Fancy a taste of original English gin? Then you need to try Hayman’s Old Tom!

by Lucinda Beeman - September 13, 2017

As Hayman’s Gin prepares to return to its London roots, step back in time to the Victorian-era Big Smoke with their Old Tom Gin, distilled to a generations-old family recipe.

In the London of the 18th-century, gin wasn’t an easy thing to get your hands on.

The Gin Craze of the previous century had caused moral outrage, and in response the government slapped distillers and drinkers alike with a punitive set of high tariffs and taxes. To get around it, the story goes, pub owners would hang a plaque painted with a black cat – an Old Tom – outside of their establishments to signal the availability of a very special style of not-entirely-legal liquor.

Gin lovers could pop money into a slot beneath the cat’s paw, and out would come pouring a shot of homemade gin, distilled in a style now known as Old Tom.

As James Hayman, whose family has been distilling gin for five generations, explains, “It offers a more luxurious, soft, rounded flavour due to its being lightly sweetened with natural cane sugar. Our Old Tom is particularly special to us, because we were the first distillers to bring it back into production over 10 years ago. While others have followed since, we believe that to this day our Old Tom is the only option you’ll find produced to an authentic 19th-century recipe – our great-grandfather’s.”

The Hayman family has been distilling since 1863, when the great-grandfather of James’s father Christopher – a curious pharmacist – bought a gin and cordial rectifying shop in London’s Cale Street. The business passed from father to son through the generations, and now Christopher leads the charge with James, his son, and Miranda, his daughter.

The family is proud of its long history making spectacular spirits in London, and after a few years operating their distillery outside of the M25, they’re ready to make a triumphant return to Greater London. In fact, they’re moving to a new distillery just three miles from the site of the original.

“It is a homecoming for us in many respects,” says James. “But more than that it is an opportunity to share our story and our range of English Gins with all sorts of new people – whether they are London residents or just passing through. We are delighted to be moving back to the city where our family’s long involvement with English Gin first started and looking forward to sharing the next 150 years with friends of English gin all around the world.”

Construction on the new distillery will be starting this Autumn, with masterclasses and tours planned for when the doors to this new adventure open.

But in the meantime, the Old Tom Gin in September’s Bubble Box (and available at most major drinks retailers if you weren’t lucky enough to snag this box!) should whet your palate. While James loves his great-grandfather’s Old Tom Gin in a classic cocktail like a Martinez, it’s also a stunning addition to sparkling wine cocktails.

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