Over the past number of years, Irish whiskey has seen revivals of old brands with which the whiskey buyer of a centuries ago would have been familiar.
Brands returning to life include Dunvilles, Old Comber, and Limavady Irish Whiskey, to name a few. Many of these labels have historic undertones to their origin stories. Rising from the ashes of an almost destroyed whiskey market in Ireland, their revival seeks to bring Irish whiskey back to when it stood as the worlds most renowned spirit.
It was only a matter of time before one of the powerhouses in the drinks industry joined this revival wave in Ireland. Roe & Co. has been brought to life once again by Diageo, owner of Guinness and a plethora of well-known Scotch whisky labels. It surprised me when looking into this brand that it’s Diageo’s only Irish whiskey. Diageo, having sold Bushmills in 2014 to Casa Cuervo, returned to Irish whiskey with the brand’s launch in 2017.
This is the first time Roe & Co. Irish whiskey has been covered here on Malt. The name Roe & Co. is steeped in a long history of distilling in Ireland. In 1862 George and Henry Roe inherited their father’s whiskey distilling company. In 1889, Roe amalgamated with William Jameson of Marrowbone Lane and the Dublin Whiskey Distillery of James Road, with the new firm trading under the name of Dublin Whiskey Distillers (DWD). In 1890, the complex covered seventeen acres. At its height, the distillery had an output of two million gallons per year, the highest in Britain or Ireland.
“As neighbours for hundreds of years, George Roe & Co. and Guinness were the two biggest names at the heart of Dublin’s historic brewing and distilling quarter,” according to their site. The new distillery opened in 2019, located across from the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery in James Street. Diageo maintained this historical link in keeping these brands producing together so close in Dublin.
The Roe & Co. profile is described as “perfected by bartenders, for bartenders.” The brand is in the masterful hands of the dynamic duo of Caroline Martin and Lora Hemy. Head distiller Lora comes from an art background having studied the subject in college, followed by a master’s degree in distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh working for a variety of distilleries, both gin and whiskey. Keeper of the Quaich Caroline has been working with Diageo for over 33 years, mostly within their Scotch Whisky brands.
The whiskey was created in a collaborative effort between “elite” Dublin-based bartenders and master blender Caroline. It came as a surprise to me that the brand has released a cask strength single malt special release over the past couple of years, at the same time as they push for the cocktail/mixer mass market.
The unique bottling shape and design of Roe & Co. whiskies is a tribute to the pear tree situated at St Patrick’s Tower, in the Liberties area of Dublin. St. Patrick’s tower is an 18th century smock windmill, originally part of a distillery which established to the north of St James’s Gate. The teal colour is a tribute to the weathered copper of the tower’s cupola and a nod to design codes of Irish whiskeys in their heyday.
Onto the whiskey at hand: this Irish single malt has spent the entirety of its maturation in Port casks and comes in at 58% ABV.
Region: Irish Whiskey
Nose: Buttery and malty. It’s quite soft and rounded, very welcoming given its high ABV. Tonnes of butterscotch and red apples. Plums and berries! It’s very malty but not hot or intense at all. Delicate floral element with that fruit sweetness. I can find a little hint of coconut lingering in the background married with some apricots too. Maltiness is met with some dusty wood. Pushing past that you are greeted with some orange rind, cinnamon spice, and some black tea.
In the mouth: Liquorice and a touch of mint. It’s hot on arrival, and a touch intense. I wasn’t expecting that given the lovely nose. It’s quite delicious with really thick toffee sauce coating the entirety of my tongue. That butter and sweetness comes through from the nose. A little peppery on the back end with more sweetness. It would remind you of a mixture of brown sugar, treacle, and cinnamon spice. If someone gave you some warm gingerbread dough that wasn’t baked fully…
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