Now that restrictions in Ireland have lifted, and we’re starting to get some sense of normality in our day to day, Irish whiskey distilleries are welcoming more visitors from here and abroad. I got the chance to visit the Roe & Co distillery for the first time a few weeks ago. If you’re curious about what they have to offer, read on.
The Roe & Co distillery is located in the Liberties in inner-city Dublin. A historic part of the city and a few minutes’ walk away from Dublin’s top tourist attraction (and also Diageo-owned), The Guinness Storehouse, which received over 1.7 million visitors pre-pandemic in 2019. For whiskey heads like myself, other Dublin distilleries like Pearse Lyons, Teeling, and Dublin Liberties are a skip, hop, and stumble away, especially if you try to do all four in a day. To compare with the number of visitors to The Guinness Storehouse, all Irish whiskey distilleries and brand homes combined just crossed the 1 million visitor milestone at the end of 2019.
As you walk through the gates of Roe & Co Distillery, you’ll immediately be welcomed by a beautiful industrial brick building that used to be the Guinness Power Station. The Powerhouse Garden is an open area that houses trendy food and beverage pop-ups on the right-hand side.
You enter (and exit) the building through the gift shop, which is probably the most appealing gift shop I’ve been in. Great layout, lots of products, and visually appealing. Merch and whiskeys (including some distillery exclusives) are displayed side-by-side, and floor to ceiling glass panels separate you from the shiny copper stills. A visitor centre employee will check your ticket (I did the Blending Experience) upon entry, and you wait there for your tour to start.
Since it was a Sunday afternoon, and Ireland was just beginning its full re-opening, our group was quite small, an intimate and diverse group of six. The tour starts with the usual – the guide introducing themself, asking everyone where they travelled from, and the question you’d get at every distillery visit – who has been to a distillery before? More important than that, though, we were given a quick safety briefing which was masterfully made entertaining and conversational by our guide.
We then proceeded to go up the stairs where our guide took us through the history of Roe & Co and its inspiration, George Roe & Co distillery, which was one of the giants of distilling in Dublin back in the 18th and 19th centuries and was mothballed in the 1920s after suffering the same fate as many Irish distilleries during that time.
You then complete your ascent, go through a door, and step on the bridge overlooking the mash tuns, washbacks, and stills. It’s also worth noting that it is a working distillery, so prepare your senses for the sights, sounds, and smells of fermentation and distillation. The guide then takes you through the steps of whiskey production as you take some Instagram-worthy pics from this vantage point.
The next stop is the Blending Room. Here you’ll learn about Roe & Co’s blend origin story and experience tasting its components – a cask strength single malt, a cask strength single grain, and the blend itself.
You then get to make your own old fashioned using water, sugar syrup, and the two cask strength components, in a science lab-y kind of way. My blend probably won’t make the cut, but I enjoyed doing it.
Once you’ve had your fill of whiskey and a cocktail, the tour ends as you’re brought to the bar for one last drink, which is included in the tour. Here, you can take your own time, leave for the gift shop, or go somewhere else. We decided to stay for a couple more cocktails – they were delicious.
Roe & Co positions itself as a modern Irish whiskey, and they market heavily to the bar and cocktail trade. The tour reflects that. Overall, the tour lasted for about 45 minutes, and it was every bit enjoyable. It’s a well-priced tour in a great central location, so there are not many reasons not to go. The amount of drink alone is worth the ticket price and the cocktail angle makes it widely accessible for non-whiskey drinkers. Will I come back? Definitely when there are visitors in town. It would be great to see when there are pop-ups in the Powerhouse Garden and make the visit an afternoon in itself.