The Magic of Maturation
Visiting the new Rosebank distillery, you will witness the washbacks in full ferment, feel the heat radiating off the stills and smell the sweet scent of spirit, before being shown the warehouse. Seeing rows of oak casks slumbering in the dark may lack the excitement of the stillroom, but don’t be deceived.
“Where the real alchemy, the real magic happens is in maturation,” says Gordon Dundas, senior brand ambassador at Rosebank’s owners – Ian Macleod Distillers. “I love the fact that we still don’t know 100% what goes on inside the cask. And you can’t see it, so it’s like watching a play behind a curtain where you are desperate to find out what’s happening.”
“The wood is removing and giving at the same time,” says Robbie Hughes, group distillation manager. "The spirit is taking flavour and colour from the oak, as the oak absorbs some of the harsh elements.” All the while, the raw spirit will be breathing in and out through the pores in the wood as it mellows into fully-formed Rosebank whisky.
Maturation retains its mystery because of the myriad elements involved right back to the original oak with every cask as distinct as the tree it was cut from. “It takes a lot of faith – you put it in a cask and cross your fingers,” says Robbie, forgetting to mention the skill required. He has decades of experience, latterly with Rosebank’s sister distilleries of Tamdhu and Glengoyne.
With its unique mix of triple distillation and worm-tubs, Rosebank’s newmake spirit “will be lighter, fruitier and have a sweetness and possible floral element,” compared to others, predicts Gordon Dundas. As Robbie Hughes knows, preserving and enhancing that quintessential Rosebank character through to the finished whisky depends on two things; finding the perfect casks to match the whisky, and having the patience to wait until it’s just right.