We're not ready to make wines yet, but the time may come this year when we may actually have a crop of grapes to try fermentation. We decided that if we didn't succeed in making wine, we'd go the distillation route to an eau de vie or vodka. So I have begun my research into what it would take.
It is illegal to distill for home use in Ireland. It is illegal to distill without a licence regardless of whether you intend to sell it or not. Plain and simple. In several other countries you apparently can but not in Ireland. Unless you use brewing vodka kits, with no distillation. There are robust yeasts that can get quite high alcohol concentration without distillation. These are just neutral wines which are treated with carbon to reduce smell and taste. Alcohol can be tax relieved in the case of wine, beer or other fermented beverage produced at home for personal use and not for sale, but it must be authorized by Revenue.
To distill for public consumption, one must apply to Revenue for a license. One must also prove that secure premises and food preparation safety measures are in place. A brewer's licence reportedly costs €500 per anum, it's renewable every September and is obtained from the Revenue. To obtain a brewer's licence you must pay a bond of 50% of the duty you expect to pay in the year. This works out at about 12c per 500 ml of 4.5% beer based on ABV. So fermentation is the way to go.
Irish Whiskey and Poteen have Geographical Indication (GI) like Appelation Controllee in France. One must apply to Revenue to secure Geographical Indication for Irish products. Revenue must verify every stage of the process. Clare Island Salmon, Connemara Hill Lamb and Waterford Blaa also have the GI designation.
I don't think we'll have to worry about GI just yet. But in reading about vodkas in an excellent interview with the Chase family, I realized there is only one made from grapes, Ciroc, which we just recently tried. Maybe there's something to this after all.
And another thing I realised is that it takes an awful lot of potatoes to make one bottle of vodka. That answers the question of why potato farmers didn't just switch to vodka when people stopped eating so many spuds in Ireland. I'm glad we chose grapes. At least so far.