Often referred to a “the missing link”, Old Tom Gin is typically sweeter than London Dry and drier than Dutch Jenever. Although hugely popular during Victorian Britain, Old Tom had fallen out of favour until recently, yet it has resurged with the explosion of popularity surrounding gins in the UK (particularly London) at present.
Yet, even so, there are still few Old Tom style gins readily available at the moment. A particularly impressive ‘Old Tom’ gin, however, is that from Gin Lane 1751, created by Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers (an eight generation distiller) and The Bloomsbury Club – a group of gin enthusiasts and drinks industry professionals. A small batch London-based distiller, Gin Lane 1751 is named after the Gin Act of 1751, banning the sale of gin in prisons, the workhouse and any shops selling everyday staples. Distillers were also unable to sell gin direct and publicans were no longer able to issue credit. Gin became less readily available and more expensive with quality improving significantly; by Victorian times it had become a drink of respectability.
Gin Lane 1751’s Old Tom is a true celebration of the Victorian gin-making era, brewed with eight natural botanicals – juniper, orris root, Seville oranges, angelica, Sicilian lemon, star anise, cassia bark and coriander – to create a well-balanced, complex gin. The gin is presented within a bottle that’s adorned with a black cat – a nod to an expected origin of the name ‘Old Tom’. Legend has it that the name was attributed to the sign of a cat on the door of the notorious Captain Dudley Bradstreet’s speakeasy bar, or the cat’s head shaped brass plate above the Gin Houses; punters would put a penny in the cat’s mouth in exchange for a drink.
As soon as the bottle is opened, prominent aromas of star anise and coriander are present, followed by complex floral aromas, when poured, with notes of juniper and peppermint bark. When tasted neat, there’s a prominent spiciness which is balanced extraordinarily well with some refreshing citrus and sweet licorice that evolves into a slightly sweet, dry finish. Overall, Gin Lane 1751’s Old Tom is a full-bodied, well-balanced gin that has a pleasant, subtle sweetness. It’s delicious teamed with good quality tonic water and a garnish of lemon peel, and even better as the base of Gin Lane 1751’s signature ‘Old Tom Collins’ cocktail.
Old Tom Collins Recipe
2 parts Gin Lane 1751 Old Tom
1 part Lemon Juice
1 part Simple Syrup
Add the lemon juice, simple syrup and gin to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake well and strain into a highball or Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a lemon wedge.