I’ve always been a big fan of Dublin; who doesn’t love a Guinness, great food, awe-inspiring street art and the stereotypical craic (that’s banter and good times for those not familiar)?
In recent times, visits to Dublin have included trips to the Teeling Distillery and its purpose-built visitor centre, which was as much a consideration when designing the distillery as the stills and equipment to do the actual distilling. Then there’s the impressive Jameson Distillery Experience where distilling used to happen, but where nowadays there is an incredible set of experiences, food and whiskeys for all levels of whiskey interest.
Now there’s a new distillery on the scene – one that is as beautifully crafted as the spirit running of its stills: Roe & Co. But first, a short history lesson about the brand. When creating the modern-day expression of Roe & Co, the team came up with the idea of talking about the ‘greatest story never told’: the heritage of Irish whiskey, including the George Roe distillery. It was opened in 1757 but, after having to tackle a number of adverse trading conditions and global challenges such as Prohibition, the 1916 Uprising and the UK’s trade embargo enforced on Ireland, it sadly shut its doors.
The distillery design, bottle design and overall brand aesthetic have been inspired by the old distillery and the tower remaining from the original site. Interestingly, the teal and copper colour palette used on the pack, in design detailing and at point of sale are supposed to represent Dublin and the copper used in building work that has oxidised over time.
The pear drop device has been used to represent the flavour profile – take a look at the bottom of the bottle (yes, put the stopper back in and turn it upside-down) and you’ll find the device present there, too.
George Roe’s distillery was located a mere 100 metres down the road from Arthur Guinness’ world-famous brewery. When it closed, Guinness bought the site, sold the remaining liquid, and eventually sold the site itself.
The new distillery was constructed in a building that used to house the Guinness brewery’s power station, but lay derelict for around 18 years after it joined the National Grid. Now fully operational, it has a capacity of 500,000 litres of spirit per year, produced across three pot stills producing single malt for the blend, with grain whiskey being bought in from a third-party supplier.
The fabulous design team at Hearts & Feints in Scotland designed the distillery experience, and have done a superb job. When I visited back in November 2019, I was genuinely taken aback by how much of an immersive and intriguing distillery it was – arguably the most visitor-focused and enjoyable distillery experience in the Diageo portfolio.
The operational side of the distillery is all in one room – both elegant and efficient. On the tour you are taken upstairs whilst being talked through the historical significance of the site, a look at the old tower and a chat about the future of the brand and how the team are working closely with bartenders and mixologists to develop new and interesting flavours to expand drinkers’ understanding of Irish whiskey and how it can be consumed.
From there, guests are walked across a glass bridge – something I was told freaked a few people out – where you get full visibility of the whiskey-making process, including the fermenters which are surrounded by heat jackets so that Lora Hemy, Roe & Co’s master distiller, has full control over all aspects of the process. This set-up enables her to tweak and ‘play’ with the various stages of distillation to get the exact spirit she wants for the various products Roe & Co are looking to produce.
Next stop is the tasting room where, around a Roe & Co pear-shaped table, your senses are awakened as you nose through components of the current blend as well as different key flavour notes. Through this process, guests can begin to understand the brand and flavour story as a multi-layered entity.
The final stop on the tour is the mixology room, where you are invited to make your own cocktails based on a recipe chosen from the outline flavour profiles on the wall – I found these to be relatively sweet, but that may have been down to the balance of whiskey and modifiers that I used.
Once the tour has concluded there is a very comfortable and full bar available at the back of the old power station, with booths for groups to sit around while enjoying different expressions of Roe & Co and trying more cocktails.
As with other distilleries in Dublin, you now have the opportunity to bottle your own Irish whiskey straight from a cask – or, in Roe & Co’s case, two casks – in the distillery shop, so you have a unique gift to remember your visit by.
All in all it is a rather splendid distillery to spend time in, and a big statement as to the direction the brand is going in: mixology at the heart of the brand and its whiskey’s consumption moments; really interesting releases that are bottled at a higher ABV so that they work in cocktails without losing that ‘whiskey-ness’; and engaging with those who want to take the time to make the recommended pilgrimage to Dublin’s newest distillery.