Category Archives: Rosebank

Rosebank 20 y.o. Rare Malts Review

How ’bout some Rosebank? I’ve been delinquent here when it comes to arguably the most iconic of Lowland single malts. In fact, I think there are only two reviews posted thus far. Fear not. I have a few more to come.

Diageo’s Rare Malts series is held in very high esteem. Rightfully so. The distilleries represented are revered and coveted, and the expressions themselves are, generally speaking, near-forms in terms of representing their respective brands. Not only that…they’re also offered up about as naked and natural as can be, and at blindingly high abvs. This Rosebank was tasted as the last malt in a ridiculous closed distillery tasting and was big enough to cut through all that came before. Not bad for a triple distilled Lowlander, aye?

62.3% abv.

Sincere thanks to my mate Brett Tanaka for the opportunity to taste this. The range of bottles he’s been opening for what we’ll call ‘The Brett Sessions’ are simply beyond comprehension. And I am beyond humbled to be able to partake. I’ll be reviewing dozens of them in the coming weeks/months.

Tasting Notes

Nose: White chocolate. Lemon. More lemon. And some more lemon. Orange. Furniture polish. Slightly floral. This could maybe be a light style of malt if it weren’t for the blistering abv. Herbal. Some cinnamon and dry dunnage-y notes. Fresh cut apples, drizzled in lemon juice. A little boozy.

Palate: Huge! Bigger than that even. Lemon again, as we’d expect. Prickly. Wood spice. Ginger and apple. Oily vanilla bean. A touch of potpourri. Good firm oak; very clean. Chocolate, both white and milk.

Finish: What a clean, long and beautiful finish. Ends on citrus peel and tongue depressers. Maybe a wee bit of apple.

Thoughts: One of my all time favorite Rosebanks. A beauty in all its facets. This is the reason for Rosebank’s reputation.


Rosebank 25 y.o. (Cadenhead) Review

Rosebank sorta straddles that barrier between first tier and second tier when people discuss their personal biases and rankings for the much-mourned closed distilleries. No two ways about it, there’s a deep sentimentality out there for this iconic and quintessential Lowlander, but Rosebank will almost certainly never be held in the stead of Port Ellen or Brora. Especially now, as the eve of the distillery’s renaissance approaches. Another factor, of course, is that Rosebank closed in much more recent times than did the ‘Big Two’. Ten years later, to be exact.

But I think more than any other issue at play is simply the makeup of the malt itself. We’re a comparing a relatively innocuous (that’s not to say it wasn’t lovely, and occasionally even spectacular) light and floral dram with the enormity of the massive peat profiles from an era where homogeneity hadn’t yet become the de facto standard. Now, hear me out: brands don’t strive for homogeneity, of course, but when your grand pursuits are yield and consistency, it becomes inevitable that character will be the sacrificial goat. In the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s there were many more variables at play: a ‘by touch’ method of brewing and distilling, inconsistent cask policies, wild west wood policies, etc. Inevitably, this is what led to such fantastically singular casks slumbering away in some of these fossil distilleries we hold in museum piece-like awe. This is the very same reason that Springbank continues to climb the charts in drinkers’ esteem nowadays.

This 25 year old Rosebank is a near perfect example of what the distillery’s ‘house style’ could be considered. And though I still don’t find it a home run dram, I can’t argue the intrinsic quality. It’s there in spades. Lovely dram. One more please.

50.5% abv. From an ex-bourbon barrel that yielded 192 bottles. Distilled in 1991, just two years before the distillery closed, and bottled in 2017 for the 175th anniversary of Cadenhead.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Definitely soft and perfumed. White chocolate and a drizzle of warm honey. Toasted marshmallow. Rosehip. Gooseberry. Pineapple upside down cake with French vanilla ice cream. A very berry-heavy artificial sweetness. Also quite creamy.

Palate: Toasted oak, much more assertive than expected, and almost leaning toward bitter. Grapefruit pith, which also bitters a bit, but in a more pleasant way. Orange, mango, kiwi and lychee (yup, as it says right on the bottle).

Finish: Clean and oak-driven. Rather lovely, if maybe a bit anemic.

Thoughts: Really good example of the style and the distillery, but also a perfect example of why Rosebank will rarely be knock-out whisky for me. Very drinkable (not far off some good old Irish whiskey I’ve had, actually), just not my preferred style. Should also note that it just gets better and better with time in the glass. I probably had it a point or two lower than the score it’s getting before it ‘evolved’ with time.


Rosebank 18 y.o. (OMC) Review

Rosebank 18 y.o. (OMC)021

50% abv

Score:  86.5/100


Rosebank was yet another casualty of a rather callous and heartless whisky industry.  It drew it’s last dying breath in 1993.

Every now and then rumblings come along hinting at a Lazarus act with this rather legendary Lowland distillery, but they always amount to nothing more than just that.  No true true quakes…just the foreshocks.

There are some rather interesting bits of gossip out there too.  Conflicting tales of 2002 sales, stolen equipment and a 2013 rumour once again speaking to Diageo’s possible sale or reopening of Rosebank.  Call me a skeptic, but I think ATW will continue to roll forward on the assumption that Rosebank is gone.  Finished.  Over.  Sad, but likely much more rooted in reality than the alternatives.

The Lowlands are famously known as a region built on light, herbal, floral and grassy malts, most often triple distilled.  At the moment there are a mere six distilleries producing in the region, two of which are yet to release a proper distillery bottling.  Rosebank has the distinction of being the ‘Port Ellen’ of the region; quality whisky from a distillery now decades in the grave.  The distillery has continued to grow in the esteem of collectors and hoarders (much like Brora or Port Ellen), even though the malt…may or may not quite justify the hype.  Personally, I’ve yet to make up my mind on that one.

This expression in particular is a rather fine example, if not quite spectacular, of the light and fresh distillate you’re likely to encounter in most Rosebank expressions still out there.  It is a Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask release from a few years back.  Not quite cask strength, but I’m more than ok with the OMC 50% standard.

Good release from a fine distillery.  R.I.P. Rosebank.

Nose:  Meadowy, perfumed and floral.  Eucalyptus and sour candy.  Grapefruit pith.  A little peach and some orange fruit.  Unsweetened pastry dough.  Dirt.  Tart cranberry.  Acidic.

Palate:  Delivery is similar to an anCnoc.  Over-steeped tea.  Bitter and drying.  Hay notes and white pepper.  Grass.  MacIntosh apple.  Very light.  Quite pleasant.  Not really a fan of the finish here though.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt