Glenrothes distillery

Glenrothes produces mild, sweet, fragrant whiskies that are always fruity and complex. The single malts are also extremely popular with blenders such as Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse which is why Glenrothes was not marketed as a single malt until the late 1980. There are of course variations in taste over the years and different bottlings, but the basic house style is always distinctive. Glenrothes is a really high-quality malt whisky, which is often brought onto the market in individual vintage bottlings.

Glenrothes Whisky Distillery

Glenrothes is a Scottish malt distillery in the town of Rothes in the Speyside. The name Glenrothes comes from its historical link with the Earl of Rothes, and the Scottish gaelic word for valley, thus it means the Valley of Rothes, or Valley of the Earls of Rothes. Sadly Glenrothes is not open to the general public, though it is possible to take private tours on occasion. A shame as Glenrothes is unusual as it has its own cooperage on site.

​Rothes lies on the Rothes Burn shortly before its confluence with the River Spey, approximately 60 km east of Inverness and 70 km northwest of Aberdeen. With around 1,150 inhabitants, Rothes is one of the smallest whisky cities in Scotland but boasts 4 active whisky distilleries; Glenrothes, Glen Grant, Glen Spey, Speyburn, as well as the world-famous stiill makers Forsyth. The region originally offered 5 however Caperdornich (previously Glen Grant 2) is now closed and has been demolished. To the south is the 13th century ruin of Rothes Castle. The ruins of Rothes Castle, where the Leslie family used to reside as the Earls of Rothes.

House Style

What does Glenrothes single malt taste like? The whisky is gentle, fruity and pleasing. The Glenrothes Whisky matures mainly in ex-Spanish sherry casks, a smaller number of their whiskys are aged in ex-bourbon casks. The whisky has a creamy pear-like texture. As a result of this aging and production, Glenrothes Whisky is known for its spicy character and intense fruity notes.

Although a large part of this production flows into the Blends Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark, nowadays a significant part of the production is also sold as a single malt. Of particular interest are the so-called Glenrothes Vintages, two to three of which come onto the market each year. Glenrothes Malt Whiskies are instantly identifiable by their trademark balloon-like bottle.


The water of the distillery belonging to the Speyside region comes from the Ardcanny source and the Brucehill source. The malt used comes from the malting house of the Tamdhu distillery.

How is Glenrothes whisky made?5.6 million liters of Glenrothes whisky are produced each year using twenty washbacks and 10 stills, the distillery is currently not operating at capacity.

The water of the distillery belonging to the Speyside region comes from the Ardcanny spring and the Brucehill spring. The distillery has a mash tun (4.92 t) and twenty wash backs (fermentation tanks) 12 made of Douglas fir (25,500 litre each) and eight made of stainless steel (also 25,500 litre each). Distillation is carried out in five wash stills (22,990 l each) and five spirit stills (25,400 l each) all heated by steam. The malt used comes from the malting house of the Tamdhu distillery.

The overall manufacturing process can be summarized as follows. Mashing to obtain sugar from the starch takes place quite quickly. The fermentation takes place in a mixture of steel and wooden vats. The ratio is two wood fermenters to one steel tank. This compensates for the differences in character. With a fermentation time of between 50 and 60 hours, it gives a nice fruity note in addition to the grain note. For distillation, Glenrothes in the distillery, called “The Cathedral”, has enough time in the tall stills with additional bulbs that help to maximize reflux. The majority of the freshly produced spirits are then stored in ex-sherry barrels made from European and Spanish oak.The result in the nosing glass is a multi-faceted Speyside single malt that combines nuts and fruits with a distinctly sweet flavor.


In 1868, James Davidson sold his Macallan distillery at Rothes, Moray, Scotland, to James Stuart, the proprietor of the Mills of Rothes. In 1875, Stuart went into partnership with Robert Dick, the agent of the Caledonian Bank in Rothes. Two other partners joined them: William Grant, also of the Caledonian Bank, and John Cruickshank, a solicitor from Elgin, Moray. The four men formed the firm of James Stuart & Co to improve the distillery.

In 1878 James Stuart & Co built the distillery in Rothes, alas Glenrothes almost foundered before it was even completed as the project was threatened by the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank. The result was the suspension of business at the Caledonian Bank and consequently the partnership was dissolved the same year. John Cruickshank, William Grant and Robert Dick formed a new firm, William Grant & Co, and continued with the construction of the new distillery. In May 1879, the Glenrothes Distillery was opened, with Robertson & Baxter appointed as agents.

In 1884 the firm was finally permitted, together with the other distillers of Speyside, Moray, to use the formerly restricted ‘Glenlivet’ name and so the distillary became known as the Glenrothes-Glenlivet Distillery. In July 1897, as result of depression of the market, William Grant & Co merged with Islay Distillery, proprietors of Bunnahabhain Distillery, Islay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland, to form Highland Distilleries Co Ltd. That year the distillery was partially destroyed by fire, it would not be for the last time.

In 1903 the distillery was badly damaged by an explosion and had to be rebuilt. If one thought a stroke of fate of this magnitude was enough for a single distillery, Glenrothes was hit hard hard again not long after. On May 15, 1922, a fire destroyed warehouse No. 1 with around 2,500 barrels of whisky. The burning whisky flowed into the Burn of Rothes, which runs through the middle of the town.

In 1972, Highland Distilleries Co Ltd, set up the subsidiary Glenrothes-Glenlivit Ltd to manage the distillery Since Glenrothes whisky enjoyed great popularity early on, the distillery was expanded several times. In 1963 the number of stills was increased from four to six, 1980 to eight and 1989 to ten.

1999 saw Edrington, along with William Grant & Sons, acquire Highland Distillers. In spring 2010, the Glenrothes brand was sold by the Edrington Group to Berry Bros and Rudd. In return, the Edrington Group took over the blended whisky Cutty Sark. In 2017 the Glenrothes brand is repurchased by Edrington, reuniting the brand and distillery once more.

Glenrothes factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Glenrothes Speyside Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 1878 - Present Malt Glenrothes Tour Link
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Gordon Motion Berry Brothers & Rudd

Glenrothes Timeline:

1878: Built as 2nd distillery in Rothes by W. Grant & Co.

1879: December 28, 1879 Start of distillation

1884: The renamed Glenrothes-Glenlivet

1887: Glenrothes merged with the Islay Distillery Company, thereby forming the Highland Distillers Company

1896: First expansion

1897: Partial destruction by fire

1903: The distillery was almost completely destroyed by an explosion.

1922: Fire

1963: Expansion of the stills from 4 to 6

1971: Glen Rothes is renamed The Glenrothes

1979: Expansion from 6 to 8 stills

1989: Expansion to 10 stills (5 wash stills and 5 spirit stills)

1994: Started with the vintage concept. Until then there were only the 12 year old and a lot of independent bottlings

1999: Edrington and William Grant & Sons buy Highland Distillers

2008: The distillery branding and labels are updated

2010: Berry Bros & Rudd buys the Glenrothes brand (but not distillery) from Edrington Group

2017: The Glenrothes brand is repurchased by Edrington, reuniting the brand and distillery

Can I tour Glenrothes?

No, unfortunately Glenrothes distillery is not open to the public for tours