Old Tom is a sweet gin that was fashionable before distilling became more sophisticated, and added ingredients were relied upon to mask the poor quality of the spirit. As gin got better, tastes changed and London Dry became the all the rage.
Bartenders’ quests for authentic products is fueling innovation at craft distilleries all over the world and Old Tom is one gin style (for more gin styles read this post.) that is growing rapidly. Appreciation of it is not limited to our savvy bartenders either, at Junipalooza Melbourne 2016, Jensen’s Old Tom gin was one of the strongest sellers amongst attendees.
As you know, my tastes favour the drier end of the spectrum, but I do like Old Tom, particularly when I’m drinking a martinez, a gin sling or any other classic from the Savoy Cocktail book. Although, when I first clapped eyes on the Ransom Old Tom, my was first reaction was “oh no, surely that’s a whisky pretending to be a gin?”.
However, its possibly the most historically accurate Old Tom Gin, which is unsurprising given that it was produced in collaboration with historian and author David Wondrich.
Ransom Old Tom gin has a base of malted (85%) and unsalted (15%) barley which is unusual for a gin. Most begin with neutral grain spirit, using a malt base creates a flavour before any botanicals are added. I was intrigued as to whether the botanicals would be fighting against the malt!
The botanicals, as you’d expect are a very traditional list featuring: juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seed, cardamom pods, and angelica root. Rather than going into the still, they are mixed with corn spirit and allowed to infuse. The infusion is blended with the malt base spirit and distilled. The gin is then aged in 100% used French oak wine barrels for six to twelve months.
As you’d expect the malted barley comes through on the nose. Pleasingly though citrus and juniper flavours are fully present on the palate, while licorice and oak notes add depth and length to the gin.
Ransom Old Tom Gin was the first US barrel aged and first Old Tom Gin to be released since Prohibition, and has been extremely well-received winning a gold medal in the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The malt base and oak-aging will win over the some whisky lovers, but I love Ransom Old Tom for its unique character and place in the ever-expanding gin category.
Country of Origin: USA
Price: High (but worth it!)