WHAT IS poitín?
Pronounced “potcheen,” the ancient Irish spirit poitín is Irish whiskey's long-lost cousin. Like whiskey, poitín's main raw material is malted barley, though sometimes producers will add other ingredients such as potatoes or sugar beet. The distillation process is also almost identical.
The resulting drink is not a million miles from a white whiskey or what bourbon producers in the U.S. would call "white dog". To distinguish poitín from whiskey, it can only be aged for a maximum of ten weeks whereas whiskies will be matured for several years.
Like all spirits when they first come off a still, poitín is white in colour. The brown hues familiar in whiskies come from chemicals removed from the wood barrels during ageing.
Poitín, whose name refers to the small pot still in which the drink was traditionally made in rural Ireland, has been produced for many centuries. The British outlawed the drink in 1661, a time when they ruled Ireland, because its makers refused to pay duty on the spirit. This pushed poitín production underground and nearly killed it off entirely. The ban was only lifted 336 years later, in 1997, since when it has been having a slow but steady revival.