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Whiskymag 137 July _Aug 2016

Irish Poitin, Potcheen or Poteen

Teeling Whiskey Company Poitin

The Teeling Whiskey Company, has released a modern high quality bottling of Poitin. Consisting of non-aged new make Irish whiskey spirit bottled at 61.5% this bottling gives you a unique chance to taste what real Poitin has to offer.


Nose: Aromas of floss, malted barley, half-baked bread and raisined fruits.


Taste: To taste it is smooth sweet and fruity flavours of malt, raisined fruits, barley sugars and sugared almonds.


Finish: Warm and soothing on the finish.

Poitín, Potcheen or Poteen is a long standing historical traditional Irish distilled spirit (60%-90% ABV) and can be compared with other clear spirits such as gins, moonshine and vodkas. Distilled in a small pot still, the term is from the Irish word pota, meaning "pot".  With  ingredients from malted barley, grain, potatoes, sugar beat or whey. (a by product from cheese production)


Irish Poitin along with all other “private distillations” was outlawed in 1661. This succeeded in driving production underground. Remote rural areas, away from the interference of the law where selected, often set up on land boundaries so the issue of ownership could be disputed.  


Prior to distillation the first step was a “wash” consisting for example: A 100 gallons of fresh water contained six stone (84 lb) of potatoes, six stone of sugar and some yeast and was allowed to ferment. The still was heated and attended to for several days to allow the spirit runs to go through. The fire to heat the wash was provided by locally available turf. Smoke was a give-away for the local constabulary, so broken, windy weather was chosen to disperse the smoke.  In later years, the heat was provided by bottled gas with little discernible smoke reducing discovery by police while distilling.


The quality of Poitín was highly variable, depending on the skill of the distiller and the quality of his equipment. As with whisky distillation it is the middle cut that is free from the critical poisons that are carried in the for-shots and fients and the crudeness of production that allowed these poisons to give Poitin its dangerous reputation.    


Production for export has been allowed since 1989. On 7 March 1997, the Irish Revenue Commissioners withdrew their opposition to poitín being sold under license in the Republic of Ireland.  In 2008, Irish Poitín was accorded (GI) Geographical Indicative Status by the EU


Today, there are several legally produced Poitin's in Ireland:  


Ban Poitin is a small batch spirit distilled from malted barley and sugar beat by the West Cork Distillers. 52.7% ABV


Bunratty is single distilled and only 40% or 45% ABV far weaker than illegally distilled poitín


Cooley Single Pot Still Poitín a triple distilled Single potstill newmake spirit at 65% ABV


Glendalough Poitin available in three styles; Premium 40% ABV, sherry cask finish 40% ABV and mountain strenght 60% ABV


Hackler Poitin Launched in 1997 by International Distillers & Vintners using spirit from the cooley distillery however was discontinued in 1998 when IDV merged into Diageo


Teeling Whiskey Company Poitin Made from 80% grain spirit and 20% malt spirit. 61.5%ABV


West Cork Distillers Two Trees Poitin traditionaly made


In Wales by Celtic Spirit Company, make a spirit from root vegetables (Potatoes) and grain which claims that it was the Aqua Vite of the Celtic lands. Celtic Poteen 48%Abv


The Americans of course have their “Moonshine, Mountain Dew, Hooch, White Dog,White Lightning, White Whiskey”

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