best Christmas parties and things like that. Owned a string of race horses and his daughter's a really famous race horse trainer over here. She's twice in recent years won the Grand National with her horses. So they're a family which has got spirits and horse riding in the kind of blood. So Peter.

Drew Hannush (15:36.345)
Mm.

stuart (15:46.151)
who's the original owner's son was very much still alive and active in the business when we did the purchase of the land and did all these negotiations. And sadly, he passed away just before we started to distill for the first time. But he knew that his father's favorite whiskey was going to be brought back to life by his son. And I love that. I think that's it's kind of it's kind of what it's all about. It was it's owned by a Scottish family. They've got real passion for it.

Drew Hannush (16:00.857)
Hmm.

stuart (16:14.727)
It was set up by the rankers of Scottish family with real passion for it. Feels like it's in the kind of right hands. But in between, Diageo have, you know, they've just done fantastic things with the place. You know, when it was their turn to be the custodians of it for a very long time. But it feels like it's come around full circle now, which I think is quite cute.

Drew Hannush (16:34.777)
Yeah, absolutely. Well, then the distillery shut down and was mothballed around 1993. You talked about the fact that you have kind of tried to design your stills the way that they were designed in the past, but the original stills are actually, what happened to those original stills?

stuart (16:56.615)
Yeah, there was some unpleasantness there. So the distillery was mothballed and you know, it's not the first distillery that's been mothballed that ended up being brought back to life. You know, maybe demand increases or whatever. And you go down, you dust it down, you do a few, you put a few patches in the copper, you test out your tanks, you fire it up again, fix the leaks and carry on. That obviously never happened here. And to be honest, once you get...

Drew Hannush (17:01.833)
Hehehehe

stuart (17:25.479)
10, 15 years into being mothballed. Especially with modern practices in health and safety, all your receiving vessels for the spirit, et cetera, et cetera. It's difficult to guarantee that they're not going to burst or leak in the future and you're going to have a catastrophic loss of spirit and which will harm the environment and could lead to fire threats and stuff like that. So unless you've been mothballed for a short time, you do just tend to replace the kit. But...

Nevertheless, probably let's think 10 years after it had been mothballed, everything was still intact and copper is quite a valuable metal. We had a security guard and he would come in a couple of times a day and walk in, look in, unlock the still house, look inside and say, yep, stills are still there, everything's good, close the door, et cetera. Unfortunately, the backs of the stills had been removed. It was like the sort of...

Drew Hannush (18:21.849)
Mm.

stuart (18:23.207)
you know, the sort of dark side of the moon, so to speak, the bits that he wasn't glancing at from the door just weren't there. These were not three dimensional things. These were pretty much two dimensional things and everything had been smuggled out. I mean, and you know, actually they ended up arresting some people for it and they had directions to every mothballed or closed distillery in the kind of UK. So these were people that thought, okay, I'm going to go into the scrap metal business.

Drew Hannush (18:28.825)
man.

Hahaha

stuart (18:51.463)
There's a lot of mothball distilleries. Let's just go round them all. And I've rosed by one of the first ones he did. And then I'm getting caught, but not before they're taken away, rendered or still as impossible. So when we recreated them, actually, these ones are very slightly bigger. We wanted to make them a little bit bigger. So dimensionally and to scale, in terms of scale, they're identical, but they're just about 20 % bigger than the original ones because we've got a higher ceiling. But they're still the same shape like we did with the low ceiling.

Drew Hannush (18:59.929)
Yeah.

Drew Hannush (19:20.857)
Yeah. So an interesting thing about Rosebank's whiskey, and it'll be interesting to see too, cause I know you have some long aged bottles of Rosebank. And so this concept of bringing it back and trying to get that personality back in the old days, and everybody is really pushing now the limits of what these regions personalities are like. But the Lowlands for a long time was known for.

stuart (19:21.415)
So.

Drew Hannush (19:50.393)
triple distillation for light character whiskeys that were really blend friendly spirits. But your distillery has an interesting extra element in that you're bringing the triple distilling back, but you guys also are using worm tubs. And to me, worm tubs tend to sometimes keep a kind of oily, heavier feel to the spirit. So what are you finding and...

stuart (20:07.815)
Hoooo

Drew Hannush (20:18.393)
How does it relate to the original Rose Banks?

stuart (20:23.143)
I mean, there's a couple of fantastic questions in there. And your point, absolutely about the three worm toms and that oiliness. People use a very fancy word here quite a lot, this juxtaposition in the spirit makeup, which I'm not educated enough to work out exactly what that means. But I think it means that, you know, on the one hand, the stills are going to produce, obviously you distill three times, you get real smoothness and real purity of spirit. And...

you know, some brilliant triple distilled whiskeys. But then we're the only place I think that marries the triple distillation with the Wormtops. There are other triple distillers and there are other distillers with Wormtops in Scotland, but I'm not sure anywhere else they come together. And that's the Rosebank story. That's why it's unique. That's why there's nothing quite like it. And look, I get that all of the distillers will say that they plough their own furrows and they've got their own...

They've got their own processes, differences and nuances and it creates different styles. And you know, that's 100 % right. I don't dispute that for a minute, but at Rosebank, we've got this quite nice, unique position which says on the one hand, they were a very, very approachable lowland and there's a gentleness there and there's a fruity and floralness there. And you know, you could introduce someone to Rosebank as a whiskey and they might find it.

relatively easy to drink from that point of view. But also there's this other side to it. There's this depth, there's this oiliness, there's this great character to it. And it is, it's unique. And so what we do with that is we're careful in the maturation. I say, because we've just started maturing, but throughout the years, they've been careful in the maturation, Diageo before us, et cetera, that you're not gonna put like a really heavy first -fill sherry cask in there.

You know, this isn't about the cask, this is about the spirit character, this is about that uniqueness. We're trying to nurse that flavor right the way through and absolutely you want maturity, but it's more like a gentle sleep in the casks than one that's gonna bring in a lot new flavors. We've got another distillery called Tamdou, it's all about first Phil Sherry casks. And the way that, you know, the impact of that and the spirit is much higher than the impact of the Rosebank casks and the spirit. Because we're trying to protect this unique.

Drew Hannush (22:37.561)
Mm.

stuart (22:47.751)
spirit character and kind of bring that through. So you've got to be really respectful of that and not, you know, get in the way of that at all. So, you know, that's absolutely what we're doing. There's another, the other point you raised was you might have to help me out here.

Drew Hannush (23:06.905)
I've probably missed it too.

stuart (23:10.855)
Yeah, but no, I mean, it is unique and I think we're extremely lucky to have it in our company. And it just feels, I guess it's part of what makes us a mixture of proud and I guess quite kind of scared. Just, not scared, but just really anxious to do it proud, really worried that...

that they will drop a ball or we just want to make sure that there's a bit of pressure because we're dealing with such a fantastic spirit. We're dealing with great history and a great brand and stuff, but fundamentally, this has to still be a unique spirit that the world kind of loves. And that weighs quite heavy on the shoulders, particularly when we're production colleague Malcolm, who's the one that's responsible for that. I think the other point I was going to make, and forgive me, Drew, as Katie's come back to me, is that the...

Drew Hannush (23:58.2)
Yeah.

Drew Hannush (24:06.457)
Yeah.

stuart (24:09.319)
When we, although we had, we had the blueprints for the stills and we had plenty of mature stock, we can taste Rosebank at eight years, 10 years, 12 years, 30 years, we've got all sorts of old Rosebanks. What we didn't have was any of the new make spirit. We had none of the spirit, which that was the only slight disappointing thing. So it wasn't a case of like, so Malcolm, if he had the spirit, he'd be able to keep distilling and running the stills and tweaking and tweaking until.

the spirit he made exactly maxing character, this clear spirit from the old stills that hadn't been aged yet, but that's not there. So he's comparing what he's making in terms of the raw spirit against a mature spirit that's been the cask for X amount of years. That's comparing apples with oranges in a big way. So like he knows the theory of it. And that's the reason that we've been quite careful to say, look, we're not actually, we're not setting out to 100 % replicate the spirit because,

we wouldn't really know how to do that. Well, we'd know the theory of it, but without that sampling opportunity at the SpiritSafe, we've got to take a call on what we think will mature into that. And Malcolm's great, and there's plenty of other clever people. There's John, our blender, and there's Robbie that looks after our distillation and other distilleries. And we've some clever production folk involved in this. I don't think it'd be far off, but what we're actually saying is we want to...

we want to make exactly the same style as Rosebank and if anything, we want to make it even better than before. And if you set that bar really high, then that's the right way to try and achieve something kind of wonderful. But, you know, without, as I say, that new make spirit, it's really hard to guarantee that we'll hit that same spot. I don't know.

Drew Hannush (25:45.081)
Yeah.

Drew Hannush (25:54.745)
This is the challenge of an industry where you have to wait three years before you're even going to be able to get. And we're talking about, you're also comparing against stuff that is 20, 30 years old as well. The personality is definitely going to be different. So yeah, that's difficult. Let's.

stuart (26:07.847)
Yeah.

stuart (26:12.519)
We've got tasting notes that we know this character that the spirit's meant to be, but seeing five or six words underlined on a bit of paper from the manager sniffed at 40 years ago is a little bit different to having it in your hand, isn't it?

Drew Hannush (26:21.077)
Hehehe

Drew Hannush (26:25.849)
Absolutely, absolutely. So you, as a distillery homes manager, you have the honor of being able to tell the story of Rosebank through tours. And where do you even start in terms of trying to put that together? Where is your focus when you're thinking of what you want somebody to walk away from Rosebank with?

stuart (26:50.855)
I think the focus, everything here we're going to set out to try and really hero that process because if you've got a point of difference then that becomes memorable and it has such a big impact on your spirit character. Effectively that's the story. So that's one of the key stories I want to tell is that what we do here is quite unique. We want to show you this flowing from these three copper beasts into those worm tubs.

where we want you to experience what our New Make spirits like. We want you to be at the spirit safe, you know, really, really, really kind of smelling and then later on we're going to sort of sip that with you. But so we want to focus on that. There's a real, we're really keen to highlight the Falkirk area as well. It's a really cool part of Scotland. But I guess I told you earlier how central it is.

in Scotland is bang in the middle. But in a way that means people are always rushing to get to the other side or something like that. And quite, and the motorway now bypasses the town and things like that. But it's a really, it's a really nice town. And there's two or three, there's a couple of great things that have happened locally through the canals. There's the, there's this world famous Kelpies, these huge architectural.

stunning horse sculptures that kind of rear up out in the ground and in sort of shiny metal. And then, and that's lies to one side is if you walk down the canal, that direction, you get that. If you go the other direction of the canal, you come to something called the Falkirk Wheel, which is this amazing feat of engineering. There's such a disconnect in the two levels of the canals that they've put this wheel in place, you drive your canal barge into this big, huge wheel, it floods with water.

then it moves up and round and takes it to the higher one. And it doesn't sound that exciting, but to see it in action, it's really cool. And a lot of people go and anyone's an engineering persuasion, it's fascinating. The whole thing runs on the less power than a hairdryer runs on it lifts these thousands of tons of barge and water gets lifted into the sky just because of the way it's all balanced and the way they use gravity and stuff. It's really cool actually. So that's that way. So those two things being open over the last,

stuart (29:15.719)
20 years have drawn a lot of people in towards Falkirk. There's some good hotels, there's some nicer restaurants in the area now. We sit right in the middle of it. And I have to say that the city fathers, the local councils, et cetera, have been an absolute pleasure to deal with. They couldn't have made it easier or been more welcoming to us. They're really happy that this iconic thing's been brought back to life, I guess. And the people of the town seem really behind us.

We put an advert up saying, we're going to offer a chance for some of you to come before the opening, kind of a bit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory like, you know, behind closed doors, golden tickets and stuff. You bloody swamped the people. The whole town wanted to visit, which was great, you know. So, unfortunately with that, there's like a couple hundred delighted people and a good few thousand less delighted people that didn't win. But we know, we're keeping in touch. They can come back for the Christmas party and whatnot. That'll be okay.

Drew Hannush (29:59.649)
Yeah.

stuart (30:14.695)
So there's a thing about kind of promoting the area. But also there's a really nice sort of rebirth story here that, you know, we're bringing this sleeping giant back to life. We're marrying new and old in terms of the architectural and the building. We've got this kind of full circle thing for us as a company where our founder really coveted this and it was his favorite one.

one day his grandson is opening this iconic place that you know that's quite cool and then I guess there's the there's the the the fact that it's just it's just an honor I guess to to bring this place back so yeah we'll be focusing on on those stories but the the sort of challenges like there are plenty of new stories that open up in Scotland.

And on day one, when you open your doors, you know, what are you pouring? I've come to your distillery. Welcome in, Drew. Would you like a glass of, wait a minute, it's pretty immature now. We've got some new mate you can try and of course, we'll share what we've distilled. Of course we will, but you might want to relax with something a little bit more mature. So for us, like we do have this stock, we've got the stock between 1989 and 1993 in distillation terms, but not that much of it.

Drew Hannush (31:22.201)
Ha ha.

Drew Hannush (31:42.521)
Hmm.

stuart (31:42.823)
we've got some casks, but not enough that we can drink it endlessly for the next 10 years while our own stuff matures. So we've got to kind of eke it out and we've put aside a relatively small amount. So each year there'll be around about 3 ,000 people will be able to come and have a glass or two of the really old original Roast Bank. And it's kind of first come first served in that.

And next year the same and I'll be able to do the same. And we're trying to stretch it out until we've got our own whiskey. But our ambitions for numbers come to the site are a little bit beyond that. So there'll be a lot of other experiences where you can come and we'll do new make cocktails. Our new make is brilliant. I've never tasted one quite like it. It's just got a beautiful quality. And we experimented with some cocktails and it turned out it makes an amazing

Drew Hannush (32:10.905)
Mm.

stuart (32:40.423)
version of an old fashioned or as we're calling it a new fashioned, which so people can come and experience that and we'll be serving a lot of them and do you know what, it's really tasty. And we'll be doing as years go on, we'll be doing so in years one and two, you can't call it whiskey obviously, it's got to be three years for that but we can let people taste a spirit drink so they can see how it's evolving in the cask to an extent. And then much more widely we're going to be,

Drew Hannush (32:42.105)
Mmm. Nice.

stuart (33:09.799)
We're gonna be pouring glengoyne and tamdou, the other kind of horses in our stable. And we'll use them to primarily to talk about spirit style and maturation. Glengoyne and tamdou, very different spirit styles and glengoyne's matured in a mixture of first fill sherry, refill sherry and bourbon. And tamdou is exclusively in sherry. And we'll...

We'll be able to use those. So I'll have a Glen Goine that's matured in a sherry cast. I'll have a Glen Goine that's matured in a bourbon cast. You can taste the difference. You can then look at why is the sherry cast version of Glen Goine different to the sherry cast version of Tamdou? Well, that's about the spirit character and that's how their distillation works. Come back to Rosebank now. You know what a spirit character's like. You've just sipped it. You've seen how we make it.

it's going to go down this route more like the Glen going in terms of the bourbon caskets in and we'll just try and try and use these as kind of enjoyable props to tell our story because kind of what else can we do? And I think that there'll be, we've got something for everyone here, but the, and we've got a very busy opening spell where people are coming from all over to sort of taste it. But.

Yeah, if fans of Rosebank want to come and see us, you know, boot yourself in and we'll make sure that you can get some of the old Rosebank to drink. But do you know what? The other, I mean, I'm a massive fan. I've been at Glen Going since 1996 in one way or another. I adore the place. It makes fabulous whiskey. So there's nothing lesser there. It's just not the whiskey that's made here. And most people will want to try and drink what's made here.

Drew Hannush (34:57.369)
Right. Well.

Absolutely. Well, it's building that anticipation and getting people to understand the history and get a feel for the place first. And I love the idea that you're using other distilleries to kind of give people a sense of how differences can be between regions and how products are being made and what your considerations are for each of those. And so,

You know, educating people I think is as important as getting them that taste of spirit. And I will attest to the fact that Glingoyne is a great experience that if anybody heads out there, it's educational, you go pretty deep into the process and it's beautiful out there as well. So you've done a wonderful job there. I can only imagine what you'll be doing at Rosebank.

stuart (35:51.527)
Yeah, well, I've not done a wonderful job. Somebody had the foresight to build it in a beautiful part of the world. And in 1833, someone started making remarkable whisky and I've just kind of tagged along occasionally. And I drink it with the visitors that come there and bloody well enjoy it, you know. So your hands, your deltas is the hand you've got to play with, you know. And we're just lucky. This place is fabulous. I mean, I can't wait to open the doors. It is like a...

Drew Hannush (35:57.561)
Thank you.

Drew Hannush (36:03.225)
Nice.

stuart (36:18.791)
like a cathedral to distillation. I think I said that before, but if we even, I've been here a lot over the last few months and every time I walk into that still house, there's just a big, wow, it's an amazing building. So to get to show that off and be any small part of that, it's just a bit of a dream. I'm a bigger whiskey fan as you are Drew, you know, and it's a pleasure to have any involvement in any of these places, I'll be honest.

Drew Hannush (36:43.193)
Well, Stuart, I wish you the best of luck. The tours are already filling up, so I know you'll be busy for the next few weeks, and I wish you all the success in the world. Cheers.

stuart (36:52.935)
It's a fantastic speech. Have a great weekend. All the best. Thank you, sir.

Drew Hannush (36:55.833)
You too.

Closing Details

I hope you enjoyed this virtual visit to the rebirth of Rosebank Distillery. If I piqued your interest in experiencing Rosebank and all it has to offer,, make sure to head to whiskey-lore.com/flights, visit the distillery page and add it to your wish list. And while you’re on the site, find maps, distillery profiles, and information about 75 other Scotch whisky distilleries you might also consider visiting.  That’s whiskey-lore.com/flights

Now, stay tuned because I’ll have some closing travel tips if you plan on visiting Rosebank, but first, it’s time for This Week in Whiskey Lore.

This Week in Whiskey Lore

169 years ago this week, the city of Portland, Maine, exploded into violence after locals discovered that teetotaling mayor Neal Dow, known as the Napoleon of Temperance, was rumored to have $1,600 worth of alcohol stored in the basement of City Hall.

Four years earlier, Dow had fought for the Maine Law, a statewide prohibition law, and was a fierce advocate for its enforcement.

The city’s Irish population felt targeted by Dow's alcohol crusade, so when rumors of alcohol storage surfaced, they led the protests. Then on June 2, 1855, a large crowd gathered at City Hall, and began chanting. Fearing for his safety, Dow called out the militia, and soon, angry words turned into rocks and projectiles. A shot from a militiaman's gun escalated the chaos, resulting in one dead and seven injured. 

Known as the Portland Rum Riots, it would be a mark against Neal Dow’s crusade. And when newspapers accused him of calling for the firing of the shots, citizens turned against him and his Maine Law. Eventually the law would be overturned.

In Dow’s defense, he claimed the stored alcohol was for medicinal use and fully legal to hold and sell. But it was later revealed he had not obtained the spirits legally, a charge that would land him in court, where he eventually was acquitted. But the damage was done. The Portland Rum Riots marked the end of Dow’s power in Maine politics.

The Wrap Up

As we prepare to head back to the Edinburgh Airport for a flight back to the states, I wanted to give you some side trips to consider, if you’re planning to visit Rosebank. 

Of course, one of the most obvious attractions is at Helix Park, the hard to miss The Kelpies. These 30-meter-high horse-head sculptures are a marvel of modern engineering and art. Visitors can take guided tours to learn about the inspiration and construction of these iconic structures and while enjoying the surrounding parkland.

The Falkirk Wheel and Callendar House are also highly recommended, but if you want something that provides a bit more of an adrenaline buzz, consider testing your racing skills at  Xtreme Karting. This 30,000 sq foot facility is 5-star rated by VisitScotland.com and provides thrills for those aged 10 and up. It’s a perfect way to add some variety and excitement to your adventure.

Closing and Three Things

As we close out our trip to Rosebank, let me give you my three reasons why I have this distillery on my Whiskey Lore Wish List. 

  • First and foremost is the opportunity to see how modern designers take into account a historic structure's significance and build a new experience around it that not only celebrates the past, but brings promise to the future. 
  • My second reason is the opportunity to taste new make spirit. This isn’t something you experience at a lot of distilleries. And here, the lover of easy drinking whiskies will see how triple distillation, which is very popular in Ireland, will affect the drinkability of the spirit. And the fans of rich, oily whiskies will be curious to see how much of that worm tub character remains in the spirit after those 3 distillations.
  • And finally, it is the opportunity to get to know more about Falkirk, a place that I’ve passed by often, but not taken the time to stop in. The distillery will do a nice job of introducing the area, then there is plenty of time to hoof it around town and soak it all in.

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. It’s time to reach for the clouds and make our way from Edinburgh Airport to Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport and then on to our final destination, Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport. From there, we’ll drive west to visit one of the most unique distilleries in the United States. A distillery built in the 1800s in the style of a Scottish castle. Make sure to subscribe to the Whiskey Lore podcast, so don’t miss any of the great Whiskey Flights to come. Until we meet again, cheers and Slainte mhath. 


For transcripts and travel information including maps, distillery planning information and more, head to whiskey-lore.com/flights

About Rosebank Distillery

Founded by James Rankine, a Falkirk wine merchant, in 1840, Rosebank Distillery became renowned for producing a perfect Lowlands spirit for blends. Despite its success, the distillery was shut down in 1993 and was later looted of its equipment. In 2017, Ian Macleod Distillers purchased the site, and spirits are once again flowing through newly installed copper pot stills on-site. The first spirits run occurred on the 5th of June 2023, so it will be some time before the spirit reaches maturity. Nonetheless, you can witness the distillery's rebirth with a visit and tour.

Following a Lowland and Irish tradition of triple distilling, Rosebank offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the region's long-time association with lighter whiskies. On the Reawakening tour, you'll discover the process of bringing a distillery back to life as you're guided through the new still house and warehouse. The tour concludes with a tasting of mature single malts from Rosebank's sister distilleries Glengoyne and Tamdhu. Deeper tours with longer-aged tastings are also available. Check their website for details.

Take a Whiskey Flight to Rosebank Distillery

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Note: This distillery information is provided “as is” and is intended for initial research only. Be aware, offerings change without notice and distilleries periodically shut down or suspend services. Always use the distillery’s websites to get the most detailed and up-to-date information. Your due diligence will ensure the smoothest experience possible.