At the beginning of the year I was chatting to Jesse from Poor Toms and he was quizzing me on my favourite overproof gin. Generally, I try not to play favourites. Asking me to pick my favourite gin is like asking someone to choose between their children. However, we both agreed that Sipsmith VJOP is as close to heaven in a glass as you can get. Jesse revealed that he and Griff had plans to create an overproof (not Navy strength) gin at the request of bartenders who like a little more oomph to their gin as it stands up better against other ingredients in cocktails.
After lots of R&D, Poor Toms Fool Strength (Poor Tom is a crazy man in Shakespeare’s King Lear, so it seems appropriate) was born, cloaked in one of the best gin labels I’ve ever seen. Designed by the same designers who created the original label, it continues on the theme of the Garden of Earthly Delights, this one even takes a swipe at “Casino” Mike Baird.
Fancy packaging aside, it’s the flavour that counts, and Poor Toms Fool Proof is right up my juniper-loving street.
I chatted with Griff to find out more about how they created their new gin, “When we blended our original dry gin to 50% we realised it wasn’t going to do the job. The botanical array was simply not suitable for an overproof. So we went back to the drawing board”.
Going back to the start involved sampling lots of gins in their original and overproof forms. Griff went on, “The ones we preferred had significantly changed their botanical mix, rather than using the same gin at a higher ABV. A higher ABV changes all the flavour profiles in the botanicals, essentially making a different gin, so we thought why not make something specifically for the ABV we wanted.”
Griff and Jesse put aside every ingredient they’d used in the original (gone are chamomile, granny smith apples, lemon myrtle and strawberry gum leaf) and went back to a classic base of juniper, coriander, green cardamom, cubeb pepper and angelica. Liquorice root was added to provide richness. Griff explained that it wasn’t a conscious decision to exclude Australian natives from their list of botanicals, but that nothing they tried gave the desired result.
Both of them were really happy with the results using the 6 botanicals, but felt the gin lacked a final something. Griff told me “Mitch from the Gin Palace in Melbourne was visiting and thought it needed citrus and suggested grapefruit peel. And he was so right!”, so grapefruit became the final botanical.
Aside from creating a completely different gin from scratch, they Poor Toms team have used a different process in making the gin. Juniper, cardamom and cubeb are steeped in alcohol in the still overnight. They then add additional juniper with the other ingredients before distillation commences. The juniper and grapefruit peel are also vapour infused to give additional depth of flavour.
There is plenty of juniper and coriander on the nose, while on the palate I got delicious piney juniper and citrus with a little spicy kick from the cubeb. It’s a very well-balanced gin with a smooth mouthfeel.
If navy strength gins aren’t your thing, but you want a gin that is bolder than most and has great versatility, Poor Toms Fool Strength is an excellent choice.