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Rosebank might have averted closure had Diageo seen fit to select their classic malts range based on the quality of the whiskies rather than the aesthetic suitability of the distilleries for potential tourists. Sadly they did not and the inferior but prettier Glenkinchie was chosen as the lowland counterpart of the range leaving Rosebank to dwindle on till closure in 1993. One of the cult, 'super-mourned' distilleries along with the likes of Brora, Port Ellen and St Magdalene, Rosebank has found a deep place in the hearts of many whisky lovers over the past two decades, and rightly so.
Stills: 1 Wash 2 Spirit
Water Source: Carrow Valley Reservoir
1950s-1972: Big Oil, Big Spice, Big Wax and Big Fruit.
Always triple distilled in traditional lowland style, Rosebank became something of a curiosity over the years because, even in its later life, it still produced a fairly oily, flavoursome and rich style of whisky, a style that was a thousand miles away from the fragility of fellow triple distiller Auchentoshan. The main reasons for this are distillation based. Rosebank had quite dumpy stills with worm tubs attached and these two factors helped to accentuate the oilier, heavier aspects in each spirit run. This slightly curtailed the usually thorough cleaning process that triple distillation inflicts upon a spirit thus making Rosebank an oddly sinewy lowlander.
Bottlings of Rosebank distilled before the late 1960s are scarce but some do exist if you have the pocket or them. There were official bottlings at 8 and 12 years old both of which were pretty fantastic. A clutch of independent examples from this time also exist. The stills at Rosebank were converted to mechanical stoking in 1959 and then to internal steam heating in 1972. Rosebanks distilled before this changeover were more mineraled, oily and very old style with full on waxy profiles and notes of Riesling, petrol, coal, metal and white fruits. Many are stunning and beautifully complex drams.
1970s-Present: Fruity, Oily, Complex and Closed.
Rosebank continued to produce spirit with a highly individual, intriguing and complex personality right up to its demise in 1993. Latter day distillations were notable for containing more dry spiciness, white stone fruit character and elegant notes such as honeysuckle and grass. Thankfully there are still quite a few batches of stock aging and intermittently being bottled so hopefully there will be Rosebanks for some time to come. However, prices of Rosebanks seem to have risen quite sharply in the last two years so this may be a sign that stocks are drying up, or it may simply be the bottlers greed in exploiting the profit potential behind closed distilleries. Whatever the case there is currently no shortage of variety in Rosebank bottlings with many independents offering several fine examples.
Rosebank will almost certainly never reopen, it is well deserving of the amount of praise and sadness people heap upon it. The more individuality amongst the different whiskies in Scotland the better, and Rosebank was a true individual.