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Poteen.

 

The two gentlemen below are engaged in distilling Poteen, an activity the origins of which are lost in the mists of time. It was only after the government realized that taxing it would be a valuable source of revenue, that the practice was driven underground, prior to that almost everyone in the country was engaged in the activity in one way or another.

No doubt the skill was taken across the Atlantic, and is still practiced in places such as the Appellation mountains in USA, as thousands of Irish men and women sought a better way of life far from their native land

The word whiskey is derived from the Irish uisce beatha which means 'the water of life'. In the year 1608 King James I of England granted a distillation license to Sir Thomas Phillips. The distillery at Bushmills Co Antrim claims to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world. It is still possible to lay your hands on a bottle of the 'crater' as it is sometimes called, but you have to be trusted, the revenue men on both sides of the border still pursue the elicit brewers as diligently as ever. It is often said that many of the men engaged in the trade only became proficient after spending a little time as reluctant guests of the government.

Smuggling was once very prevalent in many parts of Ireland, the Mourne coast of County Down was one, French wine, brandy and tobacco, would be landed at secluded places along the coast and taken across the mountains by horse train, along the aptly names 'Brandy Pad' to Hilltown.

It seems likely that early whisky distillation began in Ireland in the 11th or 12th centuries, crossing quickly via Islay and the Campbeltown peninsula to Scotland. The first written reference to whisky dates from 1494, when the Scottish Exchequer Rolls record “Eight bols [6,577 kg/14,500 lb] of malt to Friar John Cor, wherewith to make aqua vitae [water of life]”.