Editor’s note: We’re republishing this article from March 2002 because the old copy still gets so much reader traffic.
You might be asking yourself, “o.k.- what is it?” Well, the word poteen is a bit like the word “moonshine” in America. It refers to a small batch, clear spirit that is unaged and carries connotations of the illicit. Indeed, for some time, the Irish Revenue Commissioners, who oversee these matters, forbade companies to call their product poteen because, as one commissioner put it in correspondence with Knockeen Hills,”strong association in the public mind of the term ‘poteen’ with illicitly distilled spirits and the confusion that the use of such terms would give rise to as the duty status of such spirits.” Right.
However, the authorities have relented a bit and now we in America are benefiting. At least two brands of Poteen (some times spelled “poitin,” or “potcheen”) have made their way to The Review’s front door.
We took all samples both up and with a few drops of water.
First up on the menu was Bunratty Potcheen, made by Bunratty Mead & Liqueur Co. Ltd. Of County Clare, ireland. Bunratty is now being imported by A.V. Imports (www.avimports.com). At 90 proof, it is, believe it or not, the mildest of the poteens sampled. The Bunratty, interestingly, had a fruit nose- almost like raspberries. In the mouth, though, it was spirit, melon, and earth. The close was dry, but not parching. Surprisingly smooth and intriguing. (Rating ****)
Knockeen Hills of Waterford, Ireland is handsomely packaged and comes in three strengths: the green is101 proof, the gold is 140 proof, and the black is a hefty 180 proof (for our review of the 140 proof version, please see http://www.AlcoholReviews.com/SPIRITS/knockeen.html).
All three of them are distilled three times and are imported by Bradley Trading Corp (www.bradleytradingcorp.com). The 101 proof version nosed, remarkably, of banana and pear. The 140 proof had a much fainter nose, with perhaps a hint of grain and green olives. The nose of the 180 variant, I dare say, would fool many into thinking it is rum. It’s sugary, and the only other note we could locate was a wee bit of apple.
In the mouth the 101 proof was a pleasure- banana mostly, with a bit of pear. Quite smooth and fruity. (Rating ****1/4) Then came the might black label. Ninety percent alcohol- gracious: drink with caution and keep all flames, including cigarrettes, away! The 180 offered up molasses and caramel and though very dry, it wasn’t scorching hot. In light of the proof, that’s impressive. (Rating ***3/4)
Clearly, there are some excellent possibilities for mixed drinks. Most obviously, wherever one uses vodka, one might just as well use Poteen. Those who enjoy vodka martinis might well substitute Poteen for vodka. One might also make a Mudslide with it (Kahlua, Irish Creme liqueur, creme), Cosmopolitans, and…