Malt Mileage Rating: ★★★★
Type: Single malt
Origin: Islay, Scotland
Aged: 8 years
Type: New make spirit
Price: $A50 (Aus)
Poitin is Irish “homemade” spirit which, despite being illegal in Ireland from the 1760 until 1997, has a firm position in Irish folklore, art and culture. People in Ireland were known to have distilled wash made from malted barley, thereby making Poitin, in rural areas of Ireland to avoid detection from law enforcement. Despite its potency and alcoholic strength, or perhaps because of it, Poitin became very popular in Ireland though its quality was variable and this is responsible for its infamous reputation. Now that Poitin is legal again, it can be regulated such that good quality spirit can be made. One company taking up the old Irish art of moonshining is Teeling. Teeling’s Poitin is comprised of 80% triple distilled corn spirit and 20% double distilled malt spirit.
Licorice, sourdough, olive bread, cherry stones, fresh mint, peaches in syrup and lovely sweet ethanol sting the nostrils, and underlying notes of wet dog fur and damp cardboard often associated with the tails of a distillation run are particularly prominent when water is added to the spirit. This is beautiful new make, ripe for the barrel, but whether it is ripe for bottling is an entirely different question.
On the palate the spirit is sweet and fruity with soft summer stone fruit, season-all, and powerful citrus peel, as ethanol burns at mid-palate then recedes into the finish.
The finish is sugary with hints of anise seed, rose Turkish delight and – curiously – garlic/onion powder.
Consider it, if you want to know what excellent Irish new make tastes like (albeit mostly corn spirit). For those looking for every day drinking whiskey, stay away – this is what whiskey tastes like before it is placed in oak barrels to mature so don’t expect any oak driven flavours, just sweet ethanol with some tasty congeners distilled from the hop-less (not hopeless) beer people in the whiskey industry like to call a “wash”. Poitin is essentially vodka, but because it has not been “polished” by either distilling it more or running it through charcoal filters it retains flavours from the “wash” (though many vodka producers now do not “polish” their product). I am torn. This is a great new make, but it belongs in a barrel not a bottle. It strikes me as more of a novelty, that something people used to drink when it was difficult or too costly to source properly matured whiskey. I dislike the taste of new make in mixed drinks or cocktails because of its pungent aroma, though this spirit seems sweet and smooth enough to integrate in some mixed drinks if the new make taste is what you are after. For most people, vodka – Belvedere, even Skyy – might be the more sensible option. Proceed with care, only if you know what new make tastes like and you enjoy the taste.