Irish whiskey is on the rise again, ladies and gentlemen. And we’re happy about it. Because up and until the 20th century it was the most popular and considered the best whiskey in the world (yes, better than Scotch). But it simply disappeared somewhere after WWI and frankly the only alternative was to turn to Scottish Whisky, which had grown remarkably, but not unsurprisingly, in demand up and until we knew nothing else but Scotch whisky. Do not be mistaken we do love Scotch whisky too, but we do hate people who think Scotch whisky is the only whisky in the world. So, if you want to try something different, Irish whiskey is your thing and maybe Roe & Co might be a good starting point.
Roe, Roe, Roe & Co…
Roe & Co, let’s first start with the name. It’s named after the huge distillery on Thomas Street in Dublin, which sadly disappeared in 1926. It was one of the biggest distilleries in Ireland, some say Europe or even the World. It produced over 2 million gallons per year in its heydays. Together with John Jameson’s and John Powers’ distillery it formed what they called the Golden Triangle of distilleries in Dublin (or even Europe). Sadly enough only two things remain of this massive giant: the St Patrick’s Tower (used to be the distillery’s windmill, the tallest in Europe) and the pear tree from 1850 in front of it (still bearing fruit).
Engaging bottle design
We absolutely love the bottle design, it is very pleasant to look at and very practical to handle. Every feature of it tells a story, for instance there’s a pear shape on the bottom of it, referring to the tree of course. The teal colour of the label refers to the oxidised copper cupola of the windmill. The bottom label also is placed – not even a little bit- left of centre, referring to the typical Irish character and their craziness (that’s why we love them of course). The Tower also features on the label together with the tree, but you better start looking for it before you drink the stuff.
The liquid inside
It is bottled at 45% abv instead of the normal 40, because it should hold itself when used in cocktails. It’s an Irish blend, but it isn’t a Pure Pot Still. (“Ow, damn it!” We thought – before tasting it.) According to us it’s a bit of a missed opportunity to revive the George Roe legacy with anything but an Irish Pot Still. Also the new Roe & Co distillery, which will be located in the Guinness Power House, will be a single malt distillery. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but aren’t you forgetting that typical Irish twang? I’d love to try a Roe & co Pure Pot Still, probably even more than a single malt, but that’s just us.
All right, so how does it taste? Well it has rested on Bourbon casks, most of them first fill and it is a blend from malt and grain, with a great deal of corn if I remember correctly. So it’s sweet and fruity, you can really taste the bourbon there. It’s got sweet vanilla and a little bit of spice with a fruitiness that has hints of apple and pear. The pear notes were apparently incidental, they weren’t aiming for it specifically, so it must have been a very welcome surprise! The 45% gives it a bit of a bite and a bit of dryness on the finish.
Does it handle itself in cocktails? Yes, it does, but a lot depends on the mixologist of course. We would suggest to keep it as simple as possible, you know it can take a bit of dilution thanks to the 45, but it can’t take a lot of ingredients or you’ll drown it, leaving only the sweetness to taste. We had a very nice Manhattan with it, made by David Lebeer at The Cobbler, who added a bit of Poire Williams. We made a very nice Old Fashioned with just a little bit of black treacle and Dandelion & Burdock Bitters and a zest of lemon instead of orange.
Roe & Co is not meant to be an uber exclusive premium Irish whiskey (which is reflected in the price also), it’s more of an introduction to Irish whiskey and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the kind of bottle that you open up and empty with friends in the summer, after the barbecue. And it’s a very nice bottle to have, looks great on your drinks cabinet, so go ahead and buy one, you won’t regret it.
P.S. I’ll be looking forward to that Roe&Co Single Malt.