Two years since it sold Bushmills to Casa Cuervo, Diageo has announced its re-entry into the Irish whiskey category with the launch of new brand Roe & Co.
'It's going to be present in the premium segment of Irish whiskey,' said Dr Nick Morgan, head of whisky outreach at Diageo. '92% of the category is taken up by standard brands, with the premium segment comprising 6% and super-premium taking up 2%.'
'We're positioning it as a 21st-century Irish whiskey and getting it into cocktails, where Irish whiskey is hugely under-represented,' said Peter O'Connor, Roe & Co brand ambassador for Europe.
Named after George Roe, a whiskey maker whose eponymous Dublin distillery was once Ireland's largest, Diageo are drawing a link between the fact that Roe's distillery was next door to the (now 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.
Non-chill-filtered and with an abv of 45%, it wears its US oak influence loud and proud, with plenty of vanilla characters, along with a strong orchard fruit streak - pear in particular - and some distinct peppery spice. Adding water to it amps up the creaminess of the liquid, yet conversely also results in a very dry finish.
Diageo is currently sourcing its liquid from other distilleries, but is planning on building a distillery in Dublin, which is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
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.
Roe & Co will be launching in Europe in March, with particular focus on the on-trade and specialist retailers in the beginning.
£30, Diageo, 020 8978 6000