We are proud to host one of the finest selections of Irish poitín available in London here at The Sun Tavern, Bethnal Green.
Poitín has a rich and colourful history, and has had a fair struggle to get on our shelves – be it down to heavy taxation or legality – but that’s just one reason why we admire it so much. We’re happy to host a spirit that captures the rebelliousness of the souls who made it what it is.
The term poitín has gaelic roots; stemming from the gaelic word ‘pota’ referring to small copper pot, which is still used to produce the liquid. The poitín maker was a very skilled and valued member of the community with production being once as common as raising livestock.
Poitín is a clear Irish spirit and earned a reputation for it’s high strength, which ranges between 40-90%. It’s distilled from grain, maize, sugar beets or potatoes and hosts an illicit past. Staying off the radar, at least legally, for centuries explains why this premium spirit is so underexposed.
Along with Irish whiskey, poitín began to be heavily taxed in 1661 to fuel British military ventures. This provoked a load of distilleries shutting down and lots of bootlegging, particularly with poitín. Many distillers weren’t going to simply accept the taxing and took to the hills to continue production, legally or otherwise – proving the drink to be the ‘people’s spirit.’
The poitín makers would often produce the potent spirit in broken, windy weather to disperse smoke from authorities and also on land borders in order to confuse ownership of the plot. However, as with anything illegal, the way was paved for the wrong people to get involved in production, people who prioritised finance over quality.
Despite stills being seized, informants being tortured and families being framed, production continued until 1997, when persistence paid off and it was finally legalized. Stepping the right side of the law has helped to refine standards and ultimately secured a higher quality beverage.