George Roe & Co helped build the golden era of Irish whiskey in the 19th century. Their distillery at Thomas Street in Dublin extended over 17 acres, Ireland’s largest exporter of whiskey.  George Roe & Co and Guinness were the two biggest names in Dublin’s historic brewing and distilling quarter. Today there is a resurgence in Irish Whiskey and the Thomas Street area is once again becoming a vibrant hub in Dublin. Before we go any further, who is behind this? Two years ago Bushmills was sold to Casa Cuervo, Diageo has now announced its re-entry into the Irish whiskey market with Roe & Co. Diageo’s Roe distillery was next door to the (also Diageo-owned) Guinness brewery for hundreds of years.

The Roe & Co liquid itself is a blend of malt and grain whiskeys with a minimum age of five years, that have been aged in predominantly first-fill ex-bourbon casks, vanilla characters, a fruit niff – pear in particular – and some peppery spices. Diageo is sourcing liquid from other distilleries but is planning on building a distillery in Dublin which is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2019, to be called the St James’s Gate Distillery, it will be built a stone’s throw from George Roe’s old distillery in the old Guinness Power House in The Liberties area of Dublin. The new site will produce malt for its whiskey on-site, while the grain proportion will be sourced from other producers. Using her 30 years of experience, Master Blender Caroline Martin creates a versatile, premium whiskey, smooth with a harmony between the fruitiness of the malt and the creaminess of the grain whiskies. Roe & Co is non-chill filtered and bottled at a higher than usual ABV of 45%.

The usual Paul stuff; In 1757, Peter Roe purchased an existing distillery on Thomas Street in Dublin. The premises were expanded with rising trade, Richard Roe continued operations at Thomas Street from 1766 to 1794, the distilling laws in the Kingdom of Ireland (as was then) limited serious expansion. In 1782, he was operating a still with a capacity of 234 gallons. In 1784, another member of the Roe family, Nicolas Roe, set up a distillery in Pimlico. This distillery was a larger operation, and was recorded as having a still of 1,165 gallon capacity in 1802, which was replaced by an even larger 1,575 gallon still by 1807. By 1832, George Roe had inherited both of these. In addition, he leased additional premises in Mount Brown, which were used as maltings, kilns, and warehouses. By 1827, output of the Thomas Street Distillery was 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. Circa 1900, the production of whiskey in Ireland quadrupled. Belfast, Cork and Derry all became major distillation centres. It was Dublin that was the centre of production. Dublin had six distilleries, four of which, John Jameson, William Jameson, John Power and George Roe, dominated the trade. These four distillers had a capacity of around five million gallons of whiskey. One out of every four Dubliners worked in the distilling or brewing industry or at one of their suppliers. The distillery had a capacity of around two million gallons a year. The average distillery capacity in Scotland was then around 100,000 gallons. The Glenlivet Distillery, then the largest in Scotland, only had a capacity of around 200,000 gallons. The distillery will provide employment for 18 people. The EUR25m (US$28.3m) investment into the Roe & Co Distillery shows Diageo’s commitment to brewing and distilling. According to Diageo, the Roe & Co facility is the 27th operational distillery on the island of Ireland. At the start of this decade, there were four working Irish whiskey distilleries. Also in this Irish Dub whiskey zone;  Quintessential Brands opened its Irish whiskey distillery at a cost of EUR10m (then-US$13m), the Dublin Liberties Distillery joined The Teeling Whiskey Co in the Liberties area. By the way, I gallon = 3.7854118 litres near enough.

History is full of heroes and villains; During the 1916 Easter Rising, both Roe’s Distillery and Jameson Distillery at Marrowbone Lane were used by the Irish hero’s.  At noon on Easter Monday, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett led a contingent of Irish Volunteers from Liberty Hall to the General Post Office on Sackville (now O’Connell) Street in Dublin, where Tom Clarke and Seán MacDiarmada had preceded them. Elsewhere, Commandant Éamonn Ceannt led the 4th Battalion to the South Dublin Union, and Commandant Thomas MacDonagh led the 2nd Battalion to Jacob’s biscuit factory. Outside the G.P.O., Pearse proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic to passers-by. The 1916 Rising was underway.  Paul’s family on his mums side were Daley’s from Co Kilkenny. Ned Daly and his 1st Battalion were assigned to hold the Four Courts (courts of law) and the surrounding area between the River Liffey and North Brunswick Street. Commandant Daly is said to have shown great concern for local civilians. He took over Monks’s bakery and arranged for the distribution of bread to the surrounding community. Ned Daly was tried by court-martial, and executed by English firing squad on Thursday 4 May. Seán Heuston joined the Irish Volunteers soon after their formation in November 1913, eventually becoming a captain in Ned Daly’s 1st Battalion. He was assigned command at the Mendicity Institution on Easter Monday, to control the route between the Royal Barracks and the Four Courts for some hours, so that Commandant Ned Daly and the remainder of the 1st Battalion would have time to settle in at the Four Courts. In the event, Heuston and his force of less than 30 men held out for over two days. Surrounded and in a hopeless situation, Heuston surrendered on Wednesday to save the lives of his men. Seán Heuston was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death. He was executed by the English on 8 May 1916. He was the youngest of those executed after the Easter Rising.

Three outposts were occupied with about twenty men in each: Captain Seamus Murphy at Jameson’s Distillery in Marrowbone Lane to the south east; Con Colbert at Watkins’ brewery in Ardee Street to the east; and Captain Thomas McCarthy at Roe’s Distillery in Mount Brown. By Tuesday evening it was clear that neither Watkins’ brewery nor Roe’s distillery had much strategic significance. As a result, Captain Colbert took his company to join Captain Séamus Murphy in Jameson’s Distillery. Captain McCarthy abandoned Roe’s distillery and some members of the company joined the garrison at Jameson’s. The original number of twenty-one had expanded considerably with the addition of the two companies from the other outposts, members of Cumann na mBan, and men who were late in arriving. Paddy Doolan was a native of Clogh Co Kilkenny. He died in North King St in Dublin on 28th April 1916, unaware that the truce was in fact already in place. He was a dispatcher bringing messages back and forth. He was interrogated in a basement – don’t ever mention Black & Tans to me if we meet and when they let him go, he was shot as he went up the steps. He was 30 years old when he died.

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