Getting to Know Spring 44’s Newest Spirit, Old Tom Gin
From innovation to black cats and wooden plaques, Spring44’s Old Tom Gin holds a story or two behind its golden amber hue.
Within every sip of this flavorful spirit, lies a bridge to history, stemming back to the English Gin Craze in 18th century London. In 1730, nearly 10 million gallons of gin were being distilled within the city, leading to exorbitant amounts of its consumption. Because the Gin Craze closely resembled the modern drug wars, Parliament passed many gin acts, taxing the liquor and eventually banning it altogether.
Naturally, bootlegging ensued, and an adventurous chap by the name of Captain Dudley Bradstreet capitalized on the outlawed liquor. After inheriting a large sum of the spirit, he hung up a cat-shaped wooden plaque outside of his home to indicate the clandestine goods.
In Bradstreet’s version of a premature drive-through, thirsty patrons would insert a penny into a slot beneath the cat. When the coin clinked into a bucket on the other side of the wall, a shot of gin was dispensed through a lead pipe. The drinkers would receive the shot from the pipe nestled under the cat’s paw – kind of gives a new meaning to the old phrase “cat got your tongue.”
To outskirt the law, bars across London began adopting Bradstreet’s cat plaque dispensary method, attesting to Bradstreet’s trendsetting innovation. Gin seekers around London would know where to find the illegal spirit by the sign of the cat. It is speculated that this scheme became the namesake for old tom gin. Cheers to you, Dudley Bradstreet. You’re the kind of risk taker Spring44 admires.
So why then would we put a silhouette of a pine tree on our bottle?
It has nothing to do with the cat-stuck-in-a-tree-narrative, but does signify something about the story going on inside Spring44’s Old Tom Gin. Lucky for us, old tom gin has evolved from its early days as a crude gin cheaply sweetened to mask a harsh taste.
Today, old tom indicates a more complexly flavored gin, richened with an array of botanicals. In Spring44’s case, those include juniper, lemon grass, toasted coriander, fresh grapefruit peel, fresh rosemary, galangal and orris root. But most importantly, the water this spirit is distilled with is of course the same liquid energy that goes into all our spritis, water straight from the source of Spring44.
The life blood of our liquors has also been nourishing Old Solitaire, a one thousand-year-old Ponderosa Pine tree officially named by the United States Geological Survey. Old Solitaire resides on the same plot of land our water comes from and is the inspiration for our barrel-aged gin.
I have to admit that I would love nothing more than to be transported to London circa 1750, only to plop a penny into a slot for a clandestine shot of sweetened gin poured from the paws of a wooden cat plaque. For now I’ll just have to enjoy Spring44’s Old Tom with a live furry friend. I’d say it’s the next best thing to time travel (and a little more sanitary than the cat dispenser).
Check out the availability for Spring44’s Old Tom Gin so you can grab a bottle and have a story of your own to share about the infamous Old Tom gin.
I know I have.