Vision Becomes Reality: The Revitalisation of Rosebank Distillery
Built in the 1860s, the Rosebank distillery chimney has seen plenty of history in its time. It has looked down on its expanding home town of Falkirk and the constant trade along the Forth & Clyde canal, and felt the fluctuating fortunes of the whisky industry that led to the distillery’s closure in 1993. But right now, it stands in the midst of a bustling building site as the new Rosebank distillery rises up around it.
Work recommenced in February, though initially passers-by would have noticed little but for the coming and going of trucks and JCBs. “It usually starts a bit slow,” says Michael Russell, Senior Site Manager at the distillery. “You play around in the mud for the first three months and nobody knows what you’re doing.” In truth, around a dozen construction workers were busy laying the foundations.
In mid-April the first girder poked its head above the two-metre hoarding around Rosebank, and since then the pace has picked up with over fifty workers currently on site. The steel frame of the new distillery is now firmly in place, while the scaffolding-clad buildings on the other side, containing tasting rooms and a maturation warehouse, are restored.
You can begin to appreciate the scale of the distillery, and how Rosebank’s design meshes together the old and the new. The skeleton of the newbuild with its sloping, stepped roof that will be covered in black zinc, contrasts the Victorian red brick of the old Rosebank that has sat facing the canal since 1840.
Connecting the two sides will be a wide, cobbled walkway known as ‘the street’ with plate glass windows to show the new Rosebank being made. On the floor above, visitors will be free to walk around the tops of the washbacks and the three pot stills to see and smell the whole whisky-making process.
A lot has to happen before then. In the coming weeks the heavy distilling equipment will start arriving from Forsyth’s copperworks on Speyside followed by the stills, all to be carefully lifted into place by crane. Then will come endless sheets of glass and zinc and other building materials to complete the new distillery.
It has certainly been a challenging project for the builders. “We’ve got everything,” says Michael Russell. “We’ve got a main road in front, a canal at the back and a 160-year-old chimney right in the middle. And, we’ve got Historic Scotland involved because the buildings are listed.”
Of course, it will all be worth it in the end. In fact, it is already very exciting as anyone at Ian Macleod Distillers will tell you. Robbie Hughes, group distillation director, has been involved from the start of Rosebank’s rebirth in 2017. “You can see what she’s actually going to look like,” he says on a hard-hat tour of the new distillery. “The vision’s actually become the reality.”