During my time in the whisky community I’ve been struck by the warm welcome and generosity shown almost universally. This sample is a case in point, which was provided by the owner of a extremely rare bottle of Rosebank who was selling an unopened bottle at auction. The guys at Just Whisky Auctions knowing that this is a rarely seen whisky, passed on the generous 100ml sample to me here at Whisky Rover.
Of course they had a wee taste inbetween that confirmed that this isn’t a modern day whisky. The owner of the bottle had the foresight it seems to adopt the mantra of buying 1 to keep and 1 to drink. That’s an approach I can agree with – money permitting!
Rosebank closed over 20 years ago and since has been the source of much speculation. The buildings still stand today, although the contents within were stripped by metal thieves – a continuous pain in the UK with European gangs rampaging across the landscape taking what they can. A prominent example of the Lowland region, Rosebank left a huge gap in Scotland alongside several other distilleries from the same region that were also shutdown. As the Michael Jackson commented in his Malt Whisky Companion on the Rosebank ‘it was the finest example of a Lowland malt, and was produced by triple distillation, in the Lowland tradition. It is a grievous loss’.
Lowland distilleries today can be counted easily on one hand however the region is about revived thanks to the current whisky boom. Several new distilleries in the Lowlands are being built and we await a conclusion to the situation at Bladnoch distillery. Meanwhile, Rosebank stands idle. The distillery may never return to production and for whisky lovers it has received strong support from independent bottlers. Cadenhead’s and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society being 2 recent bottlers of Rosebank in 2014.
This bottle is very unusual as it comes from an era when local grocers bottled their own casks and offered customers an exclusive range of whiskies. Familiar names such as Cadenhead’s started out this way before evolving into the companies we know today. George Strachan remains in business with a couple of stores in Northern Scotland and while it still sells whisky, I believe their own exclusive casks are no more. Very few retailers now offer this service given the costs of a cask and bringing it to the shelf. I can highlight a rare example in the very Northwest of Scotland where the tiny Drumbeg Store each year bottles their own whisky, with the current release being a Ben Nevis; it is very enjoyable. After experiencing the road to Drumbeg a wee dram is certainly required!
I expect this is a single cask Rosebank dating from either the late 1950’s or early 1960’s and being bottled at a relatively young age an interesting time capsule. 12 years is an industry standard age today, however Rosebanks we see now are often 20+ years in age.
Age: 12 years old
Bottler: George Strachan
Strength: 80% proof (40% ABV)
Additional: a bottle was up for auction right here
Colour: desert sand
Nose: huge juicy fruits; clearly this isn’t a modern whisky nose as it takes me back to a really fresh white Hungarian wine I experienced in Budapest a couple of years ago. Overly ripe apples, pears; almost as if these were liquidised and then thrown into my face. Delicious floral notes, vanilla with a sweet creaminess followed by malt that I can only describe as Custard Creams.
Taste: after the fruit bomb nose this is very gentle on the palate. A hint of grapefruit but mostly lemon is evident with some oak and a little smokiness to finish that comes through as a surprise.
As far as Rosebank’s go this is probably one of the rarest I’ll ever sit down with. The nose sets the bar very high and the taste doesn’t quite match up to the nosing experience and a higher strength would have been beneficial. However it is style you don’t see nowadays and is commonly referred to as an old style whisky. A great experience.