I had recently just finished watching True Detective’s season 1 for the first time. Similarly, I was also late in watching other legendary shows such as The Wire, Band of Brothers, and Mad Men. Mainly. I didn’t get to watch these shows as they were airing because I didn’t know about them. At the same time, most of these shows also came out when I was in my teens; I feel like I wouldn’t have been mature enough to appreciate them. Regardless of reasons, this fact makes me lament that I’m late in enjoying these treasures when they first came out… but “better late than never” is always something to live by.
Similar to missing out on some shows when they were airing, a lot of us missed out on some Scotch single malt distilleries when they were still active. Unlike finished TV shows that will last on the internet forever, products from closed distilleries will one day run out. In an effort to make up for lost time and opportunities, I’ve been trying my best to try as many bottlings from closed distilleries or discontinued SKUs before they completely vanish. The more popular of these two single malts I’m reviewing today is surely the formerly closed distillery Rosebank.
It’s highly likely that Rosebank is more popular today due to its reopening by Ian Mcleod. Ian Mcleod is the company that owns Scotch single malt brands Glengoyne, Tamdhu, and Smokehead. The company bought the distillery site from Scottish Canals and the Rosebank trademark name from Diageo in 2017. After close to six years of waiting after the acquisition, the distillery finally started production again in July of this year.
Originally, the distillery – formerly revered as the king of the Lowlands – opened in 1840. Despite a few ownership changes, it ran continuously until 1993 while under Diageo’s predecessor, United Distillers (although it’s said there was also a brief hiatus during war times). The distillery eventually closed on June 30th of 1993. The distillery was later sold to British Waterways in 2002, but, just after Christmas 2008, it was discovered that the parts of the stills were stolen for copper.
Initially, when I heard that Ian Macleod was reopening the distillery, I thought it was just some sort of gimmick. The distillery may be reopening at the original site, but different stills will make a different whisky. If that were the case, Rosebank will be revived only in name but not in character. However, it seems like the company was able to faithfully copy the original designs of the stills. It looks like there’s hope for the original profile to come back. Hopefully, they use the same yeast and barley as well, to lessen differences.
According to the Whisky Vault, the Rosebank I’m reviewing today was bottled during the 1980s by The Distillers Agency. I found a bottle of this while in Japan earlier this year. After being impressed, I decided to bring home a sample of it.
Rosebank 8 Year Old Unblended Single Malt – Review
Color: Wheat beer.
On the nose: I get light but full and long aromas of cereals, barley tea, white flowers with lemon zest, vanilla, and white tea.
In the mouth: There’s a bit of a zingy and oily texture. It’s followed by lemon zest, cereals, white tea, vanilla, barley tea and a mix of dried dates and dried apricots. In between are very subtle tastes of oranges. At the end is a subtle metallic taste as well.
There’s really something about most 80s (and earlier) single malt bottlings. Despite their low, they still have an oily texture to it that most 40% to 43% contemporary single malts from the big brands don’t have. Another way to say this is that the whisky isn’t thin. My guess is it’s due to the less efficient barley and yeast strains they use, as well as the slower distillation rates… but it could also just be from the worm tubs.
I wouldn’t call this an amazing single malt. There’s not much flavor and complexity, but it’s still a pretty good 40% ABV 8 year old single malt. It’s certainly unlike any contemporary Lowland single malt. So, it doesn’t warrant the crazy price it’s listed at in Whisky Vault. But, if you can try this for a reasonable price, do so. This may be one of the few distillery bottlings of Rosebank left in the market. It won’t wow you. But it’ll give you a frame of reference when Ian Mcleod eventually releases future Rosebanks.
With that said, I think I’m going to get another sample and save it for when regular expressions of Rosebank come out.
Mosstowie was a single malt that was produced at the Miltonduff Distillery in Speyside from 1964 to 1981 through a Lomond Still. This type of still has some form of cult status among geeks due to its being extinct, and its reputation as a flexible still. The way I understand it, it’s like a cross between a pot and a column. Unlike traditional pot stills, it had plates. These plates could be adjusted along with the lyne arm to change the distillate’s profile. Unfortunately, the plates were hard to clean and there was little demand from blenders. So, the stills were taken out and replaced by traditional pot stills. The trademark is currently owned by Pernod Ricard.
Funnily enough, I’ve always wanted to try a single malt made from a Lomond Still, but I didn’t know of any distillery that used to use it. Luckily and unknowingly, I got to check this off my bucket list when I brought home a sample of Mosstowie.
Despite the (niche) demand and popularity of closed Scotch single malt distilleries, to me, Mosstowie is one of those obscure ones, as obscure as single malts from distilleries such Caperdonich, Dallas Dhu, and St. Magdalene. They’ve been overshadowed by more popular single malts from formerly long closed distilleries such as Port Ellen, Brora, and Rosebank. I guess these three distilleries being revived is a testament of their popularity.
Signatory Vintage Mosstowie 35 years old 1979 – Review
Cask Strength Collection, 46.8% ABV. Cask Selected by The Whisky Hoop. Cask #25755.
Color: Dark gold.
On the nose: I get light but long and round aromas of lemons, limoncello, dried clay, pears, cereals, mint, red apples with skin, banana peels, and sapodilla. At some points, I get subtle aromas of barley tea, old wooden furniture, and honey.
In the mouth: Very oily. I get a medium intensity, as well as round and long tastes of apples, dried dates, barley tea, nuts with peel, lemon peel, limoncello and honey. In between are flashes of French toast and ginger candy. This goes on and on and on. I feel guilty swallowing this.
Nosing this is a bit disappointing due to it not matching what I taste. The action is where the mouth is. This has an amazing texture and longevity of flavors. Plus, the flavors are coherent. They just keep on taking turns in my mouth. I wouldn’t mind drinking this alone for hours in a dimly lit room while listening to classic Russian music.
I know this is my first and only taste of anything from a Lomond still. But this is one of the times I really curse efficiency. It’s a shame we don’t have any more whisky made from these stills. Anyone who likes oily whisky will love this.
(if the nose were more expressive, this would be an 8.)