I like this guest-post thing, so when Tom van Engelen asked me if he could write one about Rosebank, one of his (and mine) favorite distilleries, I didn’t have to think about it for long! Read on!
A whisky connoisseur never forgets a first time, especially when he gets to taste a whisky he never tasted before. On the road to Speyside in the year of 2011 a group of whiskynerds including yours truly made a stop at Daftmill Distillery in the Kingdom of Fife. After a decent tour we tasted a sample of quietly maturing Daftmill single malt straight from the cask. What a first time that was! Wonderful whisky, much in line with the Summer Release Sjoerd tasted a few weeks ago. In an article I wrote for the Dutch whisky magazine De Kiln I rejoiced in the fact that a new Queen of the Lowlands had returned, to follow in the footsteps of the then closed Rosebank Distillery.
Rosebank always was my favourite of the closed legends of Scotland. I can’t exactly explain why this is, but if I would pressure myself it would be 50-50 between accessible output and excellent quality. Read this review for instance and you need no more convincing. More importantly, in the early days of my whisky hobby I could just go to my everyday liquor store Gall & Gall and buy a small batch bottling like this one. It was my first Rosebank ever and the love is everlasting. For the sake of this blog I sampled a few cl of my precious last stock that has survived. My impressions:
The light gold colour indicates a light scent as well, and this is true. I experience wild roses in a garden that hasn’t seen rain for a while. Combine this with sweets in the mobile cart during a Summer carnival and you’re there. Rosebank all over.
The taste is dominated by the two casks this bottling was created from. Nice, obedient oak combined with spicy flavours which really shine, despite only 43% abv.
A warm malty finish with just enough bite to make you warm inside and out. With a higher alcohol content this would have been a killing machine. Maybe too rough for some.
Score: 84 points. (Average value € 40,-? Then sell me three please!)
Thanks to a fellow (online) whisky enthusiast I was able to purchase a sample of a classic. Where the above notes are from a Rosebank 1991 vintage, the next is from a 1981 vintage A good year indeed for Rosebank malt whisky. Sjoerd tasted it before, too, here.
At this high volume abv of 62.3% it is not easy to get into the glass. This may very well be the killing machine I suspect the 1991 has the potential to. Close to the glass I only sniff banana, the overripe kind, but anything else is covered. I start to understand why the 1991 was diluted. When I add water to this one it becomes a lot brighter and then the name of the distillery does it justice. What an abundance of flowers and grasses where wind has free play. Freshness. Lots of lemon too. The previous sample was Autumn, this sample is Spring! I suspect very subtle casks were used for this vatting as well. But, yes there is a “but”, even if you have poured an ocean of water into your glass, this Rosebank does suffer some austerity.
A whiff of peat on an otherwise fruity palate (not the tropical kind, mind you), very old-style whisky where wood is not overpowering the distillate. I’m a sucker for that.
The finish goes on and on, with all of the aforementioned influences and the added pleasure of tea. This whisky is a good swimmer. The only complaint would be that it is a little one-dimensional.
Score: 88 points. A classic, but less to my liking than the Special Release.
Why these notes? Well, if you haven’t lived underneath a rock, you have read the news about the resurrection of Rosebank, in the wake of those other giants coming back from the dead. I decided to be enthusiastic about it, even though I will miss the melancholy of tasting a glass of a long lost classic, be it from Port Ellen, Brora or indeed Rosebank. A few weeks ago I was lucky to find a sample of the good old Rosebank Flora & Fauna 12 Years Old. I could cry over the simple beauty of it, and then I found myself longing for a new expression, to be in my glass by the time I will be 50. If it is of the same quality as the wonderful whisky the Cuthbert family is putting out, we can truly speak of the Return of the Queen of the Lowlands.
About Tom van Engelen
I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whiskymagazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.