THE entrepreneur behind the Arran Brewery plans to breathe new life into the historic Rosebank distillery in Falkirk under a multi-million pound scheme to turn the site into a brewery, bottling plant and “micro-distillery”.
Gerald Michaluk, who bought the Grade-B listed building from Scottish Canals, also proposes to open the “Scottish National Brewing & Distilling Centre” as a tourist attraction on the site.
Nearly 70 jobs are expected to be created by the project, which is subject to planning approval.
Michaluk remained tight-lipped over how much he had paid for the canal-side site, but said he remained in talks with four groups of investors over funding for his expansion plans.
He has already raised just shy of £1 million, including his own money, and has said that he wants to raise about £10m, including through crowd-funding from online investors and fans of the firm’s beers.
News of the latest venture comes just weeks after Michaluk merged Arran Brewery with Isle of Skye Brewery and unveiled plans to open a chain of pubs, starting with a branch in a converted bank in Glasgow next year.
Rosebank, which opened in 1813, is often called one of Scotland’s great “silent” distilleries following its closure in 1993. Old casks of its triple-distilled lowland whisky are still available, with its Scotch changing hands for hundreds of pounds a bottle.
Michaluk said: “This is a fantastic site and the Rosebank Craft Brewery & Visitor Centre will add yet another attraction to the canal corridor.
“It is hoped that canal boats will link the centre with both the Falkirk Wheel and the new developments further west on the canal, making it a trilogy of visitor attractions all linked by the canal.”
Michaluk added: “Diageo, which formerly ran the Rosebank distillery, has written into the deeds that the site cannot be used for distilling until 2017.
“It will be our intention to open what we now call a ‘micro-distillery’ after that date, or before if Diageo releases us from its imposed restriction.”
He said the former Rosebank distillery had a capacity to produce one million litres of spirit, which converts into about 12.5 million litres of beer if the plant is used for beer production only.
Brewing beer at Rosebank as well as on Arran and Skye is part of Michaluk’s plans for a ten-fold increase in production as the firm ramps up its exports.
Business leaders and politicians welcomed the news of the Arran Brewery’s takeover of Rosebank distillery.
Councillor Dennis Goldie, convenor of Falkirk Council’s economic strategy and development committee, said: “The council is delighted with the announcement. Clearly it is still early days for the venture and much has to be done to enable the regeneration of the site to be achieved.”
David Gardiner, chief executive of Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce, added: “The renovation of the Rosebank distillery will give a boost to the economy in many ways and we are working closely with the brewery to help them to settle in and engage with the wider business community.”
A spokeswoman for Scottish Canals said: “Twenty years after the buildings were vacated, Arran Brewery will give them a vibrant, exciting and sympathetic new use.”
Rosebank: flowery by nature
Michael Jackson, author of the Malt Whisky Companion, once described Rosebank as “the finest example of a Lowland malt” and as “a grievous loss” when the distillery closed.
Jim Murray, who wrote the legendary Whisky Bible, said Rosebank was one of the top ten distilleries in the world. Murray added: “If there is a God, it will surely one day reopen.”
The whisky itself has been described as being “as flowery as its name” by Robin Laing, chair of the tasting panel of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Laing called one of its casks “grassy, flowery and romantic”.