"Rome was not built in a day." Neither Gin. During the Eighty Year’s war, British soldiers were bringing Geneva to London. At the same time, a significant number of Flemish who ran away from the war towards England also began to distill in the lands of His Majesty. The "home" production felt a strong increase. King William III liberalized distillation making it possible for any citizen to distil their own spirit. Cumulatively, the rates applied to imported drinks greatly increased. The conditions for a Gin production and consumption boom were created.
However, excessive alcohol consumption - literally from the age of 8 to 80 - brought England to a serious hole. The serious economic problems gave a place to a social crisis, a direct result of alcohol consumption, where infant mortality, drunkenness, absenteeism to work and crime became the rule in daily life.
Seeking to lessen Gin consumption the first Gin Act was created in 1736. It taxed the entire Gin production in 50 pounds. The measure was strongly contested and people came out to the streets in protest forcing the revision of the Law. Thus in 1751, there was a second Gin Act which started to control trade between production and distribution. This new law also failed to reduce consumption. Suddenly, there were many places where people could buy Gin illegally, often marked by black cat, Tom Cat or Old Tom.
Gin consumed at that time had a very low quality. It was common to use some more sweet tang botanicals, such as elderberry flower, abundant in England or rosewater to disguise the Gin taste. Ultimately, some distilleries were adding sugar to the drink making it more drinkable. The designation Old Tom was always associated with a poor quality Gin. It started to slowly disappear and it was replaced by London Dry Gin.
Currently, however, there are several brands that have been launching Old Tom versions of their Gins. There are now unquestionable quality products that have a sweet aftertaste. Because of this, those versions are suitable for cocktails