Diageo re-enters Irish whiskey market

Despite selling off Bushmills Irish Whiskey to Jose Cuervo in 2015 in a deal which netted the company $408 million, Diageo has decided to re-enter the booming Irish whiskey market through the distillation and launch of a new premium blended Irish whiskey branded Roe & Co, named in honour of George Roe, the once world-famous whiskey-maker who helped build the golden era of Irish Whiskey in the 19th Century.

At the same time, Diageo has announced plans for a €25 million three-year-long investment in a whiskey distillery to be sited at the old Power Station within St James’s Gate.

George Roe and Co’s distillery originally extended over 17 acres in Dublin’s Thomas Street and was once Ireland’s largest distillery and one of the largest whiskey distillers in Europe. As neighbours for hundreds of years George Roe and Co and Guinness were the two biggest names at the heart of Dublin’s historic distilling and brewing quarter.

Diageo will now build on this rich heritage with the creation of a new St James’s Gate distillery to be situated just a stone’s throw away from where the George Roe and Co distillery once stood and – subject to planning approval – will begin production in the first half of 2019.

Using her 30 years of experience Diageo’s Master Blender Caroline Martin and her team set about meticulously sourcing and selecting stocks of the very finest Irish whiskies.  Having trialled over 100 prototype blends since December 2014 using a combination of malt and single blend whiskies from distilleries around the country,  Caroline has created “an extraordinary expression of Irish Whiskey”.

Priced at around €35 here, Roe & Co is non-chill filtered and bottled at 45% ABV.

The first blend of Roe & Co will be available in key European cities from 1st March this as part of Diageo’s growing Reserve portfolio.  

“This commitment and investment by Diageo comes at an opportune time for the sector which is experiencing unprecedented global demand,” said Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed TD.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovations, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD added, “Diageo’s decision to move into the premium Irish whiskey category and its plans to invest in a new distillery will further enhance Ireland’s reputation as one of the finest premium whiskey producers in the world”.

Within Diageo itself, Tanya Clarke, General Manager of Reserve Europe, commented that the project highlighted the opportunity Diageo sees to develop the premium segment of Irish Whiskey and contribute to the category’s growth as it sees new investment and entrepreneurial interest.

“In crafting Roe & Co we explored the demands of today’s consumers for more premium drinking experiences and the desire of bartenders for an adaptable, flavourful whiskey that works in both traditional and new cocktails,” she stated, adding that it would be sold mainly via the on-trade.

The planned distillery will complement what is already the country’s most popular tourism offering, The Guinness Storehouse, concluded Colin O’Brien, Diageo’s Operations Director, “This investment further demonstrates Diageo’s commitment to the growing vibrancy of The Liberties, one of the City’s most dynamic districts and the home of Irish Whiskey during the original golden age of Irish distilling.”

Diageo's Master Distiller Caroline Martin at St James's Gate Brewery this morning.

Diageo’s Master Distiller Caroline Martin at St James’s Gate Brewery this morning.

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