Rosebank Distillery

A second life for the home of a beloved whisky

The Challenge

It isn’t easy bringing an iconic whisky brand back to life but that is what Ian Macleod Distillers intend to do. Between the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies lies a crumbling distillery once hailed for creating a single malt known as the ‘King of the Lowlands’.

With such huge potential and after a decade of wrangling and several design iterations, planning permission has been approved and the distillers are ready to recreate this revered triple-distilled single malt.

Around half of the site contains listed warehouse buildings, so striking a balance between building preservation and modern building regulations are at the core of the design. Plus, with the new Rosebank expected to mature for around a decade before it is ready for sale, the visitor centre is also a crucial element of the building’s design to ensure its economic viability.

The challenge is set: create an efficient, modern building on a site constrained between the canal, a busy A-road and a modern residential development that respects the heritage of the original distillery to recreate the quintessential Lowland single malt.

The Approach

The design process has run through many guises over the last decade with extensive coordination with Scottish Canals, Historic Environment Scotland, Branding Consultants and Process Engineers. Advanced BIM (Building Information Modelling) has proved to be a transformational tool in helping to achieve planning permission. The software has generated many visualisations, alleviated variations during the design development and, importantly ‘clash detection’ monitoring has flagged major issues when conflict arises between industrial processes and visitors’ safety.

On the surface the restored distillery will look strikingly different and modern, but at its heart the whisky-making process will be retained. The distillery’s famed chimney will remain as will as the canal-facing old bonded warehouses but the inner workings of Rosebank will be reconstructed.

A series of workshops helped establish the brief including the company’s vision for the brand, the operational constraints and commercial expectations. Part of the process was harnessing the wealth of knowledge across their operating distilleries and leading the multi–faceted design team towards a collaborative single narrative.

Design solution

The design responds to the historical context of the site and is a bold blend of the past and the future. The preserved chimney-stack will stand proudly alongside a new contemporary steel-framed building that is simple, confident and elegant. The modern glass frontage serves to connect the contrasting elements and allow passers-by to glimpse into the heart of the whisky-making process.

With the design removing and replacing the existing brick distillery buildings along the roadside, the historic canal-side buildings will form part of the visitor centre.

The whisky distillation process involves high levels of heating followed by cooling. The aim is to recirculate and reuse the heat where possible and use water from the canal in the cooling process.

The sawtooth roof profile is a design feature that encourages natural ventilation through automated opening to manage the level of heat released from the stills.

The spaces that accommodate the complex process of distillation will require regular maintenance so easy access routes that minimise disruption was also built into the design.


The development of the Rosebank Distillery secures a long-term future for the site and restores landmark buildings for a new era in whisky production.

The hope is that the distillery will welcome up to 50,000 visitors per year and enhance the local tourism offer considerably. New jobs will be created in distilling, retail and tourism with further seasonal roles as required.

The distillery is on track to achieve the one million litres in production and there has been huge interest in the revival of the brand.