Who's this handsome fella with the exotic name? To mark St. Patrick’s Day, for March we've selected Bán Poitín, a modern take on a traditional Irish spirit with a lively past. Pronounced “bawn potcheen,” this unaged white liquor is made from barley and potatoes grown on the Echlinville estate, as well as sugar beet molasses. The production process is very similar to whiskey’s: fermentation followed by double distillation in copper whiskey stills, with blending taking place at the end.
Poitín derives its name from the small pot still in which it was traditionally heated in remote, rural homes. The ruling British outlawed the drink in 1661 because its makers refused to pay a spirit tax. After the ban, poitín production became even more confined to the most rural areas of Ireland. This almost-mystical home-made moonshine was shared only among family and friends, usually concealed in a hip flask. The ban was only lifted 336 years later in 1997. Yes, that 1997.
Bán was created by Dave Mulligan, a bartender by trade who felt the poitín brands available post-1997 lacked the passion and reverance commensurate with such an important part of Irish culture and heritage. Keen to create a superb-tasting poitín he could proudly share with the rest of the world, Dave teamed up with the Echlinville Distillery in County Down after experimenting and blending distillates in his North London bar. The word Bán literally means “white” in Irish and describes the clear colour of the drink. It’s also a nod to the ban on production imposed for over three centuries.
Sipping Liquor subscribers also received a bottle of another Irish beverage — Poacher’s Classic Tonic Water — with which to mix their poitín should they so wish. Poacher’s is made with spring water from County Wexford and has a very low sugar content which allows the spirit’s flavour to to shine. Meanwhile, the high natural quinine levels give it a serious robustness and attitude. It also has a very light sprinkling of Irish thyme which brings a subtle depth to the liquid.