The year is 1752, you walk briskly down a cobbled London street to the sound of merriment; men and women lining the streets in a drunken hysteria. Turning the corner, you notice the sounds quickly fading into the distance.
As the new street comes in to view you are greeted by a quiet row of houses, and an inconspicuous wooden sign in the shape of a black cat above the first-floor window of a nearby house. You cautiously approach the window, pulling out a small handful of coins and placing one in a slot. You pull out a mug from your pocket and, placing it under the lead tube next to the money slot, you wait for the clear liquid to fill the cup.
This is Old Tom Gin, and it's history in England is mired in trial and tribulation. Following the 'Gin Craze' in the 18th century, the British government placed stringent rules on the sale, production and consumption of gin; including the enforcement of higher taxation on bars which sold gin, introducing absurd licensing fees designed to deter bar owners from selling gin.
This forced the entire movement underground, with only 2 venues in the entire country paying the new £50 annual license fee (the equivelant of £8,000 today). It is here we are introduced to the 'Old Tom', a black cat in a hat that was a symbol of defiance and joy for many, but simply put; the Old Tom was just a sign that said 'We have gin!'.
Today the name 'Old Tom' is just as much a homage to a by-gone time as it is to an indication of flavour. These gins perfectly bridge the gap between sweet and dry, and help keep this part of history alive into the modern age.