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Gin Reviews

Tanqueray Old Tom Gin, 47.3% ABV: A Limited Gin Revived from 1835!

 

When Diageo announced that Tanqueray would be dropping an Old Tom Gin expression back in 2014, it’s safe to say that many were curious and eager to try it. Released in a limited launch of 100,000 bottles (bigger than most limited launches but still fairly conservative for Diageo’s standards), the new Tanqueray Old Tom Gin was recreated based on founder Charles Tanqueray’s recovered 1835 recipe, straight from his personal notebook. 

Like the original Tanqueray London Dry, the Tanqueray Old  Tom Gin also uses the same four core botanicals: juniper, angelica root, liquorice, and coriander seed, though the proportion of which is varied. What is different however is that the Old Tom contains a wheat-based newmake, more closely resembling the historical production of Old Toms in the 19th century. The gin is also sweetened with some beet root sugar.  

Even now in 2024, you can still find gin lovers trying to scour the internet for a bottle to buy. Many have tried a bit of it at a bar or a generous friend’s home and were looking to secure one for themselves, or were simply trying to replenish their own stash of this limited edition gin. Either way, if you weren’t fast enough to scoop up a bottle or two back in 2014, it’s hard to get a taste of this expression at a reasonable price.

Admiring the menu at Atlas Bar. (Read our review of Atlas Bar's cocktail menu here.)

Luckily, I was browsing through the gin menu one night at Atlas Bar, a Singapore based cocktail bar that just so happens to house the world’s largest collection of gins, when I noticed that they had a bottle of Tanqueray Old Tom gin available for ordering. Glad that I hadn’t missed the opportunity to try this much raved about and much missed expression, I ordered a glass of it neat.

The History of the Old Tom Gin

Old Tom Gins are a unique category of gin that, nowadays, often gets drowned out by all the talk surrounding London Dry gins or New world gins. Yet prior to the 1900s, Old Tom Gins used to dominate the gin world, and was one of the main types of gin favoured by producers.  Old Tim-style Gins refers to gins that have had a bit of sweetener added, and can sometimes also be barrel-aged. In the past, the sweeteners or flavourings in Old Tom Gins were often added to mask the harsh-tasting congeners present in the spirit, at a time when there was limited advances in distillation technology. 

Consequently, the result is a gin that’s slightly sweeter and more cordial-like than a classic juniper-forward London Dry, but less so than Genever, a juniper-flavoured spirit that’s a blend of neutral spirit and malt-wine.   

(Image Source: iceandaslice)

As for how the term “Old Tom Gin” was born, there’s a couple of fables. One theory is that back in the day, a plaque of an old Tom cat would be hung outside bars that sold gin. Those seeking a shot of gin would place a coin through the slot concealed in the cat plague, and have their gin funnelled out through a tube into their waiting cup. Another more gruesome theory is that a cat once fell into a pot of gin, resulting in the spirit taking on a distinctive flavour that inspired the name.

Tanqueray Old Tom Gin - Tasting Notes

Aroma: Earthy juniper and pine notes with a gentle sweetness of liquorice candy, wheat, and light citrus. Dashes of black pepper and coriander. 

Taste: The texture is silky, soft and smooth. The piney presence of juniper and eucalyptus is well-maintained through the palate, but with an inviting undercurrent of sweet spice and citrus. I get notes of lime candy, liquorice, orris root, and black pepper. 

Finish: Medium. Less sweetness on the finish, with a piney juniper and eucalyptus note driving home the finish, balanced by cracklings of black pepper, coriander, and subtle lemon zest. 

Overall Thoughts:

A wonderfully well-balanced Old Tom that doesn't let the sweetness become its main point!  The Tanqueray Old Tom Gin really impressed me with the complexity of flavours that belies the use of only four botanicals. There's a great, lush mouthfeel with a herbaceous juniper-y backbone, well enhanced by a sweetness of citrus and spice that never gets cloying. I can definitely see this smooth expression holding up well in many of your classic Old Tom cocktails such as the Tom Collins and the Martinez, but also think its still punchy enough to shine in a simple Gin & Tonic or over ice! 

An excellent limited edition expression! Now the question remains how we can convince Diageo to add it to the core line up...

 

Happy sipping!

@lotusroot518