Rosebank 20 1981 Rare Malts Selection

A few years ago we saw a backlash to Rosebank whisky. This was because certain independent bottlers were announcing they had the last casks of Rosebank, releasing them, and then finding out these were heavily finished.

During a similar time the distillery went from being mothballed (2002), then there were plans to build a new distillery, and then it was found out (2008/2009) that someone had stolen the original stills.

That all said, there’s still plans to launch Rosebank distillery again. Much like my write ups for Brora and Port Ellen, I don’t expect it to be the second coming of whisky Jesus.

Thus I’m very lucky to be reviewing some of its original whisky, and in this case it was a sample of Rosebank 20 1981 Rare Malts Selection that I purchased from a local bar during the pandemic. This was bottled the same year that Rosebank was unmothballed, after aging 20-years and being brought out as part of the Rare Malts Selection line.

I love Lowlands, and wasn’t too pleased with what happened with the distillery, so there’s my bias. But maybe I’ll like this. Let’s see, shall we?

Price: £ 2000

Region: Lowland

Vintage: 1981

Bottled: May 2002

Number of bottles: 6,000

Abv: 62.3%

Colour: 10YR 8/8

Nose: Custard, lemon cheesecake, cardamon, apple Danish, daisies

Oh. Oh. This isn’t one of the bad ones. Granted maybe I’m saying that too soon.

Why am I saying that? Because immediate large gobs of custard, spice, cooked apple, pastry, and floral. It’s almost like the whisky heard people dissing Lowlands and reached up and slapped you. Everything is complex and tasty and I want more.

Taste: Mocha, lemon soda, extra fat butter, sourdough, lemon curd, cinnamon coffee cake, almond

That’s a lot. It’s hard to keep up with. There’s a full high tea going on except no cucumber sandwiches (I’m not complaining, fuck’em). Again nothing is simple. There’s nothing simple. It has tons of yeasty, fatty, buttery, yet balanced with acidic and spice. Amazing.

Finish: Mineral, salt and vinegar chips, cream, lemongrass, yeasty bread, rosewater, dry

Starts with mineral and goes to a sharp, strong brine note followed by more cream and floral aspects. If anything the finish somehow is still impressive but not as impressive.

It’s like watching Star Trek: The Next Generation (stay with me here). You’ve got Michael Dorn and Sir Patrick Stewart being amazing actors, and then everyone else except Wil Wheaton (nice guy, bad actor in the show) just doing a good job. Some have great moments (Levar Burton and Brent Spiner come to mind) but it’s mostly just good (to me at least).

Also I’m glad the finish doesn’t taste like Wil Wheaton, as that would be weird. And hard to verify (not impossible I guess).

Conclusion: Reminds me of a Mosstowie with the mineral and citrus notes more than a Rosebank. Granted I’ve only had one Mosstowie so maybe that Mosstowie tasted like Rosebank or maybe the other Rosebanks I’ve had were nothing but finishes. I don’t know.

What I do know is this is a custard filled, balanced, amazing lemon and mineral fest. It’s like the first time you’ve had a really fatty dish with some sparkling wine. Heck, if you haven’t, you should. That acidity mixed with the fattiness and all of the complexity and then these jumps of yeast and floral… wow I miss really good Lowlands.

Try this if you get the chance. It’ll change your mind on Lowlands.


Scotch review #1424, Lowland review #60, Whisky Network review #2104

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