Lost Distilleries Part II – What Happened to Glenesk?

Glenesk Distillery was known by five names over the eight decades it was in operation: Highland Esk (1897), North Esk (1899), Montrose (1938), Hillside (1964) and finally Glenesk (1980). This is one of the many distilleries that were born out of the late 19th century boom in whisky, and drowned in the great whisky loch of the 1980s.

Glen Esk Dןstillery 1939 Photo Credit: Diageo

Glen Esk Dןstillery 1939
Photo Credit: Diageo

In 1938 the distillery was converted into a grain distillery, named Montrose, and remained a grain distillery until 1964. It was then converted back to a malt distillery named Hillside. It was later sold by DCL (technically the SMD subsidiary), to makers of the Vat 69 blend, William Sanderson & Sons. Sanderson installs drum maltings, which are operational to this day. In 1980, the company renames the distillery Glenesk, but closes it in 1985.

The distillery had two sets of stills, and between 1930 and 1964 there was a Coffey still operating on the site. Today, only the maltings remain. The expression tasted at the ‘Gone But Never Forgotten’ masterclass was a rather peculiar 1969 vintage bottled in 1995 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the maltings.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

1969 Glenesk Celebrating 25th Anniversary of the Glenesk Maltings, Bottled 1995, 24 Years Old (60% ABV)

Appearance: Pale gold, tiny legs running slowly down the glass.

Nose: Hay, slightly floral, butter, perfume, fresh leaves, pickles in vinegar, dill and aquavit with some malt in the background.

Palate: Honey, spice, dill and some sour notes. Very different than anything I’ve had (not amazingly different, but different).

Linger: Light spice in the back of the throat, pickles, and a tad drying.


I don’t remember where I first saw the term “Gleneskization of Whisky”, but it wasn’t used endearingly. While interesting, this expression was downright weird. Sour and dilly…

This was a nice experience, but definitely not a bottle I feel a need to own  🙂

Colin, thanks for the picture and the fun tasting!

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