Sunday, March 21, 2010

Moll's Gap

The view from Moll's Gap toward Killarney.

Moll’s Gap is a mountain pass on the Ring of Kerry route through the Iveragh Peninsula, offering fine views to the north of the Macgillycuddy's Reeks (mountains) between the towns of Kenmare and Killarney. Thousands of tourists visit Moll’s Gap every year to enjoy the scenery and nature. The rocks at Moll's Gap are known as Old Red Sandstone.

Moll’s Gap is named for Moll Kissane, an ancestor of John Kissane, who still runs a farm in this area. She ran a small pub (“sibin” in Gaelic) here during the construction of the Killarney-Kenmare road in the 1820s. In her time, Moll Kissane was popular for her illicit home-made poitín (whiskey), which she sold in her sibin.

Poitín is Irish whiskey, and the term is a diminutive of the word pota (pot), since Poitín was traditionally distilled in a small pot. For centuries, Poitín has been produced in pot stills under the bright moon, and thus became to be known as “the shine,” or moonshine. The home-brew was strong, sometimes as much as 160 proof. It had a distinctive dry, grainy flavor with a delicate aftertaste that became sweeter as it developed. Some rural Irish people still pour it on wounds and sores, as they believe it has disinfectant properties. With as high an alcohol volume as 80%, it certainly does.

Poitín is still popular among the student population of Galway. It was not uncommon for communities to leave the distilling of poitín to widows, in order to grant them a source of income.

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