Until last week, I’d never met Irish poteen. Which makes sense, considering it’s only recently been legalized in Ireland. And I live in America. This spirit, that the Irish have been distilling for centuries, has only been available for commercial purchase in Ireland for fifteen years. Which may seem like a while, but in the world of spirits, it’s nothing. It’s like poteen just finished serving a hefty prison sentence and joined the outside world. Which, after drinking it, seems fitting.
The first thing you need to know about Knockeen Hills’ Irish Poteen is the first thing I didn’t know before taking a big swig — it’s 90 percent alcohol by volume. That’s 180 proof. Which is about 10 less than your average college punch-spiking Everclear. It’s a sipping whiskey, so long as you only mean one sip. So if you’ve ever wanted to get your hands on a bottle of Irish moonshine without those pesky legal troubles and methanol blindness, look no further. Here it is. (For the record, Knockeen Hills also makes a 120 and 140 proof spirit. Which we brazenly ignored.)
This stuff is wild, and a little bit goes a long way. On the nose, Knockeen Hills Poteen Irish whey distillate is rich, sweet, malty and floral, with hints of melon and citrus. It’s really flavorful, and also quite potent. Sipped straight, these bold aromas nearly disappear into heat and a sensation I can best describe as ethereal. I think I absorbed as much poteen through osmosis as I actually swallowed, and I quickly learned why Knockeen Hills expressly discourages shooting their product. So for round two, I tried cutting that poteen with a nice dose of water. The bouquet remained, and I was able to enjoy it more leisurely. And for one last experiment, I combined a half ounce of poteen with juiced nectarines and lemons. The poteen was mostly neutralized by the fresh fruit and citrus, but it got the job done.
So what does all this mean to the cocktail enthusiast? Well, poteen could be treated like absinthe, prepared with a helping of water and sugar. Or it could be used sparingly in boisterous long drinks. But more than either option, I can’t wait to use poteen to make some potable bitters. But hey, whatever your bent, poteen is pure potential, so get out there and mix. Just remember: 180 proof.
– 90% ABV
– $70-$80 (prices vary per availability and alcohol content)
CE Rating: ★★★