It’s been a while since I had some Old Tom Gin. I have already explained its history and where it sits in the gin spectrum before so I won’t bore you with this again. The temptation to rediscover the delights of this style of gin – Winston Churchill preferred it because he deemed it not as dry as London gin and not as sweet as genever – was too great when I was perusing the amply stocked shelves of the Constantine Stores, a testament to the depth and breadth of the ginaissance. So to complete my sextet I chose a bottle of Gin Lane 1751 Old Tom Gin.
The story behind the Gin Lane 1751 brand is interesting. It is a collaboration between a group of veterans from the drinks industry with a passion to recreate the authentic styles of Victorian gin known as the Bloomsbury Club, and a distiller, Charles Maxwell, of Thames Distillers who are to be found in the Clapham district of London. The name is redolent of the history of gin, Hogarth’s famous print of the suffering caused by gin and the Act of that year which, inter alia, prohibited distillers from supplying the hooch to unlicensed sellers and forced the hoi polloi to take up beer and tea instead.
There are four gins from the Gin Lane 1751 stable – I’ve featured their Victoria Pink Gin before – and they all have the same staple ingredients, the difference in strength and taste being down to adjustments in the quantities of each in the mix and their relativities. The front label on the slightly dumpy bottle helpfully lists the botanicals which have been added to the 100% neutral spirit base – cassia bark, angelica, Sicilian lemon, coriander, orris root, Seville orange, juniper (of course) and star anise.
These days there are a couple of ways that distillers achieve the sweetness that is the essential characteristic of the Old Tom style, namely the use of sweeteners or, alternatively, deploying botanicals to give the illusion of sweetness. It is the latter route that Gin Lane 1751 has chosen to go, using two elements.
The first is star anise and the recipe requires the distillers to turn it up to number 11 on the dial. For those unfamiliar with the spice, it is a staple of Chinese cooking, combining a strong anise flavour with an aroma not unlike liquorice, and is often used as an alternative to cinnamon. If you’ve drunk some pastis, you will have had some. The other element used to up the sugar content is refined sugarcane.
Removing the artificial cork stopper the immediate sensation is one of juniper – always a good sign – and citrus. To the taste the spirit, whilst lighter and less intense than a London Dry, is a complex mix of juniper and pepper with the sweeter elements coming to the fore as you roll the liquid around in your mouth. The aftertaste, at least to me, was a little on the sweet side. Perhaps the dial should have been set to 10 for the star anise.
That said, it was a refreshing drink and a welcome option to have in the ever burgeoning gin cabinet.
Until the next time, cheers!