Old Tom Gin.
If you were hunting the streets of London for gin during the heady days of England’s early 18th century prohibition [and for those of you who don’t know your gin history, it was specifically gin which was targeted. The craze, Mother’s ruin, and all of that good stuff came out of this period] you need look no further than the window with a picture of the Old Tom Cat over it. Insert your coin, and the barkeep inside of the building would insert some gin into a chute for the paying customer to enjoy.
Old Tom Gin had a reputation for being cheap, almost vile stuff. The style in question was sweetened, to hide the less pleasant notes of the unfortunate and crudely produced spirit lying underneath.
History Lesson Over
And now to the present. Dry gin merely meant “unsweetened gin,” and now Old Tom generally refers to a sweetened style of gin that differs from a the vast array of dry gins which decorate the shelves and bars or liquor stores around the world. Old Tom is something of an obscure style too, though with the recent craft distilling surge, its making a comeback and now there’s nearly ten distilleries Old Tom Gin being made in the United States, and I’d be expecting more in the near future. Spring 44’s entry into the Old Tom Gin category is a new one, and we’re excited to get to try it.
Certainly all that I said about “harsh,” “unpleasant,” or “crudely made” gin need not apply here. That’s all in the past. Today’s Old Tom gins are made in the same high quality fashion you might expect a craft spirit to be. So don’t think there’s anything hidden in here. Spring 44 is even quite up front with the botanicals in their Old Tom. Check out this blog entry from them to see the list, which includes Asian contributions such as Galangal and Lemongrass among more expected botanicals such as citrus, coriander and orris root.
First, it smells quite citrusy. Notes of orange and grapefruit, along with a hint of juniper and a neutral but characteristic sweetness. Mild, somewhat contemporary with a indistinct but slight floral twinge. Overall, quite nice.
The taste begins slow. Smooth and subtle at first, heat slowly builds on the edges of your mouth. A rich complex floral bouquet comes out, a jammy sweetness towards the end. More specifically, candied rind early, sweet and bright. Warm spice, an edge of coriander here as well. Juniper clearly present in the middle notes where the heat and alcohol come on the strongest. The tail is more complex, with some interesting spicy notes emerging. An herbal spice that reminds me of galangal [only by suggestion, I might have said black pepper and ginger had I not known galangal was in here]. The tail is a bit spicy creamy, with that peppery edge continuing, but with some herbal brightness and the slightest tinge of warm vanilla. Rosemary is definitely recognizable here as well as perhaps something complimentary. Perhaps lemongrass, but mostly just a bright sweet herbal note. Complex with a lot of things going on. Very interesting neat. Not as sweet as you might expect from a sweetened gin though. The sweetness colors the botanicals more than it overrides the gin.
The cocktails that you might want to make with Old Tom gin differ somewhat slightly. Though gin and tonics work, and in particular, with this Old Tom, it’s good, it’s probably not the best option. I suggest looking into some of the original recipes which used Old Tom style gin when they were first conceived. Spring 44 makes a sharp, well balanced Tom Collins. Lacking in lemon notes, the lemon meshes with the coriander and grapefruit of the Old Tom Gin to create a really nice flavor. I thought it worked really well in the Martinez (a must drink when you have an Old Tom lying around) although I didn’t think some of the more interesting spice notes came through. I’ve heard good things about the Ramos Gin Fizz with Old Tom Gins, but sadly as this was but a small sample and my kitchen is woefully unprepared for the wonder that is the Ramos Gin Fizz, I can only speculate. Though if I come into a full bottle, I have a good feeling about it.
Overall, it’s a nice Old Tom Gin. It has a bit of sharpness and the sweetness is somewhat toned down compared to others of the style I’ve had. However, I think that the character might make Spring 44’s Old Tom a better gateway for gin drinkers who prefer a sharp London Dry and might be a little hesitant about going towards the sweetened gin.
Price: $42/750 mL
Origin: [flag code=”US” size=”16″ text=”no”] Colorado, United States
Best consumed: Great Tom Collins, but I really enjoyed sipping it neat/on the rocks.
Availability: Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania [for details, check the Spring 44 website]
Rating: Lots of depth, and a nice flavorful Old Tom that lets the juniper shine along side other botanicals. Rich and creamy, and a nice example of what the Old Tom style can be when executed well.
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