The Story of the Original Rosebank Stills
Against a beautiful, cloudless sky, Rosebank’s three new pot stills were lifted one by one from a flatbed trailer to dangle high above the distillery, the copper gleaming in the late February sunshine. Each was then carefully lowered through a hole in the roof and positioned in the new stillroom. It was memorable sight, but it begs the question – whatever happened to the original stills?
When the old Rosebank distillery closed on June 30th 1993, the stills went cold, the doors shut and the workers were laid off. The whole place must have felt dead, especially from the outside as signs of decay – missing tiles, broken windows, weeds sprouting from gutters … gradually took hold.
Yet inside, even after the distillery had been sold to British Waterways in 2002, the stills remained as though waiting for some miracle that would fire them back to life. Such hopes had all but faded when Scott Jackson, a diehard fan of Rosebank whisky, was allowed in one night to pay his respects and raise a dram to ‘the old lady’ in the stillroom.
Some years later, just after Christmas 2008, a very different set of visitors arrived. They came at night by lorry not on some whisky pilgrimage, but to steal the copper. When Detective Inspector Hugh Louden of Falkirk CID broke the story of the theft on January 21st 2009, there was disbelief. Had the thieves really walked out with the stills glinting in the moonlight? The Falkirk Herland wondered if the gang had been planning to cash in on Robert Burns’ 250th anniversary that weekend, before remembering it takes three years to make whisky.
The police claimed “a significant amount of planning would have been involved in order to get into the building, and then set about removing the metal equipment over a period of some weeks.” There was supposedly security on site, but it was hardly Ocean’s Eleven. Those involved in the ‘great Falkirk copper heist’ simply hacked a few gaping holes in the stills before loading up their lorry and heading for one of the less reputable scrap merchants, one imagines. So far, no one has been charged.
With the remains of three pot stills damaged beyond repair, it was surely now Rosebank R.I.P. With its heart ripped out, no one could have dreamt it could somehow survive. But here we are, twelve years on, with the distillery nearly rebuilt, a brand-new set of stills faithfully copied from the original designs, and with Rosebank about to make whisky again.