The Thomas Street Distillery was a Powerhouse of World Whiskey
Roe & Co Whiskey is a contemporary whiskey brand steeped in a rich history. Named to honour the memory of George Roe, a whiskey maker whose distillery was in its time, the largest in Ireland (and possibly the world). George Roe helped build the golden era of Irish whiskey in the 19th century. As one of the biggest names in Irish Whiskey they were in good company. Their neighbours were, Powers Whiskey, John Jameson and The Dublin Whiskey Distillery or DWD for short. For hundreds of years George Roe and Guinness were two of the biggest names. The beating heart of Dublin’s historic brewing and distilling quarter in The Dublin Liberties.
The Greatest Story Never Told. Who was George Roe?
Peter Roe purchased a small distillery on Thomas Street in the heart of Dublin In 1757. This proved to be a sound business decision and with their success the premises expanded. Such was the Roe’s the distillery soon fronted both Thomas Street and South Earl Street. In later years Richard Roe took over operations at Thomas Street from 1766 to 1794.
At the time in the “Kingdom of Ireland” laws restricted the expansion of distilleries to a certain size. This curtailed the Roe’s plans for expansion in 1782, so Richard Roe needed to be content with a capacity of 234 gallons.
To combat this problem another member of the family, Nicolas Roe, set up a distillery in Pimlico in the year 1784. The distillery was a larger operation. It was recorded as having a Pot Still capable of producing 1,165 gallons in 1802. This was replaced by an even larger 1,575 gallon still by 1807.
By 1832, George Roe had inherited both of these plants which were near to each other. George continued their expansion and leased additional premises in Mount Brown, which were used as maltings, kilns, and warehouses.
By 1827, output of the Thomas Street Distillery was reported as being 244,279 gallons. George Roe’s two sons, Henry and George, succeeded to the ownership in 1862, by which point the firm was large and prosperous, and the Roes a family of wealth and influence. So much so that in 1878, the Roes could afford to donate £250,000, a very large sum in those days, to the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, and were knighted for their efforts.
The Golden Age of Irish Whiskey was drawing to a close. The heritage of Irish whiskey including the story of George Roe distillery’s fate was sealed. A series of adverse trading conditions including global challenges such as prohibition, the 1916 Uprising, the UK’s trade embargo enforced on Ireland, sadly closed the distillery. But some stories don’t end…
A Silent Distillery Lost and Now Reborn
George Roe’s distillery was located just across the road from Arthur Guinness’ world-famous Guinness Brewery. 100 meters to be exact and it is said that they were avid business rivals. The Roe & Co. distillery at Thomas Street in Dublin extended over 17 acres and they were Ireland’s largest exporter of whiskey. When Roe’s site closed, Guinness bought the site and sold the remaining stock of liquid until it was depleted. Later they sold the entire site.
The Dublin Distillers Co., Thomas Street Distillery was an Irish whiskey distillery located in Dublin, Ireland. At its peak, it was Dublin’s largest and most productive distillery and with an output of over 2 million gallons per annum, twice that of John Jameson’s acclaimed nearby Bow Street distillery.
Alfred Barnard, a British author who visited most of the distilleries in the then United Kingdom and Ireland in the late 1880s, wrote that, at the time of his visit; “the Thomas Street Distillery may have been the largest whiskey distillery in the world and probably had the highest output of any whiskey distillery in the British Isles.” The distillery later entered into financial difficulties, and closed in 1926. Although most of the distillery buildings were demolished following its closure, a few were incorporated into the Guinness St. James’s Gate Brewery.
The New Roe & Co Distillery
The amazing story of George Roe, his family and their famous whiskeys, had almost been lost to history since the distillery closed its gates in 1926. All that remains of the original distillery is a windmill tower and a pear tree that flowers to this day. But that lone pear tree was to be the inspiration for the reinvention of the exciting new brand Roe & Co.
The symbol of a pear is emblazoned on the bottom of each Roe & Co release to date and a symbol of the past that has built it’s bright future. George Roe’s original product was an age statement liquid and was pot still whiskey too. Diageo currently has no intention of recreating an old brand but instead is focused on the future and new beginnings for it’s brand new Whiskey.
Who knows what product releases we will see from distillery in Future. Only time will tell and I for one hope we will see the release of some age statement whiskey. We have already seen the Original Blend, a Cask Strength release and the Curators 0.1 series – So exciting times are ahead for the team at the Roe & Co Distillery.
Old Meets New in The Guinness Power Station
Lora Hemy is Roe & Co’s Head Distiller. Lora will be putting the three new pot stills to good use, producing single malt for the blend, with grain whiskey being sourced from other suppliers. The New distillery is in a building that used to power the Guinness brewery but laid derelict for around eighteen years after they joined the national grid.
The setting is an 1920s art-deco vibe. And the first thing that struck me when I entered the new distillery was the close attention to detail. The distillery is state of the art, but history hides in open view, as the old artifacts of the Guinness Power Station have been left in place. The design team at Hearts & Feints in Scotland paid close attention to every detail when designing the distillery experience.
“It is great we could restore this building and name it after one of the great whiskey distillers. It feels right. George Roe was an innovator in his day, and this experience marries that ethos. I am also a big fan of the Liberties.”Lora Hemy – Roe & Co’s Head Distiller
The distillery has a glass roof so visitors can stand in the distillery and look out at the original tower. The state-of-the-art visitor centre has a training bar for bartenders as they are integral to the brand, and even had a hand in creating the final blend through sampling and using it in their own mixology creations.
The Original release is designed as a cocktail whiskey. It is also perfect for sipping. All the cocktails served at the bar are designed by the Roe & Co team. The 1920’s vibe is beautiful, it flows across every surface and there is no better feeling than sipping a cocktail at the bar and soaking it all up.
Discover Roe & Co Whiskey for yourself…
Roe & Co Blended Irish Whiskey Review
The Original Roe & Co Blended Whiskey is bottled at 45% ABV. It is distilled without chill filtration and is a blend of single malt and grain whiskeys. Matured exclusively in bourbon casks (a high proportion of which are first-fill). Read More…
The Roe & Co Curators series 0.1
A bottling made from port cask matured malt whiskey. Grain whiskey matured in first fill bourbon casks and refill American oak cask matured malt. The Port Cask Matured Malt Whiskey adds a richness which sings throughout. Read More…
Every Whiskey Tells a Story, What Will Yours Be?Sláinte from The Whiskey Trail
#EatDrinkExplore – by Paul Kavanagh