Return of the King as long dormant Rosebank Distillery reopens

a whisky distillery beside a canal
Rosebank Distillery in Falkirk

Falkirk’s Rosebank Distillery has returned to productive life, following an ambitious restoration by Ian Macleod Distillers.

Formerly known as the ‘King of the Lowlands’, the distillery was closed more than 30 years ago, a late casualty of the whisky slump that dogged the 1980s and 1990s. Its canal-side building had fallen into disrepair, to the extent that many regarded Rosebank as lost forever.

But Ian Macleod Distillers has now lovingly brought this ‘ghost’ distillery back to life, with a meticulous four-year project that salvaged elements of the old distillery, recreated parts that were lost and recast the site as a well-equipped exemplar of modern whisky tourism.

Whisky stills in a glass room
Rosebank’s recreated signature stills

The resulting new distillery has been hailed as a tremendous addition for Falkirk, forming a potent tourism triumvirate with the hotspots of the Falkirk Wheel and The Helix Park, home of the Kelpies.

But it is also very much a working distillery, with its eye on the main game, and a mission to continue and build upon Rosebank’s former reputation for premium spirits. To that end, the distillery’s three original and unusual stills, which were dismantled for scrap, have been recreated from their original plans, to once again distil the brand’s famous ‘elegant and floral’ spirit. The first cask of new-make was filled in June 2023.

Rosebank whisky is and was a non-peated, triple distilled, Lowland Single Malt, with a fruity floral style achieved through a combination of triple distillation and worm tub condensers – a production technique claimed to be unique to Rosebank.

A man working inside a whisky distillery
Rosebank’s fruity floral style is achieved through a combination of triple distillation and worm tub condensers.

Speaking after this week’s formal re-opening, brand homes director at Ian Macleod Distillers, Stuart Hendry, said: “This is a huge moment for the people of Falkirk and the global whisky community. It has been an absolute pleasure watching Rosebank reawaken, with its original, unique distillation methods now sitting at the heart of inspiring new buildings that respect the original setting.

“The sense of pride that the people of Falkirk have in Rosebank is very much felt by all of us at Ian Macleod Distillers and to be custodians of such an iconic distillery is a dream come true.

“Opening the doors today to visitors marks another historic chapter in the incredible story of Rosebank and we are excited to welcome whisky lovers from around the world into this incredible cathedral of distillation.”

People appreciating a fine whisky
One of Rosebank’s several tasting rooms

To mark the distillery’s full revival, Rosebank has released its first distillery exclusive, and its oldest expression to date, Rosebank Vintage 1989. The 33-year-old single malt Scotch whisky, bottled at its natural strength of 47.5% ABV, is from the oldest year of the legacy stock, and is a limited run of 650 bottles, priced at £3200. As an extra-celebratory opening day memento, distillery manager Malcolm Rennie will be on-site signing bottles after purchase.

Blender at Rosebank, Emma Oakes, said: “Such a grand occasion calls for an exceptional whisky, and our Rosebank Vintage 1989 is just that. We have had the unique opportunity to assess each of the rare Rosebank casks that have survived since the distillery’s closure in 1993. It was clear from the start that our 1989 casks, the oldest in our archive, would be perfect to create this incredibly special dram to toast to the revival of such a well-loved distillery.”

Rosebank Whisky Distillery
Formerly known as the ‘King of the Lowlands’, the Rosebank distillery was closed more than 30 years ago.

Whisky lovers looking to visit Rosebank can choose from three tour options; Rosebank Reawakening, Rosebank Rekindled and Rosebank Revered. Each tour starts with an ‘immersive animation’ that recounts Rosebank’s miraculous tale, all brought to life in the original distillery buildings.

A detailed tour of the distillery and still house follows, as well as the opportunity to taste Rosebank’s new make spirit and the award-winning expressions from Rosebank’s sister distilleries Glengoyne and Tamdhu. The Rosebank Revered tour also offers a tutored tasting of three rare and specially selected Rosebank expressions.