By Richard Thomas
In Ireland, poitin has the same meaning as moonshine in the United States, and just as there are those who say moonshine isn’t exactly whiskey, some say poitin isn’t exactly whiskey either. Despite all that, in the United States a throng of small distillers have gotten into the business of turning out (legal) moonshine and a variety of other unaged, clear whiskeys. Over in Europe, this nascent appreciation for the clear stuff hasn’t caught on in such a big way, but there is the Teeling Whiskey Company (TWC) and its Poitin.
Teeling’s Poitin is a blend composed of 2/3s corn whiskey and 1/3 malt whiskey. That’s right, you read “corn whiskey” in an article about something from the Emerald Isle. The idea is to mirror Irish whiskey to a certain extent, most of which is also a blend of grain and malt whiskey, albeit in an unaged, new make form. After blending, the whiskey goes straight to the bottle at a hefty 61.5% abv.
The scent is sweet and silky, not at all what you would expect from a newborn spirit packing almost two-thirds alcohol by content. There is a little allspice and fruit cookie there, but overall it’s a clear and uncomplicated nose.
The flavor almost turns the the expectation of a sleek, mellow experience upside down. The taste starts off sweet, with more of those cinnamon and ginger fruit cookie notes. But once you get into it, bam!, down comes a big kick at the end. That sharp, sudden boot in the pants is the sort of thing that really makes the connection, whether it be spiritual or derivative, between moonshine and poitin.
The finish winds out of that kick. It’s long, very warm, and clear. That last part bothers me a bit, because I prefer my clear stuff for summer drinking and usually want to avoid long, warm finishes. That’s where you might see that Poitin is made for people living in temperate Ireland and not the sweltering South.
A bottle of Teeling Poitin costs about £30 or €35 in the online retail websites I’ve seen. This translates into about $45 in the U.S.