Humors of Whiskey
“What’ll make the lame walk, what will make the dumb talk, the elixir of life and philospher’s stone,
And what helped Mr. Brunel to build the Thames Tunnel; wasn’t it poteen from ould Inishowen
So stick to the cratur’ the best thing in nature for sinking your sorrows and raising your joys.
Oh Lord, it’s no wonder, if lightning and thunder weren’t made from the plunder of poteen me boys.”
An active Poitín Stil was discovered by Revenue Customs officials in North Tipperary on Monday last.
It is understood that the illicit still was uncovered at an as yet unnamed rural location, close to the town of Nenagh, during a joint intelligence led operation undertaken by the Revenue Customs Service and an Garda Síochána.
The distillation process is understood to have been in full operation at the time of the raid and a quantity of distilled Poitín was also seized. All related distilling equipment was seized during the operation and a file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Traditional illegal Irish distilled Poitín can vary anywhere between 40%–90% alcohol by volume (ABV) and is fondly know by many other names e.g. ‘Mountain Dew’, ‘Holy Water’, ‘Drop of the Cratur’, ‘Moonshine’, ‘Red Biddy’ and ‘White Lightening’. Irish monastic settlements were originally the birthplace of distilling here in Ireland, with earliest records going back to 584AD. Here Irish monks were the Master Distillers of their time, strictly retaining their distilling knowledge within the walls of their respective monasteries.
The word Poitín comes from the Gaelic word “pota” meaning a pot, which refers to the small copper pot still used by Poitín distillers. Illegal Poitín, also called Poteen or Potcheen is still traditionally produced in remote rural areas of Ireland today, distilled from malted barley, grain, treacle, sugar beet, or potatoes.
It is interesting to note that Poitín distilled legally is one of a small number of Irish food and Drink products which have been granted ‘Geographical Indicative Status’ by the European Union Council (EU). This means that similar to Champagne, which originates from the Champagne region of France and Parmesan Cheese, which originates from Parma, Italy, Poitín’s ‘Indicative Status’ is akin only to Ireland.
There are presently several legal Craft Distillery companies in Ireland now producing Poitín, which can be bought in pubs and off-licences. These Craft Distillers today produce Poitín in various flavours, achieved through the use of wild berries and fruit, thus carrying on the original tradition, which years ago would have been also often flavoured using hedgerow berries, so as to soften and sweeten this products natural rather harsh taste.
Of course traditional illegally Poitín was distilled over a turf fire prior to the introduction of bottled gas. Illegal stills could be easily detected by police, identifying the rising smoke, despite the illegal distillers choice of windy and broken weather conditions which assisted in dispersing this tell-tale smoke. Certain wooded areas also assisted in the cover-up, with dense foliage often assisting in the wider spreading of this curling smoke trail.
Irish myth and legend state that St Patrick, our Irish patron Saint, brewed up the first ever batch when wine ran short for Mass; which possibly accounts for one of Poitín’s other names, that of “Holy Water”.