Whiskey cocktail

Interview: Roe & Co’s Lora Hemy talks about making Irish whiskey in the shadow of Guinness

In the resurgence of Irish whiskey, Roe & Co is a contemporary new blend inspired by history and tradition.

In fact, his inspiration was the famous George Roe & Co distillery in Dublin. As neighbors for hundreds of years, George Roe & Co and Guinness were among the biggest names in the heart of Dublin’s historic brewing and distilling district.

Today, decades after the Roe Distillery closed, Irish whiskey finds itself in another golden age. By restoring and transforming the iconic Guinness Power House into a distillery, the new Roe & Co is helping to regenerate Dublin’s Liberties district, the birthplace of Irish whiskey in the original golden age of Irish distilling.

Lora Hemy, Roe & Co’s Chief Distiller, is helping usher in this golden age, using her creative background that has led her to combine her interests in flavor, aroma, sensory perception and distilled beverages with profit from the whiskey industry.

A graduate of the prestigious Heriot-Watt University, she now finds herself a distiller and specialist in product development with a focus on innovation. Lora has spent time working and researching in several countries and brings her skills to the service of the Roe & Co distillery day after day.

The Whiskey Wash recently caught up with the busy distiller to find out more about her, Roe & Co and the current state of the Irish whiskey industry.

The Roe & Co Distillery (image via Diageo)

The Whiskey Wash: Has there been a resurgence in Irish whiskey and demand for more products from whiskey lovers?

Lora Hemy: “I think Irish whiskey is in a really exciting place because obviously there are a lot of new distilleries on the market. one who loves whiskey i say this is a really exciting place there is all sorts of things going on in distilleries large and small across the island of ireland and it can only be very exciting for anyone who loves Irish whiskey.

TWW: Who do you see discovering Irish whiskey and creating demand for this spirit?

Lore: “So I think Irish whiskey will appeal to so many people. It will appeal to people who already love and know whiskey, but it will also appeal to people who might be new to whiskey and might be curious about the flavor. And that’s certainly what we try to do at Rowanco. We try to create incredible taste experiences in our whiskeys that you will want to enjoy again and again.

TWW: Tell us a bit about the Dublin history of Roe & Co. and how the distillery has changed over the years.

Lore: “So we are a brand new distillery. We started building our distillery in 2018 in the former Guinness Power House at St. James’s Gate Brewery. There is so much brewing heritage on the site. The power station was built in the 1940s. It has been decommissioned and the interior has been completely renovated to house a distillery. Now we are quite new in production. Our first batch was in May 2019.

So we’re actually at the three-year mark, about six weeks after our first distillery dropped off mature stocks, which is a very, very exciting place. And lots of exciting things are happening all the time. We manufacture the malt component for the rolling mix of the future. But we also have many different recipe projects for the exciting new Irish whiskeys of the future. We work with a range of different grains, different varieties of yeasts and different methods, different distillation methodologies. We basically create an inventory of flavors which we can then take and reassemble and remix, if desired, into new whiskeys in the future. So it’s about creating this inventory of flavors with which we can do very interesting things in the years to come.

TWW: How did you get into the whiskey world?

Lore: “I’ve come a very long way in the whiskey business. I never intended to be in the whiskey business. In fact, I went to art school in my 20s. years old. I wanted to be a painter. And when I was in art school, I realized that I got bored of two dimensions pretty quickly. And I wanted to do things that came out of the canvas.

I’ve been very interested in perfumery and sensory environments and things that become three-dimensional without necessarily having a physical form. And when I realized that perfumery and whiskey were very connected, it really interested me, because suddenly this new world of flavors and aromas opened up, except it had all kinds of other interesting objects and elements.

Like, you can do something really nice that maybe has a compound that could smell like a bonfire or the top of a creme brulee or a blowtorch or burning rubber boots, but somehow another, when you put them all together, they make something really delicious and beautiful that you can sniff and sip, and it’s going to be delicious.

So I was really fascinated by this idea. And after spending my 20s working as a sound engineer, I went back to school and studied brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, which at the time was the one of the only places in the world where you could really do that.

And I was very lucky. When I left Heriot-Watt, I was able to evolve in many different projects in the industry at the time, which was growing. So I was able to work on a lot of new distillery construction projects, as well as set up different recipes across gin, whisky, ready-to-drink spirits, and really learn what it takes to blend whiskeys under many different angles. .

So that’s my journey. And I joined this project and I joined the distillery, really, when we were at the very beginning of the power plant construction project. So I saw it grow from a construction site to the working distillery. He is now with a stock that is about to turn three years old. Impressive.”

TWW: Can you tell us a bit more about your distillation philosophy and what you find essential in whiskey making?

Lore: “Yeah. So I think it’s very useful to make whiskey if you like whiskey yourself, because you’ll be very aware of the care that goes into every step of its production. I think my philosophy is to pay attention to every detail at every stage of production, because if we get the details right, we will absolutely deliver quality, and that has to be the total goal of everyone at the distillery to be able to get that 100 percent right.

We are very, very particular about the raw materials, the quality and the standard to which they come. But we’re also very big on fermentation and making sure we’re putting together the right flavor combinations and the compounds that will help us deliver them. If we don’t, you can’t capture them at the distillation stage. So it’s really, for us, a very holistic process, and it’s a process that we have to stay focused on all the time. As I mentioned before, it’s a very multi-sensory process.

When you’re in the distillery, you use all of your senses. When you make whisky, you use your nose. Obviously, we always use our noses to know where we are in the process, at what stage we need to make cuts. Is the fermentation at the right stage to distill it? You can tell by smelling it, but we also use our ears. And obviously our eyes and ears can tell you a lot about how things are working and if things are going well in the right way. If you are running the stills at the right pressure, if things are behaving the way you expect them to be, or if you may need to make adjustments. So it’s something that you become totally immersed in in a distillery. And that’s what I love about these environments. They really are completely multi-sensory.

TWW: And where will innovation take Irish whiskey in the years to come?

Lore: “Irish whiskey, the history of Irish whiskey is absolutely built on innovation. When we go back in time and look at some of the key moments, and not just the history of Irish whiskey, but things that actually affected whiskey production globally, things like the coffee still, the triple distilled pot, the whiskey again mash bills… all of these things were marketed, refined and developed in Ireland. Thus, the distillers of this island have been innovating for hundreds of years. There is nothing new in this. And because of that, I think we have a very innovative attitude towards whiskey making in general. This is very clear from everything you see happening in Irish whiskey today. Innovation will continue to be so important to the future growth of Irish whiskey. And again, this allows us to offer many different taste experiences to a wider audience. What I can tell you is that if you haven’t found a whiskey that you fell in love with, then I suggest you try Irish whiskey. And obviously I would suggest trying Roe & Co, because flavor and innovation are absolutely at the heart of what we do with Irish whiskey.

TWW: How did Roe & Co become part of Dublin’s Liberties district?

Lore: “We really are part of the neighborhood and you can’t miss us. The space is huge and you can see us from all over town. We have a commanding position on James Street, and you can really see us from all directions in Dublin. It is very important to us that we are a community distillery and over the past two years we have been able to offer local businesses and restaurants a place to work, especially during the pandemic they have been able to serve customers . We’re very in tune with the local community, and that’s how we’ve always wanted to be. It’s a space for everyone, our bar is always open and we love to show people around. We organize a range of tourist experiences and our brilliant team of ambassadors will take care of all our guests.

TWW: What are the best cocktails to make with Roe & Co whiskey this St. Patrick’s Day?

Lore: “I like to try an Irish coffee if you can, they’re really delicious. For me, this is my go-to St. Patrick’s Day cocktail party. If you want something simple to make, a Roe Old Fashioned , very simple to make at home, not too many ingredients.