Eugene on the Rocks: Taking a Step Back in Time with Ransom Old Tom Gin


Eugene on the Rocks April 16-22

Taking a step back in time with Ransom Old Tom Gin

Towards the end of the 19th century, Old Tom Gin was an essential part of any barman’s lineup.  Notable for its sweetness, viscosity, and less intense flavor profile than London Dry style gins.  Unfortunately, time passes, tastes change, and as with many other traditions, Old Tom Gin was lost…until very recently.

Ransom Old tom gin
Ransom Old Tom Gin | photo:

Ransom Spirits, out of Sheridan, Oregon, released their version of Old Tom in 2009, one of only a few American distillers to take on the challenge.  Using old recipes and a historian by the name of David Wondrich, Ransom Spirits created a truly unique spirit that will challenge any preconceptions one may have about gin.

At first glance, you will notice this gin is different.  It has a golden color, that I initially thought was from the use of Oregon juniper berries which give a golden hue; however, I was wrong.  Almost immediately after the spirit was poured for me, I could smell where the color came from: oak.  Ransom Old Tom Gin is aged in French oak wine barrels for three to six months.  The nose also revealed a slight sweetness, and a scent of juniper much more fragile than that of a London Dry style gin.  Deep citrus scents followed the initial blast of olfactory bliss.

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Classic Tom Collins at The Barn Light

Once on the palate, Ransom had even more surprises. Silky and mild on the start, followed by a strong juniper and orange mid palate – not for the faint of heart.  This Old Tom finishes as smooth as it starts, maybe even more so.  It coats the palate, not unlike a dessert wine, and leaves the flavor of orange zest with a slight clove-like tingle.

Not only is this an amazing, old world style gin made here in Oregon, it can also be had at some of Eugene’s favorite spots for laughs and libations.  The Barn Light at Willamette and Broadway was where this reviewer had the pleasure of tasting Ransom Old Tom Gin, and I was fortunate enough to have the bartender, Tanner, mix a classic cocktail: the Tom Collins.  Yes!  A thousand times, yes!  Beautifully simple and refreshing, this is what a Tom Collins should taste like.  The lemon juice and simple syrup cut the intensity of the gin, but leave all of the unique characteristics fully intact.  The spirit itself could be tasted and enjoyed without being lost or overpowering.  Perfect balance.

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The Barn Light bartender prepares the delicious Tom Collins

Does there always have to be a catch?  Yes, there is one small issue.  So before you throw on your skinny jeans and retro shades to head down to The Barn Light, know this: Old Tom Gin is expensive.  At the better part of $35 dollars a bottle, it is by no means outrageous but expensive to drink while out on the town.  At $9 dollars a drink, I would usually choose a lesser gin.  I did not, however.  I braved the price and went for it – a choice I do not regret.  This particular gin may not be for the faint of heart, but it IS for anyone who wants a little taste of the past.

The Tom Collins

1.5 oz. Ransom Old Tom Gin

.75 oz. fresh lemon joice

.75 oz. simple syrup

Shake vigorously over ice, pour in Collins glass, and top with soda.

Garnish with a slice of orange and a cherry. Imbibe wisely.


Brought to our readers by co-owner of Hard Times Distillery, Ben Maude, welcome to the very first edition of Eugene on the Rocks!  This spirits-centric weekly column will feature reviews and stories about the world of spirits; including, event listings taking place in Lane County that have anything and everything to do with “straight up,” “shaken not stirred,” and “on the rocks.”  For an example of listings, please see Wine Down Eugene and Hopped Up Eugene.  If you would like your spirits event to be featured, please contact [email protected]  (ed.)

Growing up in the Napa Valley meant that Ben was surrounded by food and wine culture from a very young age. It began a life long love of food, and all of the wonderful libations that go along with the perfect meal.
Ben attended the Napa Valley Cooking School, in St. Helena, California. Under the tutelage of Chef Barbara Alexander, and other renowned chefs such as Master Chef Dieter Doppelfeld, Ben honed his skills in the kitchen. He was fortunate enough to spend time in some of the best restaurants in the country, including a stage at The French Laundry.
After working his way through the kitchen ranks, Ben decided it was time to try a new challenge. That is when the opportunity to become a partner at Hard Times Distillery was seized, and the rest of the story remains to be seen.
Being an owner of a distillery has helped him bring together the love of food, and drink. Since one is never complete without the other, it only makes sense to write about them both.
Ben lives in Eugene with his partner, Dr. Beth Washak, and two year old son, Jaxson. When they are not busy working and chasing a baby, they enjoy nothing more than relaxing with a local brew and friends.

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