For the first time ever, I have a gin advent calendar. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on one of these for years, but alas the Master of Malt, and Amazon UK don’t ship to Canada. These novelty calendars feature the familiar rectangular shape, with those punch-in ‘windows’ filled with prizes. Of course this step up is far from those those cheap, chocolate-filled, cardboard and plastic calendars one buys from the grocery store. Boozy advent calendars for the holidays have existed for several years, but not until this year have Ontarians been able to buy one. That Boutique-y Gin Company managed to get their 2019 advent calendar into the LCBO. That means gin lovers can imbibe on a new unique gin from every day from December 1st-24th.
There are several different types of spirit advent calendars available outside of the province. This includes Ginvent from Gin Foundry, The Gin Advent Calendar from Drinks by the Dram, a Gin & Tonic Advent Calendar from Fever Tree, and the Premium Pink Gin Advent Calendar from The Bottle Club. A lot of my quick online searches yield gin advent calendars from the U.K. There the artisanal gin movement started cornering the market about ten years ago. In Canada, we’re working on catching up to where the overseas market in terms of their gin diversity. For now we have That Boutique-y Gin Company to lean on for our boozy calendar needs.
That Boutique-y Gin Company is a gin curator of sorts. The company bottles gins from, ‘the world’s best distilleries, brands and mind.’ One thing that makes their branding unique, and consistent, is the hand-illustrated labels. The company takes great pride in promoting their labelling artist, Grace J. Ward. This includes the fantastic illustration on the gin advent calendar we received in the LCBO. The illustration on the front is two dapper-looking cats, sipping on gin cocktails around a Christmas tree. There are a few other gin references in the illustration, including having the tree, cats, and presents sitting on a bed of juniper berries. I can dig Ward’s style. However, I want to focus on the cats in this illustration.
Now cats and gin have a historical significance during the Gin Craze era. Specifically, cats are a reference to Old Tom gin style. This style emerged in the 18th century as a bridge between the old school Genever and classic London Dry. This style had sugar added to it, making it sweeter and more palatable to drinkers. The original recipe for Old Tom used the sugar to cover up the flavour of inferior alcohol. Old Tom Gin is actually the gin used for the original Tom Collins. Eventually, the style fell out of fashion in the 1940s. With the current craft distilling movement Old Tom is making a resurgence. Distillers are bringing back a sweet gin, but in new and exciting ways. This includes everything from the classic sugar and anise, to barrel aged, and interesting fruit infusions. In each case the gin has some form of sweetener added.
Once I start going through each gin individually I’ll be able to have that liqueur versus spirit debate that goes with Old Tom. From reading the ingredients of the gin on the back of the calendar (the packaging has to list each one and their ingredients for dietary reasons I’m sure) there are a few possibilities for a nod to Old Tom. None of the gins listed on the back are specifically branded as Old Tom style, so we’ll see as we go. Surprisingly, That Boutique-y Gin Company didn’t include their Ice Wine Old Tom gin in this export to the LCBO. That gin actually uses Canadian ice wine to sweeten the gin, and the label has an illustration of the same cat on the cover of the calendar. There is also a Oh well. I’ll have to go to the U.K. and grab my own bottle.
I’m super excited to get sampling on these fancy gins. Each window contains a 30ml, wax-sealed bottle. Let’s get sipping.