I’m not sure if it will be the “next big thing,” but if you haven’t heard of poitin already, prepare yourself for it. What’s poitin? It’s an Irish spirit distilled from potatoes and/or barley, heavy on the alcohol, dating back hundreds of years. Not quite a vodka and not quite a white whiskey, it occupies a curious position of serving as Ireland’s answer to American moonshine. (Or, more correctly, moonshine is the answer to poitin.)
Real poitin is no longer made in Ireland or anywhere else (current bottlings are lower proof vodka substitutes), but that’s about to change. First out the gate is 1512 Spirits, whose unaged Barbershop Rye is a cult phenomenon, made in Rohnert Park by the inimitable Sal Cimino.
Made of 95% potato and 5% barley, the spirit is bottled at 104 proof and is available only at two retail outlets (Cask in SF, Bar Keeper in LA). A handful of California bars are pouring it.
The Poitin is intense and powerful. It fills the room when you pour it. If you’re familiar with unaged whiskeys, you’ll find this surprisingly similar, even though it’s mostly potato-based. Describing poitin, one finds they quickly run out of appropriate adjectives to use. It is seriously funky, filled with a raw grain-like character (and presumably lots of potato) that almost tastes like unadulterated, ultra-thick oatmeal. There’s a spicy element that’s hard to quantify, and a lightly sweet finish that offers a merciful respite from this overwhelming oddity.
White whiskey is one thing, but if poitin is going to become a trend, you better get your taste buds in order. Good luck.
104 proof. Batch #1, bottle #85 reviewed.
B / $39 (375ml) / 1512spirits.com