Poitín certainly is one of the lesser-known spirits out there. After its ban in 1661, it took until 1997 to be legalized again. If you are interested in the history of Poitín, you can read this article that sheds some light on the Irish Moonshine.
The different ways to spell the name can be confusing. The traditional name Poitín is the most common, but the modern and anglicized version, Poteen, is on the rise. And don't be surprised if you come across the spellings Potheen or Potcheen on some labels. All of them are variations of the same thing. The juice inside is all from the same category.
Poitín is known for its potency. It legally needs to contain at least 40% ABV, but plenty of products exceed this limit by far. Some bottles contain 90% ABV and more. If you encounter such a high ABV, better dilute it with some fresh and cold water when you sip it.
The clear and transparent spirit plays a vital role in Ireland's history. It has a strong heritage, and since the lift of the ban, it thrives to become another important spirit from the green Island beside Irish Whiskey.
Of course, the recent rise of Poitín begins in Ireland. But lately, more and more distilleries also sell outside the country. With the growing number of distilleries embracing the spirit again, there is already quite some competition on the market. To help you find the best expressions of Poitín, we put together a list of the best Poitíns you can buy right now.
1. Teeling's Spirit of Dublin - 52.5% ABV
If you're into Irish Whiskey, chances are, you have heard of Teeling Whiskey before. The relatively young brand opened its first distillery in Dublin in 125 years. That was back in 2015, and since then, the brand quickly gained an excellent reputation for producing high-quality Whiskey.
For their triple-distilled Poitín expression, Teeling uses a mix of malted and unmalted barley. The result is a smooth and sweet spirit with a creamy finish. The flavor profile isn't too complex and with only little fruity notes. But its mild character makes it an excellent choice for everyone new to Poitín.
2. Bán Poitín - 48% ABV
When Dave Mulligan founded Bán Poitin in 2012, he did it for passion for the long-forgotten spirit. His distillate is made of potatoes, malted barley, and sugar beet. But Mulligan admitted this passion quickly turned into an obsession, and he is determined to "bring this epic piece of Irish culture" into the modern world.
And I have to say he is successful in what he does. Bán Poitín is complex in taste with notes of greens, sweetness, and a spicy kick from pepper notes. In combination with a very soft mouthfeel, this is another spirit that's perfect for beginners.
3. Glendalough Mountain Strength Poitín - 60% ABV
Glendalough is another renowned distillery that decided to breathe new life into the ancient spirit. It's a prime example of craft distilling in Ireland and produced some fantastic Irish Whiskey and noteworthy Gin.
And Glendalough did not approach the Poitin production half-heartedly. They released three expressions at once. Besides a standard Poitín of 40% ABV, they also launched a Sherry cask finished version, and the Mountain Strength Poitín, containing 60%. And apparently, the Mountain Strength expression isn't just my personal favorite but the general favorite as Glendalough decided to discontinue the other two versions.
The base for their Poitín is a combination of malted barley and sugar beet. And despite its high ABV of 60%, the nose is super soft and buttery with hints of vanilla and fruity notes. Also, when sipping, the spirit is not overly aggressive. It's strong, and you can feel a burn from the alcohol at the end, but you can also taste flavors like wood, fruit, and hints of grape and blackcurrant.
4. Mad March Hare Irish Poitín - 40% ABV
Mad March Hare produces an authentic Irish Poitín of relatively low ABV. With just 40%, it is as low as it gets legally. And made from 100% malted barley, it's definitely on the sweet side, especially in combination with the low amount of alcohol.
If you judge by the smell, you won't realize that this spirit is only 80 proof. It has this typical alcoholic smell of Poitín with fruity and grassy notes. On the palate, it is a lot softer and super sweet. The aroma of sweet corn and cereal gets complemented nicely by notes of fruits and citrus.
5. Knockeen Hills Irish Poteen Gold Extra-Strength - 90% ABV
This Poitín expression clocks in at 90% ABV. Knockeen Hills is producing its Poteen since 1996. Hence, they had to wait for the lifting of the ban to be able to sell their spirit legally. That already indicates how much Knockeen Hills is into their Poteen. Over the years, the brand collected over 15 Gold and Silver medals from the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC).
And their Gold Strength expression is one funky Poitín. You probably want to water it down a bit after trying the first drop neatly. The dilution helps the spirit unfold the complex flavors and aromas. Grains, malt, chocolate, raisins, pear - there are countless aromas and flavors to detect and enjoy. The high ABV makes for a boozy and warming experience that's truly unique.
To water it down, add water slowly until you reach the perfect balance for you. And don't be afraid to go as far as 50/50.
6. Micil Irish Poitín - 44% ABV
Made from Irish grain and flavored with bogbean plants, this spirit from Galway is a very earthy expression. Master distiller Pádraic Ó Griallais is in charge of this Poitín, commercially produced since 2016.
The first sip is quite sour and peppery. What follows are sweet honey notes and hints of ripe bananas. And Micil's expression works brilliantly in cocktails. Try it, for example, in a sour or a Poitín Bee's Knees.
7. John O’ Connell’s Small Batch Poitín - 72% ABV
Our last recommendation originates in Cork. For its base, the small-batch spirit used a mix of barley and sugar beet. The resulting Poitín is more on the strong side and clocks in at 72%. And this high ABV elevates the complexity of the spirit. The smell is full of bready notes and carries hints of biscuit.
The taste is surprisingly sweet for the high amount of alcohol. The flavors in this spirit are complex, and it definitely has some heat to it. But it's still great for sipping. However, if it should be too strong for you, dilute this Poitín with a splash of water.