Sunday 23 March 2014

Catwalk cocktails fit for a Snow Queen

Judges tweet frantically as Robb Collins prepares to show his stuff
Like most people I’ve long been aware of the cocktail competitions that seem part of the industry’s DNA, but last Tuesday was the first time I’d actually sat in on one. It was the Snow Queen Martini Masters, organised by The Spirits Business magazine at The Club at The Ivy in London.

Robb's ingredients don't seem too weird, but wait
till you see the presentation
You can see the logic—Snow Queen stump up for the whole thing and make the hungry next generation of bartenders aware of the brand. They also get to style how we should feel about the product: the brief was clearly not just to come up with a Vodka Martini variant but to think about how to reference the target audience of women and the cultural origins of the product in Kazakhstan.

It has become a recognised part of an ambitious young bartender’s career ladder: at the Candlelight Club our resident mixologist David Hamilton Boyd has at least three of these gongs, the Jameson Mix Master world final, Vestal Vodka UK cocktail competition winner and Hendrick's Gin UK cocktail competition winner.

To be honest the relationship between the cocktail competition and real life cocktail bars seems much like that between catwalk fashion shows
All contestants were being filmed as they performed
and high-street fashion: the former is far too strange and impractical to enter the latter, but over time a filtered version of it may appear. In this competition each bartender shortlisted had to make their beverage on camera, and present it, sometimes in a tableau of hardware, flowers, fake snow, hot rocks, etc, that seemed more complex to assemble than the drink itself. Not
only that but they had to talk us through their concept as they were doing so, filling us in on how they arrived at the recipe and how it fulfilled the brief of (a) being something you could call a “Martini” (without actually being a Martini, because that has already been taken, so no scope for points there), (b) appealing to the female palate, (c) expressing the origins (and doubtless “values”) of the brand and (d) perhaps relating to the name “Snow Queen”—cue some textual analyses of Hans Christian Anderson’s original gruesome fairy tale and at least one
Robb's presentation involved Kazakh glassware, lilies, ice
cubes with lilies frozen inside them, some fake snow and
a teapot spewing dry ice everywhere. See? Anyone can
make cocktails at home
religious deconstruction.

As you might expect, there were some pretty leftfield ingredients—citric acid, aloe vera leaves, pickled cauliflower, oyster tincture, “atomised sea buckthorn”—and some predictable ones: tea is still clearly on trend, as is the inclusion of unexpectedly savoury herbs, such as tarragon. (And citric acid, come to think of it.) In fairness, a couple of contestants explained that the tea was a reference to the beverage’s popularity in Kazakhstan, and their presentations included traditional tea sets and glasses.

Sadly it wasn’t part of my role actually to taste the cocktails (though we were served Clubland Cocktails, an old recipe—it’s in the Café Royal Cocktail Book from 1937—combining vodka and white port to very agreeable
Fabio Immovilli, from the Metropolitan Park Lane, presents his concoction involving basil leaves
and Cocchi Americano infused with Chinese puerh tea. You have lotus flowers (or the nearest he
could find in London) and healing hot rocks on a bamboo mat sprayed with lotus scent, pearl powder
in the Chinese tea cups and, referencing the herbalistic medicinal powers of basil, tea, pearl and
tonic wine, each cup comes with some pharmaceutical dosage instructions. He lists the beautifying
and anti-ageing properties of these ingredients and links it all to the purity of the vodka and the
beauty of the Snow Queen herself. The crazy tie knot, by the way, is a reference to the French
character The Merovingian in The Matrix—because he loves beautiful women. Mind you, I think
the "Drink Me" bottle is perhaps confusing things with its reference to Alice in Wonderland
Elliott Ball's ingredients are explained as both an
expression of the nature of femininity and as
representing plot points in The Snow Queen. Wow.
effect). I did sneak a sip from a couple that were lying around, and at home I was also able to reconstruct the Warmth Within cocktail from Elliot Ball of Steam & Rye in London, combining vodka, Cocchi Americano, Parfait Amour, a rinse of Galliano and some bergamot oil. (OK, I didn’t have any of the last ingredient but I did add a dash of Briottet’s bergamot liqueur.) I rather liked it, and found the combination of Cocchi Americano and Parfait Amour rather interesting and not cloying as I thought it might be. Mind you, Mrs H. pulled a face when she tasted it, not liking the Cocchi’s bitter quinine finish, so clearly this mix wasn’t succeeding in tickling the female’s palate’s fancy. (Though you could argue from this perspective that the essence of the Martini involves vermouth of some stripe, which always implies an element of bitterness.)

He even served it on a mirror that he cracked before us.
I foresee Health & Safety issues.
Vodka cocktails are an interesting area, as it doesn’t take much for the flavour of the vodka to be masked. In that sense a Martini makes sense, as it is mostly spirit with a spritz of vermouth. But in an attempt to make an essentially dry drink more appealing to the female target audience (and this was assumed to mean “sweet”), many added honey and jam and syrups and liqueurs, and I wonder how much of Snow Queen’s flavour really remained. A number of the bartenders explained how they were seeking to express Snow Queen’s character of “purity”, but it’s ironic that they chose to do this by adding a bucket of other flavours to it…

Incidentally, if you want a vodka cocktail that still allows the specific character of the vodka to come through, try a vodka Gimlet (about 2 ½ shots vodka to ¾ shot Rose’s lime cordial).

More tea pots, this time from Matteo Corsalini of China Tang at the Dorchester. His Her Majesty 
cocktail is served with passion fruit caviar and more fake snow. Jasmine smoke comes into it
somehow as well.

The Queen of Issyk, by Tim Ward of Popolo in Newcastle, scores points just for the ravishing
glassware. This colourless concoction is one I wish I had tried, being a basic Dry Martini
 of Snow Queen and Dolin Blanc, plus oyster essence, rhubarb liqueur and citric acid

The four finalists, Robb, Fabio, Matteo and Sam Baxendale of Monteiths in Edinburgh, go
through a Mystery Box round, where they must come up with a cocktail using only the
mystery ingredients presented to them. 

Eventual winner Robb Collins, from Meat Liquor in London, with Gulnida Toichieva, founder
of Snow Queen (left) and Daisy Jones from The Spirits Business.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Aged gins: is the wood good?

In the march for novelty in the crowded gin market it seems that time of barrel-ageing may well have come. I was invited to a tasting of half a dozen varieties at Megaro Bar by King’s Cross in London last week. The event was hosted by Maverick, who are handling the Professor Cornelius Ampleforth aged version of the Bathtub Gin, and the line-up also included Filliers from Belgium and three from the US, from New York Distilling, FEW and Smooth Ambler.

I suppose it was inevitable that someone would try this, partly because barrel-ageing is fashionable with all manner of drinks (including pre-mixed cocktails) as part of our current love affair with all things small-batch, artisanal and homemade, but also because there is a school of thought that some of the character of the elusive Old Tom Gin may have been the result of resting in barrels.* Certainly Seagram have been resting their gin in charred white oak barrels since time immemorial in order to smooth off the rough edges.

Geoff Robinson from Maverick leads the tasting
Note the term “resting”. In Seagram’s case it is a matter of just 3–4 weeks. Defunct brand Booth’s used to rest their product for 6–12. Some believe that in the days when gin was shipped in barrels, rather than bottled at the factory, it would have gained some subtle benefits from just such a short period in contact with wood. But in any case no-one seems to age gin for more than a few months; extended time in wood is presumably found to erode the character of the botanicals, or subordinate them overly to the barrel flavours.

While we were milling around before the presentation we were given Collinses made with the Ampleforth version. I was immediately struck by a musty note, which I realised was the wood; it did indeed taste a bit like the inside of a barrel. This product ages in “octave” barrels, just one-fifth the capacity of standard hogsheads, which means greater exposure to the wood.

When we came to the tasting proper, this gin was the first one we sampled. The Ampleforth has a strong nose of juniper, orange peel and cloves (all of which are in the botanical mix, plus coriander, cinnamon and cardamom). The palate is strongly bitter-sweet (actually first sweet, then bitter) with a very woody taste. It’s fierce but not rough. In a way it seems typically full-on for the Ampleforth infusions (cf. their smoked vodka compared to the relatively delicate example from Chase; from a cocktail point of view the Ampleforth version proved much more useable, with the Chase example too easily lost in a mixed drink). We are later sent home with a sample that I make into a Martinez (Jerry Thomas style, equal parts gin and red vermouth with dashes of curaçao and bitters), which, being related to the whiskey-based Manhattan, seems like a good thing to try. Sure enough the woody character pokes through. I find it at first a little disconcerting for that musty quality, but at the same time it does work. I wonder if that particular flavour is a combination of vanilla wood notes combined with high aromatic juniper flavours. I gather they create a blend of batches variously aged in bourbon and sherry barrels, and then rest the mix a bit longer in malt whisky barrels. The total ageing time is just 3–6 months, and the flavour is not really like wood as it presents itself in whiskey, dark soft flavours and rich vanilla. Instead it is fresh and vivid, like a mossy tree stump that has just been split.

Next up is Filliers Gin 28, from Belgium. This gin is essentially clear but with a pale, almost greenish tinge. It is aged for four months in ex-Cognac barrels. The nose offers orange, menthol, leafy lime peel, something rooty and floral (angelica?) and, unexpectedly, chocolate. On the palate I’m getting chocolate orange again. I’m not getting much obviously woody about it, though I wonder whether the chocolate notes have been picked up from the Cognac-impregnated barrels. (There are, we are told, 28 botanicals, a secret blend of citrus fruits, herbs and roots.)

After this we move to US samples for the rest of the tasting. First up is Smooth Ambler’s Stillhouse Barrel-Aged Gin. We’re very much in American whiskey territory here: it’s made from a mash bill of 68% corn, 16% wheat and 16% malted barley and aged for at least four months in a mixture of new and used bourbon casks from the same distillery.
The result is a pale gold, with a nose of toffee, pencil-lead juniper, plus odd things like blue cheese and warm vinyl. (I suspect the high ABV—49.5%—is yielding some in-your-face fumes.) It is spicy on the palate with sawmill wood flavours and hints of banana esters and some black pepper. It has a full, mealy mouthfeel. (Botanicals are juniper, coriander, cardamom, angelica root, orange and lemon peel and black pepper.)

FEW’s example is a rich amber-gold colour, made from a mash of 70% corn, 20% wheat and 10% unmalted barley, aged in small barrels (the greater surface area to volume ratio yielding more wood influence), some new, some ex-rye and ex-bourbon, all from the FEW distillery’s own whiskeys. There are five botanicals with an emphasis on juniper and coriander. The nose yields lots of strong mentholic juniper fumes, almost like Bostik, with a bit of chocolate, coriander, orange, banana and something floral. On the palate the bold flavours conjure anise and a strong heft of caraway.

The name of the next sample—Chief Gowanus New Netherland Gin, from New York Distilling—is a mouthful in itself. It is a greeny-yellow colour and has a nose of green juniper with a floral musky undertone, some toffee and high, spicy grain notes, perhaps from the three months it spends in the distillery’s own rye whiskey barrels. The palate is not that woody, but strikes me as light and fruity. There are in fact just two botanicals, juniper and cluster hops. The spirit base contains no malt—it is rye-based—yet some people in the room felt that it was evocative of the “Hollands Gin” that you see referred to in old cocktails books (generally considered to be genever): this is certainly the intention of the producers, aiming to recreate the style of spirit that would have been drunk back when Brooklyn was still a Dutch colony.

Finally we taste Dry Rye Reposado from St George Spirits. Its colour is dark amber, but even this one has only spent 4–6 months in wood, in this case casks previously used for Syrah and Grenache wine. The botanicals include juniper, caraway, coriander, lime, grapefruit and black pepper, and the nose suggests juniper, biscuits, orange marmalade, coffee, chocolate and prunes. The palate is surprisingly sweet and soft, with juniper and bananas. (I actually get less caraway from this than from the FEW which, to my knowledge, actually contains none.)

As you can see there was quite a bit of variety in how these products are put together—and almost as much variety in how they are labelled. At our tasting there was much talk of defining a recognised category for this sort of product. You might wonder if this is really necessary, but there are those who feel that these spirits are likely to be overlooked by bartenders and mixologists unless they occupy a recognised seat at the table. Some also worried that, without definitions for the category, some might knock up aged spirits using chips or staves of wood for a quick result, rather than the more time-consuming use of a barrel.**

DBS, looking a bit like Bacchus, with Becky Paskin from The Spirits Business
Which brought us to the matter of terminology. If you want a recognised category, what do you call it? Aged, barrel-aged, cask-aged, rested..? (St George use the tequila term reposado to get at the idea of a shortish time in wood.) DBS tells us that the term “yellow gin” was used for this sort of thing by such people as Kingsley Amis and David Embury, but we all agreed this was not a selling proposition (ever heard of the deadly yellow snow?). Likewise “brown gin”, apparently also used, sounded even worse. There was some favour for “amber gin”, however.

I think the category is a noble enterprise, and there were those in the room who declared some of the examples to be “sipping” gins, which were too complex to ruin with mixing. I’m not sure I really feel the same way: I think it is telling that my favourite was the Filliers, which was probably the least wooded. For my money the influence of the barrels in these examples seemed too coarse and sawdust-like, compared to the smooth subtlety you can get in a whiskey that has spent many years in wood. I’m guessing, however, that producers have found that if you age gin in wood any longer than a few months the delicate influence of the botanicals is lost altogether. It is as if you can flavour spirit either with an infusion of herbs, spices, roots and barks, or by a long period subtly interacting with wood—but not both.

* Old Tom Gin is, generally speaking, a style that was popular before London Dry took over. It is generally considered to have been sweeter, though opinions differ as to whether this was simply through the addition of sugar, or through the use of a botanical intensity focusing on ingredients such as liquorice that give an impression of sweetness. It seems likely that much of this was an attempt to mask poor quality base spirit, and and that the invention of the column still, which makes it easier to produce pure spirit, made this approach unnecessary, paving the way for a leaner, crisper, drier, less botanically heavy style of gin.

** I’m not convinced this is such a big deal, as long as you don’t actually lie on the label. It’s not as if there is a grand, revered tradition that anyone is trying to piggy-back on. It’s all frontier territory for now.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Boodles gin returns home

The modern bottle design
Drifting through the spirits aisle of Sainsbury’s I noticed that they were now stocking Boodles gin. This took me slightly by surprise—DBS has always proclaimed it to be his favourite gin (and this from a man who has tasted hundreds), but I had never hitherto been able to taste it, as it was no longer available in this country. Clearly that is no longer the case.

The gin was named after Boodle’s, the gentleman’s club at 28 St James’s Street that celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2012. (This club itself was founded by the Earl of Shelburne, later to become Prime Minister, but was named after its head waiter, Edward Boodle.) According to the brand owner’s website it was created in 1845 and was a favourite of Winston Churchill’s (although I’ve also heard that Plymouth was his top tipple.) It doesn’t seem as if it was the house gin at the club, however. Throughout the 20th century it was bottled by Seagram in the US, ownership later passing to Pernod Ricard.

The back label
Made by Greenalls in a Carter-Head still* as a botanical concentrate (i.e. distilled with a high quantity of botanicals, and therefore with a very concentrated flavour), it was, by the time I became aware if it, being shipped to Arkansas where it was diluted with alcohol and water to get its flavour down to a palatable intensity and its ABV to 47.2% (which later dropped to 45.2%). Since 2013, although still made by Greenalls in the same way, it has been owned by Proximo, of Kraken rum fame, and is bottled in Burlington. Although still sold in the US at 45.2%, the version distributed in the UK is only 40% ABV. (This is quite a common pattern.) David certainly feels that the 40% version is not a patch on the higher strength expression.

Boodles famously has an understated juniper component, and this is indeed how it strikes you, the nose offering candied floral notes and something like lemon sherbet. Orange seems to be present, although in fact there is, unusually, no citrus among the nine botanicals—juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and seed, cassia bark, caraway seed, nutmeg, rosemary and sage. I’m guessing the impression of citrus is coming from the coriander and nutmeg, both rather lemony in their way. On the palate it is smooth, with an immediate impression of sweetness on the tip of the tongue, which then dries out. There is black pepper on the finish and, for me, a slight bitter aftertaste. As you add water you get more of an orange/lemon suggestion, and something like violets (presumably from the angelica, the root of which is doubtless adding to the sense of sweetness).

An Aviation cocktail made with Boodles
Some of those botanicals are pretty rare groove. Can I taste rosemary and sage? Not really. I can believe there is rosemary there, though its resinous herbaceous character occupies similar territory to juniper.

I believe Churchill was fond of a Martini, and I can see that the sweet, softness of this gin makes for an approachable example of this drink. I make one up, and get the same floral character with hints of vanilla and ginger. In an Aviation** the gin blends in smoothly and harmonises with the cherry and violet fragrance. It shows warm, dry spice that almost reminds me of turmeric or cumin. I think this gin likes an Aviation, and it’s interesting to note that I thought the same of Gin Mare, the only other gin I have tasted with rosemary in it.

Finally I try a side-by-side comparison with Tanqueray and Plymouth. Tanqueray has an up-front juniper nose and is dry on the tongue, while Plymouth has a softer nose and a smooth palate with plenty of orange peel. Boodles by comparison leads with that lemon sherbet element, which is refreshing, though I’m not keen on that hint of bitterness on the aftertaste. I decided to try and combat the latter by mixing the three gins with sugar and lemon juice. Now the Boodles comes across as coyly sweet and smooth compared to the others (perhaps too much so: one needs to control the sugar), and floral complexities unfold, with refreshing suggestions of lime.

I don’t think that Boodles could become my favourite gin, but I can see how it, like Plymouth, might appeal as a Martini ingredient. Like Gin Mare, it sounds as if it should be savoury but in fact blends best when you consider its forward floral character. But as for gins with unusual herbs in them, I prefer Gin Mare.

* The defining characteristic of the Carter-Head is that, instead of macerating in the alcohol prior to redistillation, the botanicals are placed in a basket within the still so that the alcohol vapour passes through them. This process, without any actual steeping in the liquid alcohol, extracts different flavours.

** Gin, lemon juice, maraschino and crème de violette, although after the last ingredient became hard to find many got into the habit of leaving it out. Of course without the crème de violette, your cocktail does not have the pale blue colour from which its name derives. I use the modern version from The Bitter Truth. You only need a small amount, but the violet note is distinctive part of the cocktail.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Poitín: Irish moonshine comes out of the shadows

Sam MacDonald gives us a history of poitín
To Kentish Town last night and a subterranean bar called Shebeen, for an evening swilling poitín (or poteen, pronounced pot-CHEEN), the notorious Irish white spirit which bar owner Dave Mulligan is championing wholeheartedly.

The name means “little pot”, referring to the small pot stills used. Back in the day poitín-making was a cottage industry and everyone had their own special recipe. Things really changed in 1661, we are told by Sam MacDonald, brand ambassador for the Teeling Whiskey Co., as he gives us a canter through the history of the spirit. In this year the British government changed the licensing laws (and Ireland was part of the UK in those days) to favour large corporate distilling concerns over smaller domestic-scale stills that were hard to tax. (Presumably the idea was to drive the smaller concerns out of business and encourage Irishmen to buy their liquor from big companies that could be properly taxed.) This didn’t seem to have the desired effect, so the next year the small pot stills themselves were outlawed.

There followed hundreds of years of cat-and-mouse between the garda and the poitín makers. Sam tells us that the laws encouraged the big distillers to emphasise speed and volume, leading to a drop in quality—meaning that the small-batch illicit products edged ahead of them in desirability. Production was (and still is) centred in the more remote western parts of the country, away from the authorities’ prying eyes. In 1820 the laws in Scotland were changed and duty cut by two thirds, which had the effect of encouraging many a moonshiner to go legit; not so in Ireland.

Shebeen's small but tasteful interior
It sounds like a strange state of affairs, akin to the way Prohibition was enforced in the US. In any town the local gardaí will probably know who makes the stuff but are unlikely to do anything about it unless leaned upon to make some token arrests. Dave tells us of a seizure made not so long ago where the officers tasted the contraband and realised how good it was. Loathe to destroy it, they placed a container under the pipe from the sink and decanted it through—so that they could tell the judge, in all honesty, that they dutifully poured all the poitín down the sink.

It seems that even today poitín is an unspoken part of the fabric of life. Dave tells us of his first exposure, at the age of 11, when he went into the bakery where his mother worked and saw what he assumed was a bottle of water. The old women in the bakery could have stopped him quaffing from it but thought it more amusing to let him carry on. Perhaps it was considered a rite of manhood. He tells us of one uncle who never touched the beer or wine at family meals, but sat there clutching a glass of clear liquid. The young Dave didn’t know what it was but remembered the uncle’s face becoming redder as the evening went on.

Dave with some examples: the three on the right
are moonshine products in reused bottles
In fact it was made legal to produced poitín for export—properly licensed, of course—in 1988, and for sale in Ireland in 1997, hence the range of poitíns on the back bar at Shebeen. Dave says that when he started the bar he was planning to do classic cocktails and Irish whiskeys, but back home in Ireland he was telling his father about his new venture and the old man poured him a slug of poitín and suggested he tried it. Dave couldn’t believe no one was embracing this category and decided to make it his mission. It took eight months to gather together all the legal examples they could find and poitín cocktails now make up a third of the menu.

So if poitín is such a neglected category, what exactly is it? What are its defining characteristics? How does it differ from vodka? I think the simple answer is that it is unaged whiskey, traditionally made from malted barley in a pot still. Given the modern interest in small-batch distillation, as well as the trend for releasing “new make” or “white dog” whiskey, poitín’s time must surely have come. (In fact one example we surreptitiously tasted turns out to be an unofficial sample of unaged whiskey from one of the major producers—sure enough, this pre-ageing sample is, to all intents and purposes, poitín.)

But Dave’s answer to the question is different: the distinction he draws is that, whereas vodka, certainly as a category, very often seeks to produce a smooth, clean finished product—to remove the flavour, if you will—the tradition of poitín is all about creating flavours. And in fact the make-up of the mash can vary a great deal. Particularly when distillation went underground, people started making it from potatoes, treacle, sugar beet, even whey from milk (which is how Knockeen Hills is made). Dave tells how people traditionally added fruit or other flavourings to the mix.* Modern production poitíns may be made from grain rather than malt and may be produced in a column still rather than a pot.

Dave's own brand. The name Bán sounds like a reference to
illegality but in fact means "white" in Gaelic
So we try three commercial products. First up is Ban, Dave’s own brand. It’s made for him by West Cork Distillers from 80% malted barley and 20% sugar beet. It has a strong, curious nose, smoky and vinous, with a hint of rubber in the same way that Reislings sometimes have. It tastes of toasted wheat or corn, with a slight sourness on the finish that I come to think of as characteristic of poitín. Although there are some examples at 40% ABV, most poitíns are stronger—this one is 52.7%, but is remarkably smooth given the alcoholic strength.

Next we tried a poitín from the Teeling Whiskey Company (the Teeling family were behind Cooley which was recently sold to Beam). This 61.5% spirit smells more like vodka to me, fruity with cooked pears and apples, and a hint of powdered sugar. On the palate it reminds me of grappa (a good thing, in my opinion) and tastes strongly of pears, reminiscent of Poire William eau de vie.

Finally we taste Knockeen Hills Gold Extra Strength, which is bottled at 90% alcohol by volume. They are circumspect about how and to whom they serve this and I approach it with respect. Again it is fruity, with those pears again, and that slight sourness (am I imagining it, or is there a hint of milk?). It’s surprisingly palatable neat.

After this we are invited to approach the bar and try some illicit examples that Dave has collected in his travels. You can see them in the photo, but needless to say the bottles are all recycled from legit whiskies. One was a bottle that an old lady had had in a cupboard for years—Dave reckons it must date from the 1970s. I’m amazed by the sheer breadth of aromas and flavours here: wood, varnish, ink. One tastes strongly of apricots and almonds, another reminds me of the smell of the sea. All this could be down to the way it is distilled, or what went into it—no one knows how they were made.

A tray of poitín Old Fashioneds is produced
A bottle of Vestal Vodka also comes out, and you can see why, as it is quite similar. Vestal highlight the fact that it is only distilled once, hence the range of extra flavours that are retained compared to many super-clean vodkas. However, this does not seem to be the case with poitín—I think that much of it is twice distilled. Knockeen Hills is tripled distilled, apart from the 90% which is quadruple-distilled.

So how does poitín work in cocktails? You would expect something with so much flavour to work well; I think that they have gone to some extremes with the recipes but are currently regrouping and getting back to basics. I try a poitín Old Fashioned, and it works very well, the distinct flavour of the spirit sitting clearly and effectively with the sugar and bitters. (In fact I have to check with Dave that this is all there is in the mix.)

I can heartily recommend a trip to Shebeen, and I strongly expect that poitín will rapidly grow as a category.

* Dave freely admits that he doesn’t know exactly how any illicit poitín is made as people won’t talk. As a Dubliner he is viewed through most of Ireland with suspicion and assumed to be an official of some sort if he starts asking about poitín. Everyone seems to know someone who makes it, but no one ever admits to doing it themselves.