Once upon a time, in the rolling hills of rural Ireland, there lived a community of farmers and distillers who had a secret. This secret was a spirit known as Poitín (pronounced Poteen), a potent and flavourful drink that was made from a mash of potatoes, barley, or other grains and distilled in small, illegal stills.
The history of Poitín can be traced back to the 17th century, when the English banned the production of whiskey in Ireland. Despite this, the Irish people continued to make and distill poteen in secret, often in remote locations where the English authorities wouldn't find them. They passed down the traditional methods of making Poitín from generation to generation, and the spirit became an important part of their cultural heritage.
Poitín was more than just a drink to the Irish people. It was a symbol of their independence and a way to preserve their cultural identity in the face of English oppression. They would gather in secret to share stories, sing songs, and enjoy a dram of Poitín. The spirit was often used for special occasions and cultural events, and was considered a true taste of Ireland.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the production of poteen declined as the Irish whiskey industry became more regulated and commercialised. The English authorities began to crack down on illegal stills, and many of the distillers who made poteen were forced to give up their craft. But despite these challenges, the spirit lived on in the hearts and minds of the Irish people, who continued to cherish the memories and traditions associated with Poitín.
Today, Poitín is rare and is not widely produced or sold. However, it remains an important part of Ireland's cultural heritage, and is still made by some distillers for special occasions and cultural events. Whenever people gather to share stories, sing songs, and enjoy a dram of Poitín, they are carrying on a tradition that has been passed down for centuries, and that will continue for generations to come.
Photo: A Poitín still seizure, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan c.1920