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The initial observation for this paper is that contrary to most, if not all, alcoholicbeverages, Irish poitín lacks a clear definition. There is no short and satisfyinganswer to the basic question “what is poitín?”. Poitín, or poteen, its English spelling, is generally considered “unique to Ireland”, the Glendalough distillery for instance labels its poitín as “the Original Irish Spirit” (Glendalough Distillery 2018).[1] This fiery spirit has commonly been described as a close relative of Irish whiskey, and more specifically as an illicit version of whiskey. Indeed, for centuries, poitín was “banned” in Ireland (to be more specific, its production was, a subtlety that will be further discussed in the core of this paper). In 1997 however, out of the blue, poitín was made “legal” again. That legalisation has since raised the question of the definition of this special beverage. Since poitín had been defined mostly by its illicit nature for more than two centuries, the notion of “legal poitín” could be considered an oxymoron; and “real” or “authentic” poitín, that is a spirit which is illicitly produced, is still actually banned.

[1] The spelling “potcheen” is sometimes found too.