Last week we talked about what gin is and the main four botanicals that give gin its character.
This week’s session we’re going to explore different expressions of gin and separate fact from fiction.
Let’s take a look at the categories.
If ‘gin’ is on the bottle, then it must have juniper as one of its botanicals/ingredients. However, this doesn’t have to be fresh and other colourings or sweeteners can be added.
In the EU it must be made from a neutral spirit and be bottled at no less than 37.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). In the USA distillers can use other distilled liquids or fermented alcohols and must be bottled at no less than 40% ABV.
Juniper is supposed to be the prominent flavour in gin but as you may have guessed, this rule is the one most manipulated.
To say the regulations are loose would be an understatement. If you wanted to, you could buy a bottle of vodka, pop some juniper essence in there and legally rebrand it gin!
Without going into too much detail about production. Gin is a re-distilled product (remember the neutral grain has already been created) so with this step producers are trying to infuse some flavour into an otherwise tasteless alcohol. There can still be artificial flavours and sweeteners added here, so re-distillation is by no means a guarantee of quality.
A very old method of making gin and has no legal definition! You could call anything ‘Old Tom’ if you wanted and get away with it, legally speaking. It’s more of a gentleman’s agreement that Old Tom represents a style of gin that is sweeter than a traditional dry.
A lot of the early cocktail books will include references to ‘Old Tom’ as this was the gin being drunk in the era of the gin palace. Each pub or palace would have its own recipe book with a guide on how to cut the gin with sugar and water, making it more palatable for the masses.
As to the name? Certain stories include such ridiculousness as an old tom cat falling into a vat of gin. More likely is that its provenance is linked to famed distiller “old” Thomas Chamberlain.
The most interesting thing about London Dry is that you can make it anywhere in the world! Unlike champagne or cognac, you’re not bound by geographical location. The London aspect of the term comes from the time and place of its early popularity.
The ‘dry’ part can be confusing to some because aren’t all gins dry?
As you’ll see In the Old Tom description above, a lot were sweetened before being served and this was mainly done to cover up impurities in the liquid. ‘Dry’ as a descriptor, was a celebration of that fact that sugar wasn’t required anymore due to the better quality of the liquid.
Legally, London Dry must be redistilled with natural ingredients and no flavourings or colouring may be added.
HAYMAN’S OLD TOM
This week’s gin is Hayman’s Old Tom, a product steeped in history. The owner, Christopher Hayman is grandson to James Burrough who set up the Beefeater distillery in 1863! Thankfully, Christopher kept the family tradition going, and after a long career which included working with Thames Distillery. He was then able to create gin under his own name. Their Old Tom was released in 2007 and is based on a family recipe from 1870.
To find our more about Hayman’s Gin click here
To celebrate the namesake of ‘Old Tom’, we’ve gone with one of the oldest drinks around, the Tom Collins. Very similar to a ‘gin fizz’ which combines, gin, sugar and citrus the Collins also incorporates ice and is served tall.
The name of the Tom Collins is attributed to John Collins, head waiter of London’s Limmer’s Hotel back in 1830. Despite originally naming the drink after himself, by 1870 the drink was commonly known as a Tom Collins. Most likely due to the popularity of Old Tom gin.
Make it at home!
Be sure to join us every Friday on our Instagram at 5pm for Gin Club