Poitín Production & use (part2)

Poitín was generally produced in remote rural areas, away from the interference of the law. A wash had to be created and fermented before the distillation began. A wash required fresh water, potatoes, sugar and some yeast. Stills were often set up on land boundaries so the issue of ownership could be disputed. Prior to the introduction of bottled gas, the fire to heat the wash was provided by turf. Smoke was a giveaway for the Gardaí (Irish Police) so windy, broken weather was chosen to disperse the smoke. The still had to be heated and attended to for several days to allow the runs to go through. In later years the heat was provided by gas and this reduced the chances of being discovered while distilling.

The quality of poitín was highly variable, depending on the skill of the distiller and the quality of his equipment. If poorly produced it can contain dangerous amounts of methanol and can blind or kill. Poitín is currently made in Wales by the Celtic Spirit Company, which claims that it was produced throughout the Celtic lands.

Producing poitín was a source of income for some, while for some it was produced in order to have a cheap alcoholic drink. Poitín was popular at weddings and wakes and a large supply was at hand. Farmers often used it (and still do) as a cure for sick calves and other farm animals as well as a method of curing muscle cramp/problems. While not used as widely as it used to be, poitín is still available. It was not uncommon for communities to leave the distilling of poitín to widows, in order to grant them a source of income. Poitín is also used in the midlands of Ireland as an alternative for deep heat, it is commonly rubbed onto muscles to warm them.

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