The oldest spirit you’ve never heard of

Poitín is the unaged country cousin of Irish whiskey.

By Rebekah Bell 28/10/2018

Believed to be the oldest spirit in the world, poitín (pronounced put-cheen in English) has been handmade in Ireland since the sixth century. Long before the advent of whiskey, the rural moonshine was crafted by Irish monks who learned the art of distillation from Moorish scholars. Made out of everything from grain to potatoes (this is Ireland, after all), the clear, potent drink was typically distilled in a small pot out to a whopping 120 to 180 proof.

Although unlicensed distillation was officially banned in the country for more than 300 years from 1661 to 1997, poitín continued to be secretly distilled by expert craftsmen and townspeople (this is Ireland, after all). In the 1990s, the Irish government overturned the law that banned its production and sale and gave poitín a geographic indicator that protects the category in the same way that Irish whiskey and Irish cream is governed.

Today, the spirit is gaining popularity in the Emerald Isle and abroad—and Irish distiller Mad March Hare is leading the charge with Mad March Hare Premium Irish Poitín. Based in West Cork, Mad March Hare uses malted barley grown in the region and distills the spirit in small copper pot stills, much in the same way it was made centuries ago. It’s distilled at 80 proof (a much lower proof than some of those homemade versions) to give it a smooth flavour that works especially well in cocktails. Though poitín has a truly distinct flavor that is difficult to categorize, it’s perhaps closest to an unaged whiskey. It can be substituted for almost every spirit, from vodka to tequila.

On the nose, this poitín has notes of malt, coconut, and baked apple. Silky and smooth, it tastes of dried fruits, French toast, and vanilla. Hints of honey, malt, and toasted almonds linger on the long finish.

ADVERTISE WITH US

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

‘Don’t Film Any Soldiers, They May Shoot Us’: Inside Ukraine’s Secret Battle To Save Its Art

Art critic Waldemar Januszczak reports on the country’s astonishing mission to stop the destruction of its artistic treasures.

By Waldemar Januszczak For The Times

22/04/2022

Forgotten Macallan Whisky Cask Could Break Auction Records

The owner purchased it over 30 years ago on a whim.

By Rachel Cormack

22/04/2022

A Jackson Pollock ‘Drip’ Painting Is Expected to Fetch $60 Million

‘Number 31’ (1949) will hit the block during an evening sale at Christie’s in New York on May 12.

By Angelica Villa

21/04/2022

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Art And Personal Mementos Head To Auction

The Potomack Company is selling items from the late Supreme Court justice’s DC apartment, including a Picasso engraving, a medal and more.

By Bryan Hood

19/04/2022

Robb Interview: Daniel Ricciardo

We sit down to dissect the weekend that was, TV’s influence on F1 and why his work with St Hugo wines could ultimately assist his dad.

By Richard Clune

12/04/2022

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe to Robb Report today!

Subscribe today

Stay Connected