The spirit of Ireland: Poitín is on the rise again, and now it’s legit

The makers of Micil are rehabilitating poitín as a noble, complex and unique spirit

Jimín and Pádraic Ó Griallais of Micil

Jimín and Pádraic Ó Griallais of Micil

 

Micil is the initiative of Pádraic Ó Griallais, Jimín Ó Griallais and Ross Tobin. They are part of a small group of people (including Dave Mulligan in Bar 1661 in Dublin 7), who believe that poitín deserves far greater recognition as the true original Irish spirit.

While it may have had a poor reputation in recent times, they argue that it is a noble, complex and unique spirit. Banned for more than 200 years (until 1997), poitín has now been granted IGP (indication géographique protégée, protected geographical indicatio) status by the EU, which means it can only be produced on this island. Micil also produces gin and whiskey.

Distilling has been in the family for six generations, starting with Pádraic’s great-great-great grandfather, Micil Mac Chearra. “My ancestors never gave it up,” Pádraic says. “They never let it die, but we are the first in our family to distil legitimately. My great-grandfather, who passed away last September was the last to do it the old way. We learnt the stories from him. It was incredible to have a guy with such a wealth of wisdom. He was a seanchaí and widely known in the Irish-speaking community.”

The Micil poitín is distilled with barley and bogbean, a local Connemara botanical that gives it a unique rich spiciness and a smooth, velvety finish. The gin is their best-seller, made from wild flowers and herbs hand-picked in Connemara. Last month they distilled their first whiskey, the first in Galway for 150 years, in a city that once boasted many distilleries. They have plans to release two whiskies this summer, finished in a mix of different casks. There will also be a Poitín Irish Cream Liqueur.

“We are going to the next level, moving into new markets internationally. We have had so many calls from around the world,” says Páraic. “We are also exploring a new distillery site in Connemara, building on what we did in Salthill. We are looking to talk to investors, and have plans for a cask scheme.”

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