If you haven’t heard of Poitin, then you’re probably not alone but as the spirit business reports, this revived Irish spirit is poised for dramatic growth.
While this growth will of course initially be in Ireland itself, it sounds like Poitin is a spirit, like Irish whiskey itself that will be on everyone’s lips soon enough.
An indigenous, authentic white spirit, Poitín has a rich heritage in Ireland and since its genesis, it has acquired a fashionable reputation. A number of small-batch distilleries have popped up across the country,
Somewhat notorious for its potency, Poitín production was illegal from 1661 to 1997, however, this did nothing to stop its production. Pushed into the underground, and with no official controls on production, the spirit somewhat passed into folklore, garnering both an illicit romanticism and a reputation for its strength.
Per its Geographical Indication, Poitín is a clear, non-aged spirit produced in Ireland or Northern Ireland, and traditionally brewed, fermented and distilled from cereals, grain, whey, sugar beet molasses or potatoes. And it must be a minimum of 40 per cent ABV.
Varying combinations of these ingredients means there’s a vast array of flavour profiles in the finished spirit, from earthy, savoury notes, to a fresh grassiness, sweetness, and sometimes, a little smoke.
While Poitín is not going to be for everyone, there are expressions that are both approachable and complex enough to attract interest.
The five best Poitins to try
1.Bán Poitín, 48%
What started as an interest in the illicitness of Poitin, turned into a total obsession for bartender Dave Mulligan. He was determined to bring this epic piece of Irish culture from the underground to the modern world and managed to achieve this n 2012 with the founding of Bán. With complexity, yet a very soft mouthfeel, this expression embraces the aromas of toasted bread and a tingle of pepperiness.
2. Micil Irish Poitín, 44%
With a recipe that has been passed down through the family for over 150 years, Micil is made from Irish grain and flavoured lightly with the locally sourced, water-dwelling bogbean plant. Named after the distiller’s great, great grandfather, this spirit is made in Galway with sixth-generation distiller Pádraic Ó Griallais at the helm. This one is an earthy poitín, with quite a sour initial bite, followed by almost honey and banana-like notes.
3. Glendalough Mountain Strength Poitín, 60%
Yes, it’s strong, but this expression from Glendalough is certainly not aggressive. Made using sugar beet and malted barley, this Poitin benefits from time in virgin Irish oak before bottling. Though Glendalough also has a 40 per cent poitín, with the Mountain Strength, you actually get a very soft, buttery, vanilla nose with very fruity, almost blackcurrant notes. That softness is interrupted by the characteristic “burn” part way through.
4. John O’ Connell’s Small Batch Poitin, 72%
It may be strong, but this brand of Poitin has a lot of flavour. Produced by West Cork Distillers, this expression has been named after the O’Connell family, who’ve been distilling for seven generations (and not all of those legally, of course). Made from barley and sugar beet, this one has a very bready, biscuity nose, but has a sweet, chewy, savoury cereal taste that comes through after a short but powerful burst of heat.
5. Teeling Spirit of Dublin Irish Poitín, 52.5%
Teeling is probably the best known of the distilleries producing Poitin. The distillery claims to be the first new distillery in Dublin for over 125 years, commencing spirit production in early 2015. But the brand has much older roots with the Teeling family first distilling in the city in 1782. A fairly sweet version of the spirit, Teeling is triple distilled from unmalted and malted Irish barley. If you are new to Poitin, this brand is a great place to start.