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CBiebel
02-16-2010, 01:08 AM
So I noticed in my local liquor store a bottle in the whiskey section labeled "Bunratty Potcheen." It was clear and said "Banned in Ireland! Only legal for export!" It was 90 proof.

I was curious but knowing about how "accurate" they are with their "meade" product, I decided to research this myself.

The main thing I found online was through Wikipedia (which I know can be suspect at times, but in this case it seemed accurate).

It said that it was basically the Irish equivalent of moonshine and it was banned in the 17th century. However, it said that it was legalized in Ireland in 1997. It also said that the ABV was usually "60-95% ABV."

Well, so much for another Bunratty product being accurate...

Dan McFeeley
02-16-2010, 11:49 AM
I found the wikipedia article also and have to agree, an article that mentions "Shane McGowan and the Popes" (real name is The Pogues) might be a bit shaky. ;D

Bunratty doesn't seem to be giving out details of how they are making their poitin product so it's difficult to say what this really is. Sure, you can make any distilled product, put a name on it and call it poitin, doesn't mean this is the same stuff distilled in the hidden places of Ireland. They've already done this with what they call "meade."

In fairness to the folk at Bunratty, they've been making their version of "meade" for a long time, well before the time when people were concerned about what really is or isn't mead. Their product continues to sell and has become identified with Bunratty castle.

Poitin -- it has a long history and is engrained in the culture of Ireland. It was orignally an agricultural product of the land, no different to the Irish mind than, say, brewing ale from barley. The English imposed licensing and taxation in order to raise revenue for various things such as their perpetual wars, and an underground industry was born.

Ironically, the laws imposed on the legal distilleries hampered the quality of the finished product. The Irish could take their time and make a well crafted product which was better than what became known as "parliment whiskey." That also created a demand for Irish poitin, even by people who knew it was illegal to buy it. When a "drop of Inishowen" was served at the Big Houses (protestant landlord estate) everyone knew what it was and no questions were asked.

Poitin making dropped mostly due to two changes -- the Irish were able to win land rights from the English, and the church made the making of poitin a reserved sin, meaning you had to travel all the way to see the bishop in order to obtain forgiveness.

Recipes for poitin varied widely, and you really had to know who you were buying it from. Poitin could be made from anything fermentable, treacle was widely used as the demand picked up, but the real stuff was made from malted barley, grown on Irish fields and hidden away in malting houses. Mashing was a simple process of pouring near boiling water over the newly ground malt flour, then adding yeast. The result, called potale, was then distilled three times to make poitin. It was a custom to throw out the first drawings for the fairies.

For the poor Irish, living on tenemant farms and struggling with crop failures and sometimes poor growing conditions to meet the landlord's rent, the making of poitin was often an important source of revenue.

There are two versions of commercially made poitin in Ireland, reviews of the products are here:

http://www.alcoholreviews.com/SPIRITS/knockeen2.shtml

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crowquill
02-23-2010, 08:20 AM
I found the wikipedia article also and have to agree, an article that mentions "Shane McGowan and the Popes" (real name is The Pogues) might be a bit shaky. ;D


That's legitimate. The Popes was a band Shane formed about 94. They did some good stuff.