THE WATER OF LIFE
Irish monks and nuns invented poitín in the sixth century, after learning to distill perfume on the Continent. Over subsequent centuries, the Irish and Scots refined the process of aging poitín into whiskey, also known as “uisce beatha”—the water of life.
In 1661, it became illegal to produce poitín, giving birth to the world’s first moonshine category. Poitín remained a clandestine art and enjoyment for over four centuries—until the Irish legalized it on May 7, 1997.
Poitín was typically made from malted barley, with other grains and fruit sometimes added to the mash. In the early 20th century, sugar beet became readily available, and enterprising bootleggers such as the famed Michael McIlhatton developed winning combinations of fine Irish malted barley, beet sugar, molasses, fresh yeast, and clear Irish spring water.
To this day, unlicensed poitín may be found hidden on the top shelf of the pantry in Irish homes, kept on hand for special celebrations. At 90 proof, SmugNun is authentically strong but also exceptionally smooth and flavorful, making it an excellent aperitif or digestif, as well as a standout in cocktails.