Supporting Local News

War in Ukraine pushes price of poitín through the roof

A bottle of traditional poitín will fetch €15 in Conamara these days – but it could rise to €20 by Christmas if wet weather and Ukraine War increase the cost of the main ingredient, barley.

Fadó, fadó there was big demand for the illegally distilled white spirit with high alcohol content. But nowadays people make it the traditional way for personal use, for Christmas, and to sell to neighbours, tourists and returning emigrants from England and America.

“I don’t know anyone who is making a living out of it. They want to hold onto the tradition, and people aren’t going to pubs anymore,” said Máirtín Davy Ó Coisdealbha from Indreabhán.

A respected Irish-language broadcaster, Máirtín Davy has documented the social history of poitín making and illegal síbíns where it was consumed.

Nowadays, poitín making is less common in South Conamara, he said, and was mostly found in Maumturk Mountains (Sléibhte Mhám Toirc); Croagh Patrick and Maol Réidh in Mayo; and North Connemara.

These locations have natural, clean stream water needed for distilling, and are hidden.

“The further away and the further up the mountain you go the better, because there’s no track and you see everyone coming,” he said.

He knows of one woman on the Galway/Mayo border sourcing barley from Ballinrobe to produce a ‘big round’ to fill 100 bottles.

Barley is the basis of any good Conamara poitín, and the war in Ukraine impacted global supply.

Photo: Gardai from Carraroe, Rosmuc, and Lettermór, with poitin making equipment and wash found in the South Connemara area in 1996. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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