If you’re new to drinking gin and have begun to explore the bottle selection at your local store, one of the first questions that you may have asked is this: What the heck is the difference between London Dry gins and Old Tom gins? Well, we’re here to help clear it up.
The name Old Tom is a reference to the cat-shaped signs that hung outside of British pubs—which were referred to as “Old Toms.” Old Tom gins taste less aggressive than their London Dry counterparts, and there are a few other key differences you should know to get acquainted with the spirit. Here, we delve into the most important factors of what defines an Old Tom gin.
It’s the “Missing Link”
If it wasn’t for the Dutch, the Brits would have never acquired their knowledge of how to make gin, nor their thirst for the spirit. In Holland, the Dutch had been making genever—gin’s ancestral spirit, which is more malty and less juniper-heavy than British gin—since the late 1500s. Old Tom gin is more akin to Dutch genever in flavor, and it’s often considered the link between the old Dutch formula and modern gin that’s made in England now. Once the British began creating London Dry gins, the style became more popular with consumers and caused the Old Tom style to disappear completely from the market until 2007.