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Diageo returns to Irish whiskey sector

Diageo has announced its return to the Irish whiskey category with plans for a whiskey distillery in the old power station at St James' Gate, Dublin, in a €25m investment over three years. Further to this, Diageo is releasing a premium NAS blend, Roe & Co.

Diageo identified a clear opportunity in Irish whiskey to drive overall category growth via premiumisation. Responding to this, Roe & Co was created. Diageo claims that the brand has been created to reflect modern, contemporary luxury, in everything from pack to liquid, and with a focus of making Irish whiskey more prominent in Europe’s cocktail culture. Roe & Co is made from hand-selected stocks of Irish malt and grain whiskies and aged in bourbon casks.

Roe & Co is 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. His distillery, George Roe and Co extended over 17 acres on Thomas Street in Dublin and was once Ireland's largest distillery. As neighbours for hundreds of years George Roe and Co and Guinness were the two biggest names at the heart of Dublin’s historic brewing and distilling quarter. Diageo will now build on this heritage with the creation of a new distillery by converting the historic former Guinness Power House on Thomas Street. The new St. James’s Gate distillery, will be situated shortly 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 sourced and selected stocks of Irish whiskies. 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 2017 as part of Diageo’s growing Reserve portfolio.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD says: “Irish whiskey is experiencing a renaissance and is truly an Irish success story. It is seeing a return to the success it experienced in its golden era in the 19th Century and is now the fastest growing spirit drink in the world with global sales increasing by over 300% and record exports of over €400 million in the last ten years. This commitment and investment by Diageo comes at an opportune time for the sector which is experiencing unprecedented global demand. €25 million investment in this project over 3 years will support the local economy, create jobs, and bring a welcome new addition to the city’s tourism offering. The Irish whiskey market has a great story to tell and today’s announcement marks an exciting new chapter in its development.”

Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovations, says: “It is great to see Diageo continue to invest in and further enhance the historical Dublin 8 area to create a fantastic attraction for tourists and locals alike. The proposed distillery will play a major role in the overall regeneration of the Liberties through the repurposing of the St James’ Gate Power House.

“Irish produced whiskey has never been as popular, garnering international acclaim and recognition. 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.”

Commenting on the launch, Tanya Clarke, general manager of Diageo Reserve Europe says: “This is a wonderful project for us at Diageo, highlighting the opportunity we see 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.”

Colin O’Brien, operations director, Diageo says: “The planned distillery will provide employment in the coming years – both at construction and operation stages. It will complement what is already the country’s most popular tourism offering, The Guinness Storehouse. 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. We are excited that the planned distillery will help revive the proud tradition of distilling in the Liberties.”

6 February 2017 - Sam Coyne The Drinks Report, editorial assistant