Crabbies 1891 Old Tom is aged in oak barrels before bottling, to add a little extra earth, wood, and spice to the original recipe
Price: ~ £25
Grains of paradise
Interestingly, my first introduction to the Crabbie’s brand was their alcoholic ginger beer, so when I learned that they made gin too, my initial thought was that they were jumping on the bandwagon! It was later still that I heard of their whisky, and thus their roots in spirits dating back to the mid 19th century with founder John Crabbie blending his own range. The company now has a selection of gins and gin liqueurs including this Old Tom, which is rested in oak casks to add flavour.
Having done a little research, it seems that this bottle of 43% gin has been replaced by a 40.2% with what appears to be a slightly less blue bottle, and oddly enough, a higher price tag!
The bottle is a fairly classic bell shape in blue glass with white screen printed label, and topped with white wax. Front and centre is the date 1891, which is a reference to the date the original recipe was developed by John Crabbie himself. Curved above that is the brand name and elephant logo, and below is the Old Tom Gin proclamation, followed by the location: Leith, Edinburgh. On the back in small print is a little blurb about the gin’s botanicals as well as the usual information. It’s a little dull in my opinion, but tells you everything you need to know!
A lovely woody pine rises from the glass along with hints of coriander and orange. It’s not an overly strong smelling gin, but what’s impressive is that everything is there and blended together perfectly. I am not overly familiar with celery seed, so can’t comment on that, but there is another pleasantly medicinal aroma too that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s somewhere between sarsaparilla (root beer) and dandelion & burdock. You do have to work quite hard, but it’s rewarding.
First, it’s worth noting that the gin does have a very faint hue from the barrel ageing, so I’m hoping this gives it a richer mouthfeel too. It’s extremely smooth on the tongue, albeit bright with flavour which like the nose is very much influenced by the juniper and wood, but overall it’s surprisingly muted. The other botanicals are all there though, with orange blending through the spice of the grains of paradise and earthy citrus of the coriander. Underneath all of that is a sweet warmth from the liquorice which very pleasantly counters the oak and juniper. I think this is really nice, but I would like the flavour to be a little more intense. Everything there feels like it just needs a little more body.
A drop of water works wonders bringing out the flavour, so much so it’s almost hard to believe. It actually feels like the gin now has more body and depth, with the flavours from the wood really coming through, as well as a touch more citrus and a lovely rich sweetness from the liquorice. This is a huge improvement, and a very interesting sipper!
Finally, a G&T (3:1 Ridge Valley Indian tonic with a slice of dried blood orange to garnish). The result is very nice indeed, though I have added an extra glug of gin which I am blaming on the tonic (I really love this tonic, but do think it has a stronger flavour than most). There’s a fantastic interplay between the flavours from the oak and the tonic that make for a really interesting G&T. It’s as though it tastes fairly normal, but also totally different. I think the orange is the real backbone to the gin though, making sure everything works together, and the liquorice adds a lovely deep, rich layer of sweetness to the overall experience. This may not have any blockbuster, shout-out flavour notes, but it’s a really enjoyable G&T!
On paper this gin might not be much to write home about, but I’ve actually really enjoyed this quaffing! I think Crabbie’s have created a really interesting Old Tom. It takes a little while to get going, and benefits from mixing, but I’m genuinely excited to see how it works in different cocktails. I very much hope that the newer version is at least as good, especially as it’s more expensive, and if it is, I can definitely recommend it.
Remove half a feather if you need your gin to be bursting with flavour
Cabbie’s Old Tom is available online
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.