Review: An SMWS Rosebank

Rosebank distillery was built in 1840 and ran until its closure in 1993 after the owner UDV (a fore runner to Diageo) decided mothballing was a better option than paying upwards of £2 million for essential upgrades to the waterworks.  The site was later sold to British Waterways  however it was then acquired by Ian McLeod Distillers, a well known independent bottler, blender and owners of the Glengoyne and Tamdhu brands.

They have since acquired the Rosebank brand from Diageo and work has begun on restoring the site to its former glory. You can keep up to date with the project here.


It is well regarded by many whisky drinkers and I have never heard much debate over the spirit quality as opposed to other closed distilleries. Not every mothballed site has such a good reputation, lets face it some distilleries were closed due to spirit quality factors as much as economic ones.

I had never had the pleasure of trying a Rosebank until being kindly gifted a sample by Tom Thomson over at Toms Whisky Reviews.

Thanks to Tom for the opportunity to try something that is becoming increasingly rare.

This particular expression was released by the Scottish Malt Whisky Society under the numeric code 25.61 and the title of “Lemon and Vanilla Delicacy”

Rosebank, 20yo,SMWS 25.61, IB, 51.3% ABV, (sample swap) not currently available


The nose is so very gentle. Sherbet lemons, meringues, peeled green apples, fresh flowers and some balsa wood notes intermingle pleasantly for a light but beguiling nose. Perhaps the mildest waft of wax upon returning my nose to the glass.

The palate is full of soft vanilla and some gently spiced butter. Theres a perfumed tang here and perhaps a dash of melon. A faint, distant woodiness arrives along with a zesty vanilla and floral mixture.

The finish is where the wood starts to come out, more oak now than balsa, bizarrely reminiscent of a left over ice lolly stick from a lemon lolly. There are some soft and mild spices, allspice mainly, and a touch of mint leaf.


Now I am sure I have used the words, soft, gentle, subtle, mild etc far too many times in my notes but this is exactly what this dram is. Very light but with enough or as little complexity as you wish to find within your glass.

Rosebank fans, of which I am now one (as much as you can be after trying one expression admittedly) wait to see what the future holds for this beguiling Lowland dram.

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