Return to site

Irish Monks, Bushmills, and Poitín: Underground Irish Whiskey History

The Daily Shot! July 28, 2018

The monks of Ireland have been cranking out distilled spirits since around the 12th century. Rumor has it, they learned the practice from foreign countries 2,000 years earlier to distill perfumes. So, its highly likely a surprisingly awesome drunken accident produced the first whiskey.

By the 14 & 1500’s Irish whiskey had spread its way through the motherland and was a daily treat for the population. Always eager to rain a good parade, the English Parliament passed legislation making distillation illegal. Though outside of Dublin, this was loosely enforced. Would a landlord tax his favorite booze man? Probably not if he wanted to keep his liquor cabinet full!

In 1608, King James I granted a license to Old Bushmills distillery to make legal whiskey; making it the oldest surviving grant license to distill in the world. Bushmills was not registered to trade for another 174 years…really the point to be made here is Bushmills has been around a long time and stakes a claim at being the oldest for something.

In search of new ways to the stick it to common folk, the 1661 English crown required all whiskey distillers to voluntarily register and pay taxes.

Voluntarily register and pay taxes for your homemade whiskey? Any guess on how effective that was?!

1661 was a seminal time in the underground movement of the Irish common distiller. They became elite special forces stealth-mode artisans for the next 2 centuries. With the use of small pot stills, the whiskey continued on successfully known as Poitín or Potcheen (Gaelic for small pot). Poitín was similar to the larger pot still whiskey of the time and versions are now available on the market today, 350+ years later.

Tomorrow’s Shot: Tale of the Rugged Irish Boxing Contender

Boom! Another shot of knowledge!