Country distilling – the art of the wash


Sir, – I greatly enjoyed John Horgan’s description of local unlicensed distilling in Connemara and in rural France (An Irishman’s Diary, October 19th).

Back in the 1970s, I was involved in negotiating a listing for Baileys with the state monopoly that controls all the sales of alcohol in Norway.

I was rather amazed to learn from it that it was widely believed that for every bottle of spirits it sold, another bottle was distilled by local home producers.

Some of the evidence for this was that Norway used double the amount of sugar per capita when compared with their neighbours. Sugar being the source material for making the “wash”, this seemed to support the theory.

Norway was also a major market for top-loading twin-tub washing machines. This seemed a non sequitur until it was explained that with a little ingenuity – sealing down the lid with a dough mixture and adding a copper condensing “worm” – an excellent still could be constructed. In small cabins deep in the countryside, throughout the length of that enormous country, amateur distillers practised their art most weekends.

This also helps to explain why the apparent recorded consumption of alcohol in Norway per head is about half the EU norm.

Contrary to general belief, Ireland’s per capita usage is about the same as most developed western European countries. – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.