We named our drink in honour of the ancient and infamous spirit from Irish folklore. The legend of the Pooka (or “Púca”) is widespread in Irish rural tradition, but where did he come from, what does he look like and what might he do?
The Pooka first appeared in Ireland a long, long time ago. He started off as an angel who wasn’t sure whether or not to follow Lucifer or God Almighty, at the time when the Devil had a quare few tricks up his fancy sleeve and wasn’t just quite as bate as he is now. As the battle between Heaven and Hell raged, the Pookas stayed at home in Ireland (part of a long tradition of Irish neutrality), and although they didn’t up and fight at the time of the battle, they might still end up in Heaven or Hell and still argue with the Almighty or the Devil himself!
The Pooka is a mischievous spirit which can bring a person good or bad fortune as they wish and can interact with humans either in human form or in the form of an animal although they generally take the form of a horse or a hare. When appearing as a horse it can take its victims on a wild, exciting and maybe even terrifying journey before leaving them back breathless and bewildered, where they started. It has been said that this was always most likely to happen on the way home after a night spent enjoying the best the local poitín maker’s skills had to offer! We shall make no further comment on this matter!
The wily pooka can appear in different forms in different parts of Ireland. In the Mournes he appears as a small deformed man who demands his share of the harvest at Samhain. Hence when the harvest was being taken in, a few stalks and corns were always left for the Pooka in the hope that he would bring good luck in the coming year!
The 31st October is Samhain in the Irish calendar and it is the Pooka’s day! If you want to see one for real then that’s the night to be out looking for them. But be careful. You might end up with more than you bargained for.
Pookas can do you a favour if you treat them well, but it depends on what you’re looking for. A good drink of heavenly origin will help you to have the Pooka on your side and the mischievous and wily shape-changers might well take on human form and appear at your side when they see you pouring yourself a drink of magnificence, such as the exquisite Kilbroney Gin, originally conceived of by the Síóga, the exquisite fairy spirit makers of Ireland.
They are talkative creatures and if they find you they’ll stop you for a chat and the craic. They’ll tell you things you never knew and stories of grief and merriment in equal measure, until disappearing as quickly as they came, leaving you wondering where the last hour or so went. Many old Irish cottages had a bench at the right side of the front door and a pile of rubble or a thorn bush on the left side. This was because the friendly pooka always sat on the right side and the spiteful one always sat on the left!
So now you know why we’ve called our poitín after this great Irish spirit. We hope you get a taste of excitement from our poitin and maybe, just maybe, some day you’ll meet the Pooka himself and share a drop or two of his elixir with him (fingers crossed that it’s one of the good ones you meet!)
Our No1 blend is a combination of wheat and malted barley spirit. It has the unpleasant elements normally associated with poitins removed through distillation and is then stored in wood for 10 weeks before blending and bottling. It has a robust 43% ABV and should be treated with respect. Serve the No1 blend as you would a whiskey. Over ice, with a drop of water (my preference as the dilution opens up the flavours), with ginger ale etc. It lends itself to being used in cocktails as it has a lighter flavour than whiskey and combines better with other flavours (IMHO).
Our favourite cocktail is currently a concoction using No 1. Blend, Rostrevor Ruby Gin and cranberry juice over ice. (We recently found out by mistake that this cocktail also works really well with the Pooka Hazelnut poitín liquer instead of the No1 Blend). We haven’t thought of a name for it yet so we just might make it the subject of a future competition.
Our hazelnut poitin liqueur is infused and distilled with roast hazelnuts to give a strong nutty flavour. It is sweetened and blended to 35% ABV. Try it chilled as a digestif, as a shot, over crushed ice, in coffee, with a splash of fresh cream (bit like a Baileys), with ginger ale or ginger beer or as you fancy in the cocktail of your own choice or imagining.