What Is Old Tom Gin Anyway?
Well, in fact, Old Tom Gin has never been fully defined as a category and despite its muddy historical origins in the story below – what you will find today is far superior in taste and quality. I will say that most folks operate under the assumption that Old Tom Gin is a gin that has been aged in a barrel and usually contains an element of sweetness.
Why did we want to make an Old Tom Gin? This spirit creation of ours really stems from our eternal passion for the nearly endless botanical combinations possible in great craft gin. Second, we just love gin, all kinds of gin! We already make gin, barrel gin, sloe gin, and navy strength gin and anything left on the gin spectrum is fair game as far as we’re concerned. We had a delivery of some amazing organic local honey from a different project and wanted to put it to good use. And last, Timo has always also been super keen to get involved working on an Old Tom Gin recipe and distillation, hence creating our perfect storm. For us, this process then begins having brainstorms with Lauren Patz, our Head Distiller, and a running a few botanical lab distillations for clarity. Timo then decided he wanted to use a lot of traditional botanicals like juniper, coriander, angelica root, cardamom, lemon and orange zest but he also added a healthy dose of orris root and licorice. It was decided we would then age it in one of our delicious used wheat whiskey barrels for 3 months.
Historically, and there are a lot of versions of this out there, back in the motherland in the 1700’s alcohol had gained a pretty bad reputation for itself for a plethora of reasons. To attempt to limit the consumption of gin (other spirits were also considered bad, but gin, the worst) overall Parliament decided to pass a bunch of Acts creating restrictions in both the sale and manufacturing of gin.
Well, the people want what they can’t have and a whole industry of bootleg gin began. Unfortunately for everyone involved, often bootleg liquor brings with it methanol, acetate and a variety of other problem causing toxins created during their less than desirable distillation techniques. How do you mask those toxins so people still want to drink it you say? They added a whole bunch of botanicals, namely juniper (for regular gin) and also sugar and time in barrel and hope no one can smell the bad stuff before they drink it. This doomed and deadly combination led to the Gin Craze where everyone was going off their heads – literally. Yes, that was a distillation joke;)
As it turned out, once this whole business of terrible alcohol figured itself out, people then realized that they still really did like the flavor of juniper mostly, but also some of the other botanicals used like orris root, cardamom, citrus, and beyond that, even sugar and time in barrel. There are too many stories out there to know why Old Tom got its name, but often it is said is that the places that used to sell bootleg gin had a sign of a black cat outside to let patrons know their location. We don’t have a black cat, but we do have a giant sculpture of our Boston Terrier, Bandit, done by local artist Patrick Amiot that should catch your attention!
Wait, what are the results of Timo’s Old Tom Gin though? It is so, so gosh darn good that it even won Silver in the American Distilling Institute tasting competition this year. The licorice addition (we’re talking root licorice) creates a soft sweetness on the nose. The juniper holds strong throughout and the finish, with that slight touch of barrel age and honey, brings a distinguished caramel to the spirit. We sold out overnight but will make some more next year and hope you can get a hold of it then! Want first access to some of our more creative projects and seasonal releases like this, Bitter Sloe, Navy Strength Gin, and Nocino? You should sign up to become a member of our Spirit Club and enjoy priority access to these and other fun spirits we make!