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.
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 |
|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|
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
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:
Can I tour Glenesk?
No, unfortunately Glenesk distillery is not open to the public for tours