Poitin, the highly alcoholic pot-stilled liquor that was illegal to produce in Ireland until 1997, is the newest release from leading Irish whisky maker Cooley Distillery.
Cooley's version of Irish moonshine is now available only at a Dublin liquor store and the Dublin airport, but a representative pouring the brand's better-known whiskies at this weekend's Whisky Festival in Victoria said the distillery hopes to expand distribution to the U.S.
"We hope to revive the Poitín as a national product," distillery managing director Jack Teeling said in a release announcing the "Origin Series." "We want to bring Poitín out from the shadows and let Irish people have a national white spirit they can be proud of."
Traditionally distilled from malted barley or potatoes, poitin -- along with other homemade liquors -- was outlawed by Ireland in 1661. Many rural dwellers bucked the law, whether out of rebellion, cultural habit or economic circumstance; horror stories culminating in blindness or death were commonly traded by the drink's detractors.
Two small distilleries have produced legal poitin since the ban was lifted, but Cooley -- the nation's only independently-owned distillery -- is the first established operation to tinker with the category. Cooley's poitin is triple distilled from malted and unmalted barley in a traditional pot still. The unaged spirit is bottled at 65 percent alcohol by volume.
Teeling is confident his company can overcome the perception that poitin is dangerous. He points to the popularity of absinthe, which also spent many years as a pariah from the legal liquor cabinet.
"Over the years, (poitin) has been demonized because it was illegally produced and the end product lacked consistency, quality and credibility," Teeling says. "We have produced a quality Poitín product."