Glenesk / Hillside whisky

Trivia about Hillside / Glenesk

1) It was originally named the 'Highland Esk Distillery', and was established by Septimus Parsonage & Co and James Isles (Dundee wine merchants).

2) The last owner of Hillside / Glenesk (at the time it was closed) was William Sanderson & Sons Ltd.
The last owner who actually used the name 'Glenesk' for the distillery was DCL; Distillers Company Limited.

2) In 1938 a continuous still (Coffey still a.k.a. patent still) was installed at the Hillside / Glenesk distillery.

3) Drum type maltings were added to the Hillside / Glenesk malt whisky distillery in 1968.
During the reconstruction 24 germination drums were added, each holding up to 31 tons of barley. 
 

Hillside / Glenesk single malt whisky

Glenesk 1975/2005 (55.3%, The Cross Hill, Jack Wieber's, 210 bottles)
Nose: Rich. Mocca. Growing feintier, then sweeter. Pickles! Drops off after a few minutes.
Taste: Big, round and sweet at cask strength. Fruity overtones. A solid malt. Very enjoyable.
Score: 83 points - down from 86/87 during the first few minutes. Can't quite keep up the pace...

Glenesk 32yo 1971/2003 (49.7%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 258 bottles)
Nose: Restrained start, quickly developing into a candy sweetness. Watery and slightly floral. Cheese cake.
Taste: Hmmmm... Not 'bad' as such, but a little flat and generic. Plywood? Decidedly pulls it from the 80's...
Score: 76 points - this whisky took over three decades to reach 'average'... Still, my 'best' expression so far...

Glenesk 1984/1997 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur's Choice, 70cl)
Nose: A little spirity. Paint thinner. String beans? Rotting hay? Vinegar? Some light 'grainy' fragrances.
Taste: Warm and malty. Sweet in the middle, gritty in the tail. Hint of pine and resin. Better than the nose.
Score: 58 points - in some other released I could get over the piny character, but not in this one.

Hillside 25yo 1971/1997 (62,0%, UD Rare Malts, Bottled Sept. 1997, Bottle #1512, 70cl)
Nose: Strange. Pine? Resin? Triplex? Unimpressive. It improves a little later on, with the smell of cookies & fruit.
Taste: Very light, almost drinkable at 62%. The primary impression is menthol. Diluted, pine and resin emerge.
Score: 66 points - well, I have to admit that this whisky is definitely not bland...

Glen Esk 13yo 1982/1995 (66.5%, Cadenhead's, D. 04/'82, Btl. 06/'95)
Nose: Starts farmy & organic; not as spirity as you'd expect. Flattens out but makes a comeback.
Peanut & other oily & nutty smells. Dentist? Hint of wood smoke; wet branches rather than dry logs.
Taste: A little sweet & sour at cask strength. Excellent 'sipping' whisky. Burning in big gulps.
Score: 78 points - and it could very well be the highest proof whisky I've ever sampled.

Glenesk 12yo (40%, OB, Silver Import, 1980s)
Nose: Extremely restrained. Maybe something oily? Something sour with hints of pine and menthol. Oxidised.
Taste: Flat and gone within seconds. Clearly, this bottle has died. The score of 60 is merciful.
Score: 60 points - and that's not even the lowest scoring Glenesk malt whisky I've ever tried.
 

And there's more to tell about Hillside / Glenesk...

These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glenesk Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Hillside page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Glenesk expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.) 
 

Where to find Hillside / Glenesk distillery in Scotland?

Hillside / Glenesk / Glen Esk Scotch Whisky

Hillside (Glen Esk)  (Pronounced: as you write it)
Eastern Highlands
5644'38.90"N, 227'57.70"W
Lochside, Fettercairn, North Port, Glencadam
1897
Closed (dismantled)
North Esk River
2 Wash stills, 2 Spirit stills
Unknown
Scottish Malt Distillers (until 1992)
Kinnaber Road, Hillside, Montrose, Angus DD10 9EP, UK
-
No
No
Yes, but those were botled in the 1970's and 1980's
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor

Hillside / Glenesk location

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Glenesk or Glen Esk malt whisky

Except for the maltings, the buildings of Hillside / Glenesk were demolished in 1996.
The maltings were sold to Paul's Malt Ltd. in 1996, which was taken over by Irish
food company Greencore. They were bought by the company Axereal in 2010.

Hillside 25 years old Scotch whisky

In 1964, the new owners decided to convert
the plant back to a malt whisky distillery under
the name 'Hillside'. In 1968 a large drum
maltings was added to the distillery and it was
enlarged in 1973. After that, the license to
distill whisky was taken over by the bottling
company William Sanderson & Sons Ltd. This
Scottish company renamed the distillery once
again (in or around 1980) to 'Glenesk'.

The bottler Sanderson & Son used to be famous for their 'VAT 69' blended whisky,
which had a strong position in many international markets. Needless to say, the
Glenesk malt whisky was an important part of the recipe. However, the distillery
was closed in December 1985 and SMD cancelled the distilling license in 1992.
 
Nevertheless, the VAT 69 blend is still sold today - and as far as I know there have
not been many loyal customers that noticed a change in the profile of the whisky
since the 1980's. This helps to put the PR stories about the unique character and
style of a brand of whisky (particularly blended whisky) into perspective.

So, Hillside / Glenesk is located in Montrose in the eastern Highlands.
In 1899 the distillery was taken over by J. F. Caille Heddle, who changed the name
to North Esk Distillery. After operating for a little over a decade, the malt whisky
distillery was closed during the first world war. It remained silent until 1938, after
which it was turned into a grain whisky distillery and reopened by the new owners
Joseph W. Hobbs and Associated Scottish Distillers Ltd. On this occasion, the name
of the distillery was changed again; it was to be called Montrose this time.
 
In 1954 the distillery was obtained by DCL (Distillers Company Limited), who did
transfer it to Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD, a former DCL subsidiary) in 1964. It's
not entirely clear which name the distillery used at this time. So, should you find
(for example) a bottle of North Esk or Glenesk whisky from 1960 at a whisky
auction, it could very well be a grain whisky instead of a malt whisky.

Hillside whisky distillery, Scotland

Glenesk (also known as Glen Esk, Hillside, Highland Esk, North
Esk and Montrose) used to be a flax-spinning mill. However, at
the end of the 19th century a huge whisky bubble was growing
in Scotland. Entrepreneurs were building dozens of new whisky
distilleries - or converting mills and other factories to distilleries.
 
Hillside / Glenesk was one of those distilleries. In 1897 the mill
was converted into a malt whisky distillery by wine merchants
Septimus Parsonage & Co. The name of the malt whisky distillery
means 'valley of Esk' - or possibly 'valley of water'. That valley
used to be home to four malt whisky distilleries; Glenesk itself,
Glencadam, Lochside and North Port. However, these days three
out of these four distilleries have been closed. Only Glencadam
(the most 'upstream' distillery of the four) is active nowadays.

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