Ransom Wines & Spirits started in 1997 and began distilling gin 10 years later. The boutique winery and distillery in Sheridan, Oregon, now produces one of the finest gins on the market. Ransom’s Old Tom Gin is a “historically accurate” re-creation of a gin style called Old Tom that was at the height of its popularity during the mid-1800s. Well, Old Tom gin is so good a comeback was inevitable.
Originally (in mid-18th century England) Old Tom gin was akin to the genever style of gin, both of which are more flavorful than the London Dry style and use a mixture of grain mash and infused botanicals. Old Tom was barrel-aged while the finished product was transported from city to city.
Ransom’s distillation process for Old Tom Gin is a slight variation on the original methods. The process begins with two distillations — a whiskey wort and one with neutral grain spirits infused with gin botanicals (juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seed, angelica root and cardamom pods). These two are combined and distilled once more to create the Old Tom style, which is then aged in oak barrels. The result is a lightly bronze-colored gin that I like to call the whiskey drinker’s gin.
A handful of flavors come through in a single sip of Ransom Old Tom Gin — the initial citrus of the orange, juniper and lemon peel is wonderfully balanced by the herbal components, which seem to be enhanced by the oak aging. The finish is malty and slightly sweet like a whiskey, but there’s a subtle spiciness as well. Ransom Old Tom Gin is fantastic neat or on the rocks with a slice of lemon.
If you’re looking to use this gin in cocktails, it’s best to head back in time. The pre-Prohibition Martinez cocktail — a precursor to the martini — is a good place to start. Combining Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters, the Martinez enhances just about every flavor in the spirit. Till Dynamic Fare on King Avenue serves an excellent Martinez ($9) that uses top-notch vermouth and bitters. Till’s addition of a maraschino cherry adds a Manhattan-esque sweetness.