Tag Archives: George Roe

1000 Years Of Irish Whiskey, Malachy Magee

Despite the 1000 Years title – Malachy believes the term Whiskey was coined by King Henry II’s soldiers who invaded Ireland in the 12th Century – the 1st half of the book deals with a rather troubling invention – the Coffey Still – that continues to influence Irish Whiskey today.

1000 Years, O’Briens Press 1980 c/othewhiskeynut

The big question of how a world leading industry in it’s prime lost it’s title is answered very succinctly in this 1980 publication – blending.

The dominant 4 whiskey houses of Dublin – J Jameson, Wm Jameson, J Powers & G Roe – rejected the efficient distilling equipment of A Coffey with his patent still.

They also rejected the growing art of blending whereby a large amount of ‘silent spirit’ produced in those Coffey Stills are mixed with more flavoursome spirit obtained from traditional pot stills.

In doing so Irish Whiskey stagnated & collapsed for over 100 years.

Back cover c/othewhiskeynut

When Malachy wrote his book there was only 1 surviving Irish Whiskey company – Irish Distillers – operating out of 2 distilleries – New Midleton & Old Bushmills.

What changed the demise was the final embracement of the Coffey Still in revising & marketing the Jameson, Powers & Paddy brands as blends to the world.

The category has gone from strength to strength ever since.

There are now up to 63 aspiring & established whiskey distilleries looking to invest, plan, build & market their own Irish Whiskey – creating a much more broad & diverse category.

It’s a fabulous time to witness the rebirth of Irish Whiskey – and give a nod of appreciation to A Coffey & his world changing still.

Sláinte

Masonic Arms, Anstruther, & Cameron Brig, Single Grain, 40%

When out and about I enjoy popping into bars I’ve not previously visited on the off-chance of finding a gem.

The Masonic Arms in the picturesque East Neuk village of Anstruther sits at the end of the West Pier and is more of a rough diamond.

It’s easy to get sucked into conversation in this character driven pub – both from behind the bar as well as in front of it – but the main attraction for me – aside from the gently warming fire – is a great selection of whiskies.

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Some Masonic whiskeys. c/othewhiskeynut

A plethora of single malt Scotch, the usual big brand blends, assorted Irish & some bourbons adorn the back wall.

My tipple of choice however was a local offering – Cameron Brig Single Grain.

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The local whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Cameronbridge Grain Distillery was among the first to utilise the new technology of the Coffey Still back in the 1830’s.

Irishman Aeneas Coffey failed to find many backers in his native land for his controversial invention – yet the Lowland Scottish distillers took to it with gusto. They effectively kick started the rise of blended whisky which went on to ensure Scotch as the biggest selling whisky in the world.

Over 180 years later, Cameronbridge is still pumping out 120 million lpa (litres of pure alcohol) per annum – making it the both the largest and oldest grain distillery in Europe.

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Cameronbridge Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

George Roe used to have the largest distillery in Europe – but he (and other Dublin distillers) campaigned against grain whisky calling it ‘silent spirit’.

It’s rather ironic George & his friends are no more – yet Diageo – who own Cameronbridge – are currently resurrecting whiskey distilling on the old George Roe distillery site in Dublin.

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The new Roe & Co distillery. c/othewhiskeynut

So what does this ‘silent spirit’ taste like?

Well being a bourbon cask matured single grain it has that sweet vanilla & caramel nose going on. I wouldn’t rule out added caramel too.

A soft smooth inviting palate with a pleasant depth left a gentle warm glow in the mouth.

Nothing special really. An easy drinking dram ‘hard to find outside of Fife‘ my fellow barmate informed me – along with the anecdote he often enjoyed it mixed with Scotland’s other national drink – Irn Bru.

I didn’t check the veracity of either statement – but did enjoy a quiet half hour out of the wet & miserable weather to raise a glass to Aeneas Coffey & the Irishman’s contribution to the rise of Scotch.

Sláinte.

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