Brendan Carty, a talented craft distiller, is on a quest to raise global knowledge and increase sales of poitin; the fabled Irish white spirit that has been outlawed for decades.
He is the founder of Killowen Craft Distillery, a prominent whiskey, gin, and rum maker nestled in the renowned Mourne Mountains. It’s a stunning location that overlooks the gorgeous Carlingford Lough and near Rostrevor on the south coast.
Brendan just declared 2022 as the year of poitin and announced it by producing the oddly named Stone Soup, a unique and premium quality poitin. He is on a mission to boost sales of the once-notorious spirit.
For many years poitin could only be produced illicitly in the countryside.
Brendan works as an architect and designed and built much of the small distillery himself. He opted for a classic copper pot still technique for his first gin and rum offerings; subsequently establishing an enviable reputation among worldwide whiskey connoisseurs for his small-batch
whiskeys. Finished in one-of-a-kind casks at the distillery he is now anticipating the release of his first whiskey made on-site.
Poitin, he believes, has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Irish whiskey leaders like Old Bushmills in worldwide markets.
They have a goal of revolutionizing poitin and people’s perceptions of it. They have a lot of intriguing upcoming releases like the new Stone Soup.
From 1661, distilling poitin was prohibited in Ireland because the Dublin authority found it impossible to tax properly.
As a result, they chose to completely ban it, further driving it underground.
Whiskey was handled in a different way. In 1608, King James I granted Sir Thomas Phillips, a significant landowner in Co Antrim, a royal license to distil whiskey. It became the first legal distillery in Ireland, right before poitin, a much older liquor, was outlawed.
Many Scotch Irish emigrants brought various poitin recipes to America, where they were utilized to make moonshine. This eventually influenced the manufacture of bourbon by distilleries in the highlands of Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
The prohibition on poitn was lifted on March 7, 1997, in the Republic of Ireland for licensed distilleries. In 2008, the spirit was granted EU protection, and since then, it has only been made in Ireland. Irish whiskey bears a similar moniker.
There are two additional licensed makers of poitin in the area, in addition to Killowen; Warrenpoint’s Mourne Dew, which has won international honors for the spirit, and Echlinville near Kircubbin, which produces Ban. All three have full distillation licenses for alcohol like whiskey.
Poitin has now shed its stigma as illegal moonshine and is now available at supermarkets in the UK.
Off-licenses, pubs and bars across the country also stock it where it is gaining popularity among a new generation of drinkers, particularly for cocktails.
Poitin, according to Brendan, should be considered a small batch premium spirit rather than a whiskey. Killowen is made from the finest ingredients, including turfed malted barley, unmalted barley, turfed malted oats, malted wheat, and malted rye.
He notes that the distillery’s eccentric Stone Soup brand can be traced back generations to an established folk story about sharing meals in Eastern Europe. The moral of the story is about the importance of sharing food and drink.
It recounts the story of two types of people; a strong influential individual who is cut off from the rest of the world and finds himself unable to feed himself. The one day a regular everyday person chooses to cook him a delicious cup of soup using very basic ingredients.
The bottling in Killowen was inspired by the same disconnection that exists with some spirits. Poitn must be stored for no more than 10 weeks to comply with legislation. Also no mention of barrels, maturation, or age on the label, appearance, promotion, or packaging material is permitted.
As with any creative job, such as architecture or distilling, a multitude of constraints can actually aid in bringing out the best ideas. In terms of innovation, flavor, and premium quality, Brendan believes his poitin is unquestionably among the best.