Italicized text from Bunratty Irish Potcheen.
“No amount of regulation, however could persuade the Irish to give up their virtues of the small pot, and whilst it has been illegal since 1661, the craft of the small pot in Irish Poitin distilling goes on in the remote areas of Ireland, to this day.”
We’re in county Mayo, it’s ten minutes to nine, and we’re getting ready to hit the pubs. Agnes, my husband’s cousin, pulls out a plastic, Virgin Mary-shaped bottle from one of the cupboards.
“You haven’t had this yet, I imagine,” she says, opening the bottle.
“A blessing?” I ask.
“Oh no,” she laughs, “Though you’ll see God, sure.” Agnes pours two fingers of the clear liquid into a couple of tumblers and sets them before O and me.
Potcheen has been illegally distilled, in the mountains and valleys of Ireland for connoisseurs and friends to enjoy.
“What is it?” O asks, swirling the liquid.
“Knock Holy Water,” says Agnes. “Potcheen. We get it from a friend up in the hills. Go on and have a sip before I add the Coke.”
So we do.
It's unique distinctive taste, is dry and grainy with a delightfully changing aftertaste that sweetens as it develops.
“Oh sweet Jesus! This is kerosene!”
“How do you get your eyes to do that?” Agnes asks me.
We recommend you drink it neat as a shot, on the rocks or with a mixer and savour this original Irish spirit.
Agnes fills the glasses with Coke. I can see the soda actually flinch as it hits the holy water. They don’t so much mix; rather the potcheen beats the Coke into submission.
“Cheers!” I say, as I take a big, John Wayne-sized slug. What can I say? It had the addictive properties of crack cocaine.
Also known as Moonshine or Mountain Dew, Potcheen is a fiery tipple.
Whiskey slips down the throat to the stomach, where it radiates a gentle, rosy warmth. Knock Holy Water comes in with a flamethrower and a scorched-earth policy. It spreads out from the throat to the arms to the torso to the legs to the toes.
“How much did you give them?” Gerry has just walked into the kitchen and spotted Our Lady of the Bootleggers on the table.
“Oh, this much,” says Agnes, holding her fingers apart.
Gerry looks at my empty glass and shakes his head sadly.
“Well, it’s nine, and we said we’d meet them at The White House. Let’s go.” Agnes puts Our Lady of Perpetual Inebriation back in the cupboard. I don’t feel a thing, except pure fire taking inventory of every cell in my body.
Then I stand up.
Taste and Savour the Bouquet of the Mountain Heather on the Moonbeam Edge that danced with Leprechauns in paradise, and recreate the Celtic magic that is Potcheen. It was a truely spiritual deed of the Irish long ago, when they trapped the purity and magic of nature to create, from sunshine and rain in the mountains and valleys, the most natural and original treasured Irish Spirit-"Potcheen".
I’m suddenly, Celtic-magically, thrown into the bottom of a deep well. Zero to tunnel-vision in ten minutes. The world shrinks down to a small circle, and everything in the circle is beautiful and funny, and I’m in love with O, with Agnes, with Gerry, with Gerry’s car, with the psychotic speed at which we are driving the treacherous, twisting roads lined with hedges that cut visibility to nothing, I’m in love with the pub, the bartender, the spontaneous bursting into song by the patrons, I’m in love with God, an Irish God, who has let me into this paradise that can’t be seen from a bus tour and a trip to the Bunratty Castle Gift Shop.
Now we know why Irish eyes are smiling! Yeah. They’re laughing at Americans.
The holy well I’d been thrown into was now the pit of hell. I’d seen God the night before but the devil caught up with me in the morning. Originally distilled for its smooth extra strong sensation, you can now taste and recreate this Celtic magic with Bunratty Potcheen.
16 years ago today, I met O. Happy anniversary!