Counter Old Tom Gin is the Batch 206 Distillery’s take on the hard-to-pin-down Old Tom style. Distilled from grain, Batch 206’s take is aged for six months in former Chardonnay barrels built from Hungarian Oak, and I quote with a “subtle sweetness.”
The spirit is transparent with a shortbread hue.
The nose is intensely oaky with an underlying herbal color. Knowing the botanicals in Counter Old Tom Gin, you would probably think it tarragon; however, it has notes of dill and red delicious apple as well, with just a spot of orange.
The palate is stark with oak, especially early on. Counter Old Tom Gin evolves adding a mild hint of vanillin, cinnamon and Easter candy— specifically dark chocolate oranges. You know the kind— whack on the table to crack the chocolate wedges apart?
Counter Old Tom Gin towards the finish has darker, more cocoa powder chocolate notes, and perhaps even a hint of very dry wine with slight tannic tones.
Though the description said “subtle sweetness,” I’m not getting much of an Old Tom style sweetness in here. The spirit has a fair mouthfeel, but seems lacking the increased viscosity and oiliness that often come with post distillation sweetening.
Finish is moderate in length with a general character of dry oak.
I suggest treating Counter Old Tom Gin more as an aged gin than an Old Tom gin, at least as far as cocktails are concerned. The Martinez simply tastes like it was made with an aged gin; the Tom Collins is bursting with oaky and woody notes that aren’t all that bad alongside lemon; however, it doesn’t have that added depth that Old Tom can bring.
I’d suggest drinking Counter Old Tom Gin simply on the rocks. As the ice melts, it moderates some of the strong oaky character and allows a bit more of the botanicals to come through. The cucumber note in particular begins to emerge curiously from its wooden cask.
Counter Old Tom Gin is more an aged gin than an Old Tom Gin. If you’re looking for an Old Tom you’re likely going to be disappointed in the relative lack of sweetness.
As an aged gin it does some good things. It does suffer from a touch of oak/wood overload; however some of the accompanying botanicals like the herbs work well and rise from the mist.
I’m a bit torn on this. It’s better as an aged gin; however, the label says Old Tom, and unfortunately it’s a bit of a letdown as a take on that style. I’d love to taste a bit more sweetness or a bit more of the grain character in the base spirit. The wood alone obscures those other facets. As an Old Tom, Counter Old Tom Gin is a bit hard to recommend.