29 July 2019

Whisky Insiders Interview No. 97 - Lora Hemy

Roe & Co Distilling Co - Diageo

Head Distiller


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I’ve been working in the industry now for over five years. I spent my twenties as a sound engineer and DJ. I studied Fine Art originally and went back to university as a mature student to study distillation.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Being part of the team that built the Roe & Co Distillery and Visitor Experience. Especially on this street which has been so important to the history of brewing and distillery, not just in Ireland, but globally. George Roe was a unique, forward-thinking character in his time and this has been a very unique project in so many ways. From restoring and retrofitting this incredible building, the old Guinness Power House dating from 1946, with a contemporary distillery; setting up a new distillery within such a loved brewery; planning the future of Roe and Co with our amazing team. Lots of challenges but all of them incredibly fun. Seeing the first visitors arrive was a brilliant feeling.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
I can’t remember my first dram specifically, but I can remember several that have really stuck in my memory. One was at Glen Ord distillery near my parents’ house on the Black Isle – it was a very long time ago, but it was the first time I remember being blown away by the simplicity of taking such basic raw materials and turning them into something beautiful. It was the first time I can remember thinking ‘I want to do this’. Another recent example was just a few weeks ago when we invited some local whiskey enthusiasts to join us for a sneak preview of the distillery before we opened. We shared a Roe & Co together in the bar, that felt like a really special moment, even amongst the dust sheets and dismantled scaffolding.

What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky is about people and places. It has taken me around the world, I’ve met all sorts of interesting people, lived and worked in places I probably would not have thought of visiting otherwise. I have discovered whisky from so many parts of the world that can be enjoyed in so many different ways. I see it as a creative process inspired by the people and places around me. I guess it has become an obsession in that the science behind production is so incredibly complex that I will never have enough life hours to be able to understand everything about it - therefore there is no chance to get bored, and every motivation to stay curious.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
Making whisky, exploring and continuing to think up new ideas.

What was your last dram?
The last pour from a bottle of our new limited-edition Roe & Co Curator’s Series 0.1 at the weekend. It’s a pretty special blend with lots of influence from the full maturation port pipe stocks that we used for part of it. The bottle actually belonged to our Roe & Co brand ambassador, Alan Mulvihill (sorry Alan I meant to give it back!).

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
I’m obsessed with seafood, so whisky and oysters any day of the week if I’m feeling flush. But a good old Milky Bar any other time (I’m a cheap date when it comes to white chocolate). Smoked duck also works a treat with the fruity notes of Roe & Co.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
Nothing beats enjoying a dram at a distillery and being part of the history that has gone into what you are drinking. Obviously, I’d encourage you to come and have a whiskey here at Roe & Co as we have a pretty spectacular bar looking out over the distillery, although I’m still getting used to the audience while I’m working!

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
Thinking more like brewers and getting really specific about working with flavour, and not just those flavours derived specifically from raw materials. I love the exploratory nature of craft brewing, and we designed our distillery to be able to experiment with different styles and production methods to allow us the same flexibility to create and innovate.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Roe & Co of course, it pays my bills and its delicious, what more could I ask for?

Many thanks to Lora Hemy. Who will be our next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!