What's Old Tom Gin?
Already in the Victorian age Old Tom Gin enjoyed great popularity among the population. Over several epochs, Old Tom had a decisive influence on the history of gin - not least because of the story about a black cat. After the Dutch genever, Old Tom Gin is often described as the origin, if not the cause, of the many gin varieties that followed.The Old Tom Gin is the complete opposite of a dry gin. Unlike these types of gin, Old Tom Gin requires the addition of small amounts of sugar.It is precisely this characteristic sweet taste that has helped it to a real revival in recent times and has made it an indispensable ingredient in many classic gin cocktails.The "Old Tom" got its name in the 18th century, when gin was banned in London. Creative pub owners then placed the figure of a black cat ("Old Tomcat") in front of their pubs, signaling to their customers that they could still enjoy the forbidden pleasure.
History of the Old Tom Gin
The origins of Old Tom Gins and the history of England go hand in hand.First, around 1650, Dutch gin made juniper brandy extremely popular with the population in England, but especially with the military. Around the 18th century, the very good growing grain and some herbs found on the island made it possible to produce gin very cheaply. Everybody could distil his own gin. The fact that good money could be made with it, resulted in a strong loss of quality of the gin of that time. The unpleasant aromas and tastes of gin were masked by a lot of sugar. Finally, the easily affordable consumption of alcohol reached such proportions that the government was forced to enact what is now known as the "Gin Act 1751". From then on it was forbidden to distil and sell gin without an official licence. This law, however, merely shifted production underground, where business continued to flourish until the government reacted by banning the consumption of alcohol.
Thus the consumption of alcohol could finally be curbed. However, some enterprising and creative pub owners kept the gin production and serving alive by placing a wooden statue in the shape of a black cat in front of the front door. This cat, whose name was "Old Tomcat", symbolized to potential guests that gin was served in this pub and that they could enjoy the forbidden pleasure. Thus the sweet and secretly produced gin finally found its name giver in this cat.After the "Gin Act" was repealed a few decades later, the distillation technology improved and stricter regulations for the production of gin were introduced, the higher quality London Dry Gin gradually replaced the Old Tom Gin. In fact, as time went by, it was even considered frowned upon to drink sweetened gin, so London Dry Gin almost completely replaced Old Tom Gin. Hardly any distillery still produced Old Tom Gin until the end of the 19th century.It was only through the resurgence of the bar and cocktail scene, especially in more recent times, that Old Tom Gin found its way back into bars and many cocktails. Developed in this time and still today a popular cocktail is the "Old Tom Collins".
Production of Old Tom Gin
The procedure for creating an Old Tom Gin is similar to that for a Dry Gin. It is up to the master distiller whether the aromas of the botanicals are transferred to the raw alcohol by maceration, digestion or perculation. It is also not fixed with how many botanicals and how often the Old Tom Gin is married and distilled. In contrast to the past, today the advanced distillation technique and the knowledge of the different botanicals ensure that the gin is not of inferior quality.Unlike the production of London Dry Gin, where the addition of additives is strictly prohibited, sugar is added to the Old Tom Gin after the final distillation. But here too, there is no upper or lower limit. However, Old Tom Gin is generally only sweetened discreetly.
Aroma & preparation of an Old Tom Gin
Delicate with a delicate touch of citrus fruit and the characteristic light sweetness. As with a dry gin, the juniper note nevertheless always remains to the fore.
The addition of sugar makes the Old Tom Gin a bit more palatable, weakens some sharp alcohol notes and makes it rounder compared to a dry gin.Soft and slightly sweet, with a perfect balance of fresh citrus fruit and mild liquorice, Old Tom Gin is the ideal cocktail gin. Its characteristic taste profile makes it an indispensable ingredient in many classic gin cocktails and it is particularly suitable for preparing historically anchored cocktails such as the Tom Collins, a Ramos Gin-Fizz or the Martinez.