Poteen (poitín) is still made in many parts of Ireland using the same methods as in a hundred years ago. The big difference is in the use of bottled gas which replaced the turf fires. This has made detection by the Guardia and police much more difficult, but they do locate the stills from time to time.
Patricia McSorley begins her “expose” of Poitín making by quoting one of the workers, ‘The frist thing you do – you get yeast that you make loaves out of. That’s where you start off from - and it’s not easy getting that neither. Then you get yer oats and yer sugar. (You have to space very asey in this job.) And you warm the water. And you steep it. You have to keep it at a sartin temperature for two weeks.
‘Well, then when it’s warmin’ – it fizzes. It’s the same thing making whiskey in the distillery – it all goes through pipes. Well you must have it right fermented and well done, de you see, in this barrel and have it about sixteen days in it. Well the way you do it, you put on yer barrel on the fire and it goes into steam. Well then you have another barrel here. There’s a pipe – the worm – boring right down through it and it goes out at the bottom in a wee wee strame – the thickness of a pencil blade or half as thick – and it just deepen’ all the time.
‘And you run it and then you run it a second time – ah good stuff, good stuff. But it was there now in gallons I wouldn’t drink it – not at all. That’s when we were young lads.
And then there were the close shaves with the police when a native of Cormore recalls, ‘I mind the time I was at a dance in Newtownsaville and I had a bottle of poitín. It was in April. Didn’t I slip the bottle intil a gap down below and says I, ‘I’ll get that when I com back again’.
Be God when I come back to luck for it was changed. And Jaysus there was six policemen gathered on every side of me. They got a hoult of me anyway. And I took fear when I went home and then I went to Scotland over the head of it – ah, I was tremblin’ with fear.
I came home again anyway and me and the fellah that was with me was summonised for Clogher. And me father – God be with him – he went to Major Stuart over the head of this crack. I went to Clogher and I was found two pounds and a shilling of costs.
And there was a boy the same day found – oh, there was a quare questioning about it – he had a dog out wanderin’. And there he was found six pounds for a wanderin’ dog. And this was what was brought up: ‘how did yer man from Cormore get aff so saft.”
It seems that the judiciary in some cases looked on poitín making more benignly than police would have liked.
I seen me in a wee bit of trouble one time. And the R.M. asked me ‘were you ever in court afore?’
Says I, “I was up for poitin, if you want to know.’
‘A good man’s case’ says he.
Ah, there is more to come…
1 post • Page 1 of 1