For my recent research into Old Tom Gin, I have visited the British Library to inspect some manuscripts first hand. Whilst looking at the 1902 version of Encyclopedia Britannica, I came across a recipe for gin. Given the ubiquity of the book, it is likely that the recipe represents something that is typical of the time.
After giving the recipe to a distiller friend, I was fortunate enough to taste a sample of gin made to this century-old recipe; here are my findings.
On its own
Nose: Complex and rich, with hints of chocolate wafers and brandy spice, plus just a touch of citrus. Unique.
Taste: This has a superb texture with a richness that is normally associated with high-end aged spirits. Strong notes of coriander come through, with a bright, citrus spice that is followed by hints of menthol pepper and resinous juniper. In the middle, there is a rich creaminess of sweet vanilla and notes of chocolate with a definite cakey element to them, making the flavour reminiscent of pain au chocolat.
Gin & Tonic
This gin works surprisingly well, with malty coriander and a citrus sweetness to it. There are definitely some elements of genever with bready, grain notes that are quite subtle, but noticeable. The finish, which lasts for a long time, has a dry bitterness to it.
Very clean, like a shard of ice, this is cooling with a little sharpness. This cocktail is just what a Martini should be – surprisingly so, given the high amount of coriander in the mix, but very good nonetheless.
Very floral upfront, with vanilla, citrus, and the flowery spice notes of coriander shining through. There’s then a little sweetness from the vermouth, before a partnership of intensity between the gin and the Campari. The finish is a lovely mix of earthy bitterness and juicy fruitiness.
It is fascinating to try a recipe that has been widely published in such a mainstream book as the Encyclopedia Britannica. What was equally fascinating was its less than typical flavour profile and how it was, in many ways, closer to some modern contemporary gins, whilst, at the same time, having more than a whiff of genever about it. Perhaps this is an early genever?