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Poitín (pronounced 'putch-een') has come a long way from back alleys production to the top shelves of Irish pubs, all around the world.
Jim Wrigley, of Reverend JW Simpson, prepares a poteen cocktail
If you have not, catch up with our previous article ‘Before whiskey there was… Poitín [Part 1]’ to get the full story and a quick idea of todays’ Poitín landscape!
Poitín used to have this old-fashioned image of your Grand Pa’s unlabelled rotgut bottle, used to relief his arthritis and that would only come out of the back of the cupboard for important occasions: your wedding day or first child. The elixir was also daggled with a reputation of being so strong that it could cause you blindness. It is now making waves in the cocktail bar scene and has become a very popular new choice of drink for mixologits and a new generation of drinkers that believe Poitín can be sipped in front of the fire as much as a good whiskey!
The reason for that is that craft distilleries completely shook off Poitín’s past, illegal and dangerous, aspects and everyone became very curious of what this ‘new make’ spirit actually tastes like and the possibilities it offers for prestigious cocktails and refreshments. Indeed, the aromas can be quite spectacular with a real punch and fire to it that diverge from any other spirits. In Wales, USA and Ireland, many distilleries themselves are exploring the many possibilities of Poitín making and various flavours of the traditional craft.
Like many, we are all about the idea of reviving what was once the Irish pride drink of choice!
Among the many good emerging Poitíns, there are five we specially recommend. Let’s give a toast to the Irish National grog with Ban Poitin, Glendalough Triptych Range, Teeling the Spirit of Dublin and figure out which one would most please your palate.
Bán Poitín, pronounced ‘bawn potcheen’, is a traditional style Irish poitín (pot still distilled) from potato, barley, and sugar beet, in the Ards peninsula. It’s a raw and earthy spirit that is making waves in the vibrant cocktail scene.
The idea behind Bán is to bring back an underground and rural product to the urban and modern life: when the spirit was banned in 1661, the underground production became bastardised by the licensed Whiskey distillers. The name is play of word. The white spirit used to be called ‘White’, ‘Bán’ in Irish and ‘Ban’ obviously refers its concealed nature from 1661. The bottle shape reminds of a hipflask also reminding it had to be distilled, consumed and transported in very small batches and secrecy.
A partnership between Dave Mulligan, Cara Humphrey and Echlinville Distillery.
The pair behind Bán Poitín are Dave Mulligan and his business partner Cara Humphrey. Four years ago, Dave helped establishing the world first Poitín bar in London’s Kentish Town popular speakeasy-style pub The Shebeen in local brasserie Kentish Canteen’s basement, before deciding to start its London Irish start-up.
The initial Bán was launched in 2012 and distilled by West Cork Distillers in the village of Skibbereen from 80% malted barley and 20% sugar beet and bottled at 52.7%. It was revamped in 2015 with a new bottle design and an abv of 48%.
The second edition of the company’s poitín is sourced by Northern Ireland brand partner Echlinville Distillery. The distillery lies in the Ards peninsula, County Down. It became Northern Ireland’s first licensed Irish Whiskey Distillery in over 125 years distilling its first spirit in 2013 and has already a few Whiskies Awards under its belt for his whiskies. After the success of the very modern Feckin' Irish Whiskey brand, Northern Irishman Shane Braniff was inspired to draw on a little heritage, so he bought the rights to the famous old Dunville's brand used to be produced in the old Royal Irish Distillery in Belfast. Both won award at World Whiskies Award: Best Single Malt 12 year old & under with Dunville's Irish Whiskey PX 10 year old and Best Flavoured with Feckin Whiskey Spiced.
While the whiskeys are distilled elsewhere for now on until Echlinville has finished its first batches distillation and maturation, Enchlinville has partnered up to give birth to a few new innovative spirits like Ban, Jawbox Classic Dry Gin and its own Irish Whiskey Liquors.
The distillery is opened to visits since 2016.
Bán is an unaged double distilled made from a heady mix of locally-sourced raw ingredients: potato, malted barley and sugar beet - a full flavoured statement of its origin: bold, raw, earthy and sweet.
The barley, which is the traditional base to Poitín, is grown and malted a stone’s throw away from where the spirit is bottled and labelled by hand.
Nose: Grassy and rich bready notes and heavy German rye. The yeasty, bready notes grow, accompanied by mild black-pepper spice.
Palate: Complex with bready, leather, tobacco, malt and grassy notes at the start. Oily in texture and laden with sweet spice off the bat with very mild black-pepper spices considering the abv.
It is very well balanced between the big bold barrel-char and coffee-ground bitterness flavours (cinnamon toast, clove and mace spices) and a rich grainy sweetness and creaminess of sweet milk chocolate and milky coffee.
Finish: Brown bread and pepper spices. Creamy and clean, fading quickly to lead to into a sweetened lasting finish.
The Glendalough Distillery defined by its founders as ‘Ireland’s First Craft Distillery’ is located on the road to Glendalough from Dublin south in the stunning Wicklow Mountains. The distillery was established in 2011 by five drink industry experts and friends from Dublin and Wicklow, whose aim was to recapture Ireland’s lost heritage of great spirits’ production and create new, exciting and contemporary brands. And it’s a success because they have already won several awards and recognitions.
The craft distillery places the origins of the Glendalough brand and the history of distillation, at the time of the Irish monasteries in the 6th century and choose monk St. Kevin, also known as the famous Kevin of Glendalough, as an emblem to features on the bottle.
Since 2011, Glendalough Distillery has focused on providing a range of new, innovative and greater variety of Irish spirit bottling. After producing their first ever spirit, Poitín in 2012, the brand has moved to the releases of award-winning whiskeys. These casks are sourced from Cooley, and they have partnered up with West Cork Distillers while their own spirit is still maturing. In 2014, the brand also released their seasonal, wild botanical gins.
Glendalough Poitíns range now includes a triptych of spirits with their own different characteristics, challenging the nature of the traditional spirit.
Glendalough Poitin was the first of the Glendalough range. This small-batch distilled was produced in the traditional way, carefully crafted from an old poitín recipe with respect to craft, heritage and tradition. Unusually for a poitín, this has been aged for a short period in virgin Irish oak casks.
This double-distilled poitín is mainly made from malted barley with an additional secret ingredient: sugar beet! The maturation in virgin Irish oak casks has not had an effect on its colour but has added a nice extra flavour touch.
Nose: Gentle on the nose with malted barley and toast notes.
Palate: Smooth and complex to taste. This is one of the fuller flavoured Poitins that we stock. There are hints of black, cracked pepper, some dried fruits and touches of vanilla and toasty oak.
Finish: A good warm length of finish with sweet notes of dried fruits and berries and slight salty taste.
It’s one of our favourite poitíns. The mountain strength is powerful, zesty and refreshing.
The same malted barley and sugar beet ingredients than for the original Glendalough Poitín are used. It is though bottled at a generous 60% cask strength.
Nose: Slight in nature and might fool you. If you didn’t know better you might sense a faint Riesling fragrance, no less. Oak, berried fruit, gooseberries and blackcurrants are in there. Of course, Mountain Strengh holds true with a strong, promising, heady aroma that comes with the extra alcohol strength.
Palate: The taste is creamy and mellow in the mouth with a trace of lychees. Hints of cracked black pepper, some dried fruits and touches of vanilla, toasty oak and barley. An very unchallenging and full flavoured poitín, considering its strength.
Finish: The finish has good length, it’s lingering and warm and smoothing with a spicier tail along with dried-fruit and berry notes throughout the range.
While, both tradition and Irish laws restricts Poitín maturation in wood to just 10 weeks, Glendalough Distillery, challenged the nature of Poitín and decided to proudly called its expression ‘Sherry Cask Finish’.
Glendalough Sherry Cask Finish is a double distilled made from both malted barley and sugar beet. The Glendalough Sherry finish is matured first in virgin Irish oak casks then transferred into Sherry casks for a final finishing, giving an unusual colouration and sherry character to its Poitín.
Nose: The nose is slight in nature and might fool you. If you didn’t know better you might sense a faint Riesling fragrance, no less. A blueberry wine sweetness, and almost a zest of orange peel. A good, heady aroma.
Palate: The taste is thick and hangs on the middle of the tongue with touch of dried apricots. There’s still touch of cracked pepper, vanilla and toasty oak. A very full flavoured poitín that goesdown nicely.
Finish: The finish has good length, sweet with a touch of saltiness that stays with you. It’s a warming finish with vanilla and berry fruit that lasts. Sherry finish ads touches of honey and raisin.
This release from the Teeling Distillery marks the first new release of spirits from a Dublin distillery in over 125 years we can only celebrate.
No doubt that working in the distilling business is in the veins in the Teeling family. While John Teeling founded the hugely successful Cooley Distillery in Dundalk in 1987 - that he oversaw the sale of to Jim Beam in 2011 for over €70 million – and is planning to transform the former Harp Lager brewery into The Great Northern Distillery, one of the biggest whiskey distillery in the country; his sons are following as much of a successful path in the whiskey industry.
Teeling Distillery founded by the two Teeling brothers in an ancient market square called Newmarket is the first Dublin working distillery in over 125 years and was quickly a popular phenomenon. With Jack Teeling at the head of the new Teeling Whiskey Company and Stephen Teeling at the head of its marketing, Teeling Whiskey Distillery won Irish Whiskey Attraction of the year at Icons of Whisky only one year after its opening and three awards for its whiskies at World Whiskies Awards 2016.
The company’s philosophy is to bring back distilling back to Dublin where Walter Teeling had a craft distillery on Marrowbone Lane in the 18th century and revive the traditional distilling style of Dublin whiskey distillation, they like to call the ‘Spirit of Dublin’. The three copper pot stills –provided by former Kilbeggan distiller, Alex Chasko - distillery is located right back where Teelings started in 1782 in the heart of the Liberties of Dublin that used to be associated with a tradition of distilling and brewing. With a location only a stone’s throw away from where Walter Teeling had its old distillery, the family has also return to its ancestral distilling home.
The Liberties area was the epicentre of distilling in Dublin during Irish whiskey’s golden era. George Roe’s Thomas Street operation and William Jameson & Co’s Marrowbone Lane were at one stage the two biggest distilleries in the capital, with the John Power & Son’s John’s Lane Distillery not far behind. Between them, they occupied over 36 acres of the bustling area outside the old city walls. By the 1920s, the first two had disappeared, with Power’s bowing out and moving to Cork in the 1970s.
For around 40 years, not a drop of whiskey was distilled near the banks of the River Liffey, until Stephen and Jack Teeling woke the Spirit of Dublin on Newmarket Square.
You can read about our exclusive visit of the Distillery before its opening on our blog.
The first Teeling Poitin was produced under the name ‘Teeling Whiskey Company Poitin’. It is a 61.5% blend of of 80% triple-distilled corn spirit, and 20% double-distilled malt sourced by the Cooley Distillery since Teeling Distillery only started producing spirit on March 2015. ‘Spirit of Dublin’ Premium Irish Poitín, is first spirit exclusively produced in the new Teeling Distillery.
This is essentially and unaged single pot still whiskey. It is made from a 50/50 mix of unmalted and malted barley which is fermented and then distilled three times in the Teeling's three copper pot stills.
Nose (without water): Cooked barley, honey, fresh batch bread, fruits of the forest.
Palate (without water): Smooth rich fruit and cereal mixing with spice as it covers the tongue.
Finish: Soft and delicate finishing dry.