July 20, 2024

Irish whiskey with a distinctly Japanese flavour


Roe & Co’s Japanese Sugi is very distinct, with flavours hinting at gin at times

George Roe & Co was once the largest whiskey distiller in the country. In 2017, the name was revived, and a distillery fitted into the beautifully restored art deco Guinness power station on James’s Street. Since then, Roe has released a series of limited editions and distillery exclusives that sit alongside the standard blended whiskey.

The latest is the Roe & Co Japanese Sugi. Sugi is a Japanese cypress tree used to build boats, walls, panelling and houses. Traditionally it is charred to add strength. The Roe & Co Sugi is produced by a unique method that involves dipping five elongated bungs or tubes of the lightly toasted wood into casks containing standard Roe & Co whiskey.

“It was a long-standing idea that I had on how to reimagine wood and casks and expand our knowledge. This was quite unique and demanded a different treatment,” says head distiller Lora Hemy. These plugs were developed by a specialist Irish cooperage. They allow the controlled transfer of the various wood flavours. Apparently the porous Sugi works quickly. “The ageing takes less than two months. You have a very short window of time and you have to taste weekly.”

  • Ice cream and fish and chips, but not as you know them

  • Whole monkfish, rosemary salt and charred lemon

  • Coffee praline cake

According to Hemy the flavours include toasted sandalwood, vetiver and other woody spices, as well as matcha tea, lychee, pineapple, orris root and treacle toffee. It is a delicious whiskey, very different to a standard version, with flavours hinting at gin at times. “We wanted to capture the delicate aromas and flavours without overextracting; it is very perfume driven.”

We can expect further releases in the future. “We’ve got loads of other experiments on the go, both with wood and in the still house. That is the nature of what we do with the Roe & Co brand.”

Roe & Co Japanese Sugi is available exclusively via the distillery’s online store. It is priced at €80 per bottle and will be available for shipment across the Republic and Northern Ireland.

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