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Old Tom Gin – A history lesson (sort of)

The Story

Depending on how much you know about gin you might just think gin is gin. But there are sub-categories of different styles. The gin most people know is London Dry Gin, and this is what style our Northern Dry Gin is. They are juniper-led, 37.5% or above, and all botanicals being distilled to create the finished product with no additions after. Old Tom differs from this. Allow us to tell you the tale…

So Old Tom dates back to the 1800’s, when everyone was going a bit crackers for gin. (We like a gin but this was a whole other level). This was about the time it got its nickname – Mother’s Ruin. (People were drinking it so freely it was ruining their lives). Delightful eh? Those who drank this “gin” were neighbours, friends and strangers rather than gin distillers!

Rules against home distilling became far, far more strict and the penalties much harsher. So, gin distillers went underground and had to be a bit sneaky about how they got their gin to customers. It is believed that the practice of getting the gin lends itself to the origin of its name. They would hang an old tom cat sign outside their premises, the idea being a gin vending machine. Gin would be piped out its tail into your awaiting glass if you slotted a coin in the cat’s mouth.

The process

Back then, everything was a bit grim. Distillations methods were awful and all kinds of nasties were ending up in the spirits people were drinking, like formaldehyde. Sweeter botanicals were used to mask the awful flavours of the poisons. Some people think even sugar was added too! But sugar  was super expensive back then so we aren’t so sure about that. Glass bottles also weren’t as cheap or easy to come by as they are now and so the gin was transported in barrels which then gave it colour and flavour from the wood of the barrel.

As for Poetic License Old Tom Gin – we wanted to keep it true to how it would have been then but with a few modern-day enhancements. First off, our distillation methods are thankfully far superior to Victorian times, so we can assure you our Old Tom is not toxic. We don’t really believe people had the kind of cash for sugar, it was a seriously luxury item back then, so we choose not to add it and instead nurture the sweetness of this gin from botanicals alone. We don’t reveal all our 13 botanicals but a couple that helps us with this are licorice root and rose. Once we’ve distilled it we then rest it in sweet sherry casks, this adds further sweetness, colour and oaky flavours – for this reason, our Old Tom Gin proves popular with whisk(e)y drinkers, whisk(e)y also being aged in barrels. We serve ours with ginger ale but it also drinks well with tonic or just stirred with ice.

We like to think our version is pretty close to how gin would have tasted back in the times of Gin Lane, but without the meltdown of society or risk of death. Chin chin to that!

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