Glenesk distillery

Glenesk, formerly Highland Esk Distillery and North Esk Distillery, was a Scottish whisky distillery near the town of Hillside, Angus, in the Highlands of Scotland. The Hillside name is derived from the nearby village, Esk is derived from the gaelic word for water uisge - also the origin of the word whisky.

Location of Glenesk distillery

The Glenesk distillery is located at the mouth of the South Esk river, at Montrose. The distillery was founded near Hillside, Angus making Glenesk a, sadly now lost, highland whisky distillery.

Glenesk began its life as a flax mill and was converted to a malt distillery in 1897. It was re-equipped to produce grain whisky around the time of the Second World War, then converted back in the 1960s, and extended in the 1970s. Nowadays the distillery is remembered only by the Glenesk maltings.

Whisky production at Glenesk

Hillside Distillery opened in 1897 using water rights of the now-closed Kinnaber Mill and the site of a bleachworks. It operated fitfully under a variety of names producing malt and grain whisky, but the last distillation plant was removed in 1996. At the time of its demolishing distillation was managed using two wash stills and two spirit stills, during its lifetime the distillery briefly operated using a continuous still.

Glenesk bottlings

Traditionally Glenesk was an important component of the blended whisky Vat 69, bottled in South Queensferry, near Edinburgh by William Sanderson, formerly a Distillers Company Limited subsidiary.

Some single malt bottlings were available as Glenesk, but these were mainly released under the Hillside name. A few bottlings were also available as part of the Rare Malt Series and it was once upon a time released by the SMWS however these bottles are now all auction unicorns.

History of Glenesk distillery

The distillery was founded in 1897 by the Dundee wine merchant James Isle as Highland Esk Distillery having been converted from a flax mill. Highland Esk produced malt whisky during this period. JF Caille took over the distillery in 1899 and renamed it North Esk Distillery. The distillery was closed during the First World War, but reopened afterwards.

In 1938, Associated Scottish Distilleries took over operations and switched production to grain whiskey . After being sold to Distiller Company Ltd. (DCL) In 1954 the distillery became part of Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD) who replaced the Coffey still with 4 pot stills and switched production back to malt whisky. In 1968 a large drum malt house was installed. In 1980 the company was renamed Glenesk again by William Sanderson (another subsidiary of DCL), for whom the distillery became a prominent constituent of their VAT 69 blend. The distillery was closed once again in 1985.

After losing the distilling license in 1992, the buildings were partially demolished in 1996 and sold to Paul’s Malt. The former distillery has been expanded into a large malt house, which until 2010 belonged to Greencore Malt, a subsidiary of the Irish food group Greencore. In 2010 Greencore Malt was sold to the Belgian Boortmalt, a subsidiary of the French agricultural cooperative Axéréal.

Also known as

Glenesk was an elusive distillery producing both grain and malt whisky during its 104 year history. The distillery was known as: | Distillery name | Period | | ———– | ———– | | Highland Esk Distillery | 1897 - 1899 | | North Esk Distillery | 1899 - 1938 | | Montrose Distillery | 1938 - 1964 | | Hillside Distillery | 1964 - 1980 | | Glenesk Distillery | 1980 - present |

Glenesk factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Glenesk glen el*gin The Lost Distilleries of Scotland Highlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Closed 1897 - 1985 Malt Glenesk Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group

Glenesk Timeline:

1897: Converted from flax-spinning mill by Septimus Parsonage & Co. and James Isles, a wine merchant from Dundee and named Highland Esk

1899: Acquired by J.F. Caille Heddle and renamed North Esk Distillery

1910: Following a fire much of the distillery had to be rebuilt

1917: Production ceased and the buildings were used to billet soldiers. Part of the distillery burnt down in this period and remained unrepaired. For some time during these years the maltings were in use

1938: Bought by Associated Scottish Distilleries Ltd. (ASD), subsidiary of Train & McIntyre Ltd., itself owned by National Distillers of America and re-equipped to produce grain whisky as Montrose Distillery

1954: Associated Scottish Distilleries (ASD) ran into problems and sold the distillery to Distillers Company Ltd. (DCL). During this time only the warehouses and maltings were used

1964: Transferred to Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. (SMD) who converted the site to produce malt whisky and renamed Hillside. Four stills were added

1968: Large drum-maltings was opened on an adjacent site

1973: Enlarged

1980: Renamed Glenesk Distillery and Maltings. Licensed to William Sanderson & Sons Ltd., South Queensferry, West Lothian

1985: Distillery was mothballed

1992: Distilling license cancelled

1996: The stills are removed and all buildings, except for maltings, were demolished

Interesting Glenesk links:

Glenesk at Canmore