Poitín is a traditional Irish distilled beverage. Poitín was traditionally distilled in a small pot still and the term is a diminutive of the Irish word pota, meaning “pot”. It is traditionally distilled from malted barley, grain, treacle, sugar beet, potatoes or whey. In 1661 a law was passed that meant all distillers must now pay tax on spirits produced for private consumption. Due to lack of adherence to the law, a further bill was passed in 1760 to make it illegal to operate a still without a license. Poitín was generally produced in remote rural areas, away from the interference of the law.
“While Teigue was absent, I asked my friend who he was? — Why, says he, that is one of the most comfortable and independent fellows in all this mountain district — he exerts a muscular and moral influence over the people; he has a great deal of sense, a great deal of determination; a constant view to his own interest; and luckily he considers that interest best promoted, by keeping the country in peace. Those that fall out he beats into good humour, and when the weight of his argument cannot prevail, the weight of his fist enforces compliance with his wishes. Then he is the patron of illicit distillation — he is co-partner in the adventure, and is the watchful guardian over its process; there is not a movement of a guager that he does not make himself acquainted with; there is not a detachment leaves a village or town that he has not under watch, and before a policeman or a red coat, comes within three miles of these waters, all would be prepared for them; still and worm sunk, malt buried, barrels and coolers disposed of, and the boat scuttled. There is not a man in Ireland lives better in his own way than Teigue: his chests are full of meal, the roof of his kitchen is festooned with bacon, his byre is full of cows, his sheep range on a hundred hills: as a countryman said to me the other day, “Teigue O’Gallagher is the only man of his sort in Donegal that eats white bread, toasted, buttered, and washed down with tea for his breakfast.”
Photo: Get that into ye… Photo credit: Denis Donovan