Selling just under 2,500 six-bottle cases in 2020 – alas the last officially available figure – Poitín has been making a name for itself among younger LDA consumers in pubs and bars up and down the country – but it requires the right kind of marketing to get the right kind of result for the publican.
Poitín – ‘Irish Moonshine’ or ‘Mountain Dew’ – is essentially ‘white whiskey’ since there’s no wood-aging involved in its production.
And although dating back to the Sixth Century (at least), this farm-based spirit was declared illegal here during British rule and was only officially declared ‘legal’ again on the 7th of March 1997 (although companies had been able to legally export it for a decade before this) – and it remains ‘illegal’ in NI to this day.
Today there are an estimated 15 distilleries currently producing poitín (either for their own brands or for third parties) around Ireland.
Poitín used to have a dubious reputation with lots of wild stories about its high alcoholic strength and its harsh taste – and the misconception is that it’s made with potatoes.
In Connemara – and much of the west of Ireland poitín was a high-quality artisan spirit made almost exclusively from barley, oats and other grains – ingredients that it shared with whiskey.
“Before the introduction of cask-aging, poitín and whiskey were essentially the same spirit, separated only by the buying of a license and both were known as ‘fuisce’ in the Irish language spoken here in Connemara,” explains the Head Distiller at Micil Distillery in Galway’s Salthill, Jimín Ó Griallais, “‘Fuisce’ was later anglicised to ‘whiskey’ and that’s how the legal spirit got its name.
“Small-scale production was outlawed and driven into the hills and bogs of the west and the illegal version was named after the ‘potaín’, the small copper pot stills that were used for distillation and became known as ‘poitín’.”
There are a variety of ways for your customers to enjoy a range of different poitín:
Little & Green Poitín cocktails
Irish Poitín is on the rise again with Mad March Hare leading the way. Distilled in West Cork using just three ingredients Mad March Hare has become the top Irish Poitín brand in the world.
This Intrepid Spirits portfolio staple has received numerous awards, most recently picking up Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Intrepid Spirits is now embarking on a new venture in Ireland with Little & Green, the world’s first Ready To Drink poitín cocktail brand.
Together with Dave Mulligan, owner of the award-winning poitín cocktail bar Bar 1661, Intrepid Spirits has crafted a range of RTD poitín cocktails using locally-inspired flavours tailored specifically for the Irish consumer.
Little & Green release two varieties this Summer.
Shady Bramble is inspired by Ireland’s deep, dense hedgerows and is loaded with flavours of wild Blackberry, Raspberry and Violet.
Sneaky Orchard is a harvest festival of ripe Pear, crisp Apple and Elderflower.
Both are vegan- and gluten-free, with all natural flavours and no artificial sweeteners. The 330ml cans have an ABV of 5% and are also available online at littleandgreen.ie.
Award-winning Mourne Dew Distillery is a real fusion of ancient and modern.
This family business takes traditional poitín mash bills and combines these recipes with ultra-modern distillation techniques to capture all the best flavours but none of the unpleasant elements often associated with what was once an illicit spirit of variable quality.
“My grandfather was born way back in the 1850s and by all accounts he’d more than a little interest in the spirit!” Head distiller Donal Farrell explained, “We’re taking a family tradition and bringing it into the 21st Century with cold distillation processes that remove all sorts of nasty by-products of fermentation which are not removed by conventional hot distillation processes.
“Our poitíns are named after the mischievous Irish fairy called the Pooka. Pookas often took the shape of a horse and when a reveller wa
s returning home from having sampled the wares of the local poitín-maker he might be grabbed by the Pooka, thrown onto its back and taken on a wild ride only to be left back where he started in a dishevelled and confused state.”
The Pooka Blend No1 won the Gold Medal for Best Clear Spirit Made in Ireland in the Blas na hEireann Awards whilst the Pooka Hazelnut Poitín Liqueur has become a big hit with cocktail bars around the country.
Mourne Dew is bringing out a 60% ABV white poitín this Summer followed by a spicy Cinnamon-flavoured poitín liqueur in time for the Winter market.
Micil’s many awards
Micil Distillery’s new poitín-influenced Micil Connemara Irish Cream has been named Best Irish Cream in the World at the World Liqueur Awards 2022 just six months after its release.
Meanwhile Micil Heritage Poitín has won Best Grain Spirit in the World in the Unaged Spirit category. This follows on from January’s win of Best Contemporary Irish Gin for its classic Micil Irish Gin at the World Gin Awards 2022.
As sixth generation Connemara poitín distillers, Micil Distillery is on a mission to tell the real story of poitín.
Micil Heritage Poitín was the first modern spirit in Ireland to be made using 100% Irish grains with 100% Irish peat. The recipe is made up of 80% malted barley and 20% malted oats, both peated using turf harvested on the family land in Inverin.
Micil’s Poitín range also includes:
Micil Irish Poitín 500ml ABV 44%
A spicy, full-flavoured poitín distilled using 100% Irish malted barley and a local Connemara botanical known as bogbean. It has warm honeyed spice with vibrant fruits, distinct malt character, balancing floral notes and an elegant velvety texture.
Micil Heritage Poitín 500ml ABV 46%
A celebration of the finest Connemara Poitín of the past, it’s made from 80% Irish Barley and 20% Irish Oats, both malted and peated using Connemara Turf. Warm, sweet and fruity with balanced nutty character and gentle peat smoke throughout. Vibrant and aromatic with distinct texture.
Micil Distillery products are available throughout Ireland and Europe through www.micildistillery.com.