Inishowen's 'spirit' on UTV tonight

Inishowen's proud tradition of poteen-making, and other illicit distilling, is to feature on a UTV documentary this evening.

Buncrana man, Patrick Magee explains how he used to make and store poteen – and how popular the Donegal product is the world over. And Mick Murray, a former Garda officer, talks about how he used to try and track down the poteen-maker!

‘It’s In Our Spirit’, which airs at 10.35pm, was made by five aspiring tv-makers from across Northern Ireland, including Amel French, who lives in Eglinton.

They were selected from hundreds of applicants to participate in Skills Focus 2008 - a training scheme funded by UTV in association with Northern Ireland Screen. As part of the initiative, the trainees were given the opportunity to make a programme for television.

The team then travelled around Ireland, interviewing people with different connections to the spirits’ industry.

The programme has a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ feel to it, as it looks at Ireland’s ‘love affair’ with the ancient tipples of whiskey and poteen. It looks at the mystery surrounding poteen and how both spirits have inspired poets and musicians for generations.

Drinks’ expert Michael Morris tells us that the two spirits are from the same family – except whiskey is legal and poteen illegal. He explains that whiskey is aged in casks, producing its brown colour whereas poteen is a white spirit, ready to drink as soon as it is distilled.

We hear from a number of Master Distillers including Colum Egan from the Bushmills Distillery about the whiskey they make.

The programme also tells the story of the much-admired poteen-maker, Mickey McIlhatton – also known as the ‘The King of the Glens’. His 100-year-old sister Jean Duffin calls him a ‘character’ and a ‘comedian’ and a former customer explains how Mickey confounded the excise men by hiding the clear liquid in glass bottles turned upside down in a nearby stream!

Michael Wilson, Managing Director, UTV Television said: “We have been very impressed with this team of young people – who have all shown great skill in the making of It’s In Our Spirit.

“They are talented and committed - and we wish them every success for what look like being very successful careers in the television industry!”