Cannon Beach Distillery’s The Pharmacist Old Tom Gin fits into the “Botanically Sweetened” school of Old Tom Gin. Sugar was a popular adulterant for gins distilled from “subpar grain” in the late 18th and 19th centuries. However, this wasn’t always the case— cheaper adulterants like licorice root were common, especially in the 17th/early 18th centuries.
Of course Cannon Beach’s The Pharmacist Old Tom Gin isn’t distilled from subpar grain. In fact, it’s not even distilled from grain at all. The Pharmacist uses a base spirit distilled from cane sugar. This Old Tom has more in common with gins from the tropics such as Jamaica’s Wray and Nephew Old Tom (but not Old Tom style) Gin and Ginebra San Miguel.
In short, as a gin aficionado I find the irony delicious. Using licorice as a sweetener because traditionally sugar was too expensive. Then fermenting evaporated cane juice for the base spirit.
The Pharmacist Old Tom Gin has a powerful and aromatic nose as poured. Slightly malty, there’s a hint of both grain and white rum here. A hint of pine sits on top, but underneath there’s an intensely unusual fruit note. Hints of raspberry, lemon curd, ginger and jam.
On the palate, Cannon Beach Distillery’s Old Tom shows it full botanical glory. Juniper and spruce early. Mid, there’s pine blossoms and elderflower with an unusually rich, buttery creaminess. Towards the finish, The Pharmacist Old Tom does have a perceptible sweetness. This is where the base spirit— both texturally and flavorwise— is most prominent. The gin is only slightly sweet with a touch of licorice. The finish is long and slightly pine-forward.
The texture and sweetness of The Pharmacist Old Tom Gin suits it well in Old Tom classics like the Tom Collins or Martinez. But fans of more modern American classics like the Gin and Juice will like the added texture and botanical complement.
The Pharmacist Old Tom Gin also adds an unexpected texture to drinks like the Martini. While not traditional per se, The Pharmacist isn’t as obviously sweetened as other Old Toms and therefore works simply as a gin as well.
I think Cannon Beach Distillery hit a lot of right notes with their The Pharmacist Old Tom Gin. It’s bright, aromatic, and pleasantly balanced in terms of sweetness, distinctive base spirit, and botanical profile. In short, it’s an ideal example of a botanically sweetened Old Tom Gin.
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