The mighty VERSUS returns in 2017 to smack you (well, me) in the face with a duel between Old Tom Gins. Who’s got the talent to survive this fight?
Hayman’s has been around since 1863. So when they say “authentic Victorian style” I kind of have to believe them. Still, this Old Tom has not been continuously in production, having been relaunched about a decade ago.
Caveats aside, Hayman’s Old Tom Gin should be about as authentic as you can get in the way of an Old Tom Gin. Distilled in England, holding fast to tradition, this 160-ish year old blast from the past should hold its weight in this fight.
Now, Anchor Brewing has been making beer in California since 1896. Anchor’s distilling arm, however, has only been around since 1993.
While I might be a tad reluctant to call Anchor Old Tom Gin “authentic” or “traditional,” the notes on it seem to hold up to the Old Tom Gin standard.
This fight will be judged by solely by Yours Truly, the BoozeGuru.
Side bar: What *is* Old Tom Gin?
Sweeter than London Dry, but drier than Genever, Old Tom holds the middle ground; and has been referred to as “the missing link” in some circles. Old Tom rose to popularity in the 1700’s, and nearly fell victim to the Gin Act of 1751.
In today’s terms, think of Old Tom Gin as a slightly sweeter London Dry; a craft spirit, if you will.
Old Tom Gin is the correct Gin for a Tom Collins. (It’s right there in the name… it’s the “Tom” in a Tom Collins.
Both Gins were sampled in clean, double-rinsed brandy snifters. Fresh coffee beans and distilled water were available to clean the Judge’s senses between rounds.
Now, Let’s Get It On!
ROUND ONE: NOSE
Prior to smelling these two, I did have some preconceived notions. I expected juniper berry, perhaps some floral or citrus, and definitely some sweetness. What did I find?
Hayman’s Old Tom came out strong with juniper, following up with a touch of refined sugar sweetness and mild astringency. Whatever other botanicals are in there, they’ve been drowned out by the juniper.
Anchor Old Tom socked me in the nose with hits of Witch Hazel, juniper, and mild licorice. There are other notes in there, but the alcohol content is masking the nose a bit.
Round One’s Winner: Hayman’s. The lower astringency and nice sweet notes have won me over for this round.
ROUND TWO: TASTE
Now that I have the scents, will the tastes match? What deviations might there be?
Hayman’s packs quite a punch in the sweetness department. Definitely sweeter than London Dry Gin. Juniper is present and something I can’t quite place my finger on… orris root or star anise, perhaps?
Anchor hits back hard with its own pronounced sweetness, a pop of licorice, and a one-two-punch of juniper and citrus.
Round Two’s Winner: Anchor. The tastes are similar, but Anchor has more complexity to it.
FINAL ROUND – ROUND THREE: FEEL & FINISH
Feel & Finish come right on the heels of Taste. How was the mouth feel? Any oiliness? Did either coat the mouth and tongue? How was it at the back of the throat? Any off-putting after tastes?
Hayman’s goes down smooth, with a sweet, warm, and mellow finish. No real oiliness or pronounced viscosity; yet, the whole mouth feel seems velvety. Mellow warmth down the throat, not on the palate.
Anchor’s follow through and finish is warm, dry, and complex. Mild viscosity, enough to coat the tongue and back of the throat. Pronounced heat down the throat while the tongue still tingles with sweetness.
Round Three’s Winner: Anchor. Yes, Hayman’s was velvety smooth, but the finish wasn’t long enough (which might make it perfect for a G&T). Anchor’s long, slow journey left me wanting more.
As a huge fan of Beefeater, you’d likely expect that I’d fall in line with Hayman’s and never look back. Although, as a Bay Area Resident, you might think I’m just going Local.
But no, Anchor’s edge is in its overall taste and mouthfeel. Would I sip it straight? Likely not. But I’ll happily mix Martinis and Gin & Tonics with both Hayman’s and Anchor. Still, if I could have only one in my bar, it’d be Anchor.
While they’re both winners in my book, there can be only one!
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin – Final Rating: 91 out of 100
Anchor Old Tom Gin – Final Rating: 93 out of 100
While both bottles should run you about $32 in U.S. funds, you may have trouble finding Anchor Old Tom in your neck of the woods. For that, I am deeply sorry.