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Report - - Rosebank Distillery, Falkirk - March 2019 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Rosebank Distillery, Falkirk - March 2019


Brewtal

28DL Regular User
Regular User
This has been a bit of a work in progress since November, but due to life commitments and a death in the family it had to wait to get finished. A couple more visits happened and I managed to get the rest of the place covered. I had only been there in the middle of the night previously so I had no idea just how incredible this place was hidden away behind closed doors. Sadly in that time frame some of the Scottish umbex lot managed to get in to a small part of it as I was finishing the place off and pics have been appearing on Facebook as a result. This place is pretty special, but it is too good not to share with you all, and given that work is just about to commence on a huge project to reopen the Rosebank Distillery on the site the last thing I want to see is anything bad happen to the place because of the usual tourbus. Workers have been spotted around the place recently so hopefully it is in safe hands.


I work as a brewer, so seeing a piece of history like this in situ and knowing how pretty much everything worked meant I was like a kid in a sweet shop. I know absolutely bugger all about distillation but the starting process of wort production is fundamentally the same as beer. Other than the stills and pumps getting yoinked at Christmas time in 2009 the rest of the place was pretty untouched. Pretty fucking heroic task to make 3 huge stills vanish into thin air.

History:

Records exists, showing that a distillery existed in Falkirk as early as 1798, it was run by the Stark brothers in Laurieston. In 1817, James Robertson opened a distillery nearby named Rosebank - records are unclear as to whether this was in the same location as the later distillery. It remained open only until 1819. In 1827 John Stark (of the brothers) opened Camelon distillery on the west bank of the canal, he ran this until his death in 1836. After this time the Camelon distillery was run by Thomas Gunn and his father. In 1840 the Gunn's were approached by James Rankine to either buy or lease the Camelon distillery Maltings (on the east bank of the canal) where he set up a new distillery under the Rosebank name. The new Rosebank quickly grew, requiring expansion in 1845 and rebuilding in 1864. Indeed in 1861 when Camelon Distillery went bankrupt, Rankine was able to purchase it as well and demolish it, leaving only the maltings for the use of Rosebank. Rosebank Distillery Ltd was formed in 1894, and in 1914 it was among the companies that amalgamated to form the Scottish Malt Distillers. Later the group became part of DCL.

In 1886, the distillery was visited by Alfred Barnard, who noted that it was set across two sites one on each side of the canal with a swing bridge linking the pair. The malt was produced in the former Camelon maltings on the west side of the canal, then would be transferred over to the distillery on the east side by means of the swing bridge. He also noted that their warehouse at the time had storage for 500,000 gallons (1,892,705.9 litres)

Rosebank was once considered one of the premier lowland whiskies but then United Distillers mothballed the distillery in 1993. The reason given for the mothballing was that its effluent treatment would have required a £2m upgrade in order to comply with European standards of the time, this did not make it commercially viable. At the time of its closure, it still retained many historical features in the production of the whisky.

By 1988, the bonded warehouse for the distillery (on the west bank of the canal) had been sold off and redeveloped, partially becoming a Beefeater Pub and Grill.

In 2002, the distillery buildings and contents were sold to British Waterways by Diageo, and the maltings were demolished to make way for a housing development. In 2008 plans were started to open a new distillery in Falkirk original Rosebank equipment. However over Christmas and New Year 2008/2009, the original Rosebank Stills (along with other equipment) were stolen by metal thieves and were not recovered. Plans for the new distillery continued to develop gaining Scottish Government approval, the new building being near the Laurieston site of the original Rosebank distillery. Despite suggestion that the new whisky may be produced under the Rosebank name, Diageo - who owned the Rosebank trademark at the time and continued to release limited bottles of original Rosebank whisky - denied this.

In October 2017, Ian Macleod Distillers announced that they had acquired the Rosebank Whisky trademark from Diageo and the site from Scottish Canals in order to re-establish Rosebank Whisky by building a new distillery and re-commencing production in the old style.

Rosebank distillery hopes to reopen in autumn 2020 as plans to resurrect the Lowland single malt have now been given the green light by the council.





The first part I got into was the chemical store and draff tank, draff being the distillers term for spent grain. This is generally given away to local farmers who are welcome to take as much as they can move, because it costs a small fortune to pay for its disposal.















Steam vent at the top where the corkscrew conveyor that carries the moist grain enters the tank, this would often get blocked up.


The final piece of the puzzle, before I get to the good stuff, was the barrel warehouse. It was completely void of any oak barrels as you would expect, but a lot of original features remained. The original tracks the barrels were rolled along, the huge sponge crash pads, the oak beams that were placed over rows of barrels to support another row on top, the wooden chocks used to stop them rolling around were all neatly bagged up, and the hoist used to move them from the ground level to the two floors above. I bet that was a pretty nerve wracking sight, watching several hundred litres of spirit that you wont make any form of return on for around 10+ years being winched upwards!









Despite being completely empty, the light in here was incredible.







Continued...
 

Brewtal

28DL Regular User
Regular User
Now in to the production area.

I've lost count of the number of beer breweries I have been to, but I have never been in a working distillery before. Whisky essentially starts off life as a strong beer with no hops before its ethanol content is distilled off and the resulting spirit is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years. A variety of different oak barrels are available to distilleries. Fresh wood can be used to make 'virgin' barrels which results in a powerful wood character that develops with short term ageing. The inside of the barrel staves are charred to different degrees from light to heavy which also adds to the flavour and complexity of the finish product. Port and rum casks can also be used to add further depths and nuances as hints of the previous fill's infuses into the whisky over time. The two drinks start life with 3 common ingredients: water, malted barley and yeast. Extracting the sugars from the grain is a virtually identical process shared between the two, a process called mashing. The brewing water, or liqour as it is known, is heated up to a set temperature and mixed with the grain into the mash tun where it rests for around an hour. When I brew I usually have my liquor heated to around 76degC at this time of year, so when mixed with the grain the temperature I want is around 66.7degC. This allows the enzymes in the barley kernel to break down the starches and dextrins to break down into simple short chain sugars that the yeast can consume. After an hour, all of the magic has happened and the sweet liquid known as wort is drawn out and the grains are rinsed to flush out the remaining sugars in a process called sparging. The wort is then boiled for an hour (for beer anyway) and this sterilises the wort and evaporates off a portion of water thus concentrating the wort by a small percentage. The wort is cooled to around room temperature before adding the yeast culture. Random brewing fact: the saying 'rule of thumb' is actually some old school brewing chat. Before the days of thermometers brewers would dip their thumb into the wort to check the cooling temperature, too hot and the yeast cells would die instantly. If the brewer could feel that the temperature was around the same his thumb then it was at the perfect temperature. The yeast cells basically eat sugar, fart out carbon dioxide and piss out alcohol. The chemistry and biology behind it is a total headfuck subject and very boring so I will leave it at that!

Historically all breweries and distilleries bought raw grains in from local farmers and malted them, they didn't have access to a variety of different types of malt like we do these days, so they created their own. The malting process is basically tricking the barley kernel into thinking it has been planted in the ground, the first round of conversion takes place and the starches which would normally be used as flour and broken down making the sugar content and high, and when it reaches this stage the malt is kilned to dry it and lock the sugar in place before the kernel starts to consume it by sprouting roots.

The malt was stored in large bins and the desired amount would be taken out via a screw conveyor to the mill where it was crushed, and the malt bins would constantly be replenished as it was produced next door.

The fed to the bins:




Top of the bins:






Bottom of the bins:


Dust filter:


The grains, or 'grist', would be released on demand and taken by conveyor to the mill:


Up the elevator:


Malt mill:




Control panel:


The crushed grain is ready to be mixed with liquor and fed in to the mash tun, and is again moved by screw conveyor:






Mash tun:




Control panel:


A spinning rake in the centre was used to thoroughly mix the mash and get a nice even temperature:


The rake was also used to empty the mash tun. The ports at the bottom took the spent grains away to the draff tank shown at the beginning.


The resulting wort is fermented in oak vats:


These things are fucking huge:


Up top on the gantry:


I think the motors on top would be to keep the surface moving fermentation. You get two main types of brewing yeast: they are top or bottom fermenting. Bottom is lager yeast which works at a cool temperature from the bottom of the tank. Top is ale yeast (which would be used in this case) so creates a crazy looking foam on top of the liquid and leaves a bunch of crap stuck to the top of the fermentation tank when it has finished doing its thing. I would imagine that keeping the wort moving would prevent the barrels getting too messy. I could be wrong here though!

Carbon dioxide is produced as a byproduct as this also helps protect the product from the detrimental effects of oxygen. Once active fermentation is complete, CO2 can be fed into the top of the tank. CO2 is heavier than O2 so it sits on top of the liquid creating a protective blanket. As the product leaves the oak vats and is fed to the stills, CO2 is pumped in to the headspace.

Control valve for CO2 feed:




Ethanol fumes and CO2 in a confined space can be deadly in high doses:


Continued...
 

Brewtal

28DL Regular User
Regular User
That's great - bet it smells a bit - any idea what the caustic is doing?
Just the sweet sweet smell of pigeon shit and standard derp aromatics!

Caustic is the industry standard cleaning solution, so any non porous kit (ie not the oak tuns) are cleaned with it, so mainly the pipework, charger tanks and mash tun. They had no acid lines so I would assume after a thorough rinse with water steam would then be passed through to sterilise everything instead of peracetic acid which is what is generally used now, it is a contact sanitiser that doesn’t require a rinse off because it breaks down when exposed to air. The oak would be cleaned with steam and possibly citric acid. They would have the insides scraped down by hand from time to time because you get a natural mineral build up called beer/wine stone which is precipitated out during fermentation, it even sticks to stainless steel vessels. It’s either elbow grease or nitric acid to shift that, and nitric would eat through wood in seconds!

I love being able to combine exploring with my brewing knowledge for once! :D
 

Andy the Spicy Egg

Behind Closed Doors
Staff member
Moderator
Just the sweet sweet smell of pigeon shit and standard derp aromatics!

Caustic is the industry standard cleaning solution, so any non porous kit (ie not the oak tuns) are cleaned with it, so mainly the pipework, charger tanks and mash tun. They had no acid lines so I would assume after a thorough rinse with water steam would then be passed through to sterilise everything instead of peracetic acid which is what is generally used now, it is a contact sanitiser that doesn’t require a rinse off because it breaks down when exposed to air. The oak would be cleaned with steam and possibly citric acid. They would have the insides scraped down by hand from time to time because you get a natural mineral build up called beer/wine stone which is precipitated out during fermentation, it even sticks to stainless steel vessels. It’s either elbow grease or nitric acid to shift that, and nitric would eat through wood in seconds!

I love being able to combine exploring with my brewing knowledge for once! :D
My god you're boring! :trout
 

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