It was a tough time living in 17th century England; the beer was awful, there was a huge shortage of wine and brandy due to our war with France, and the water would pretty much kill you. A saviour was on the horizon in the form of a Dutch mercenary named William of Orange, he married well and became King of England. Being Dutch he introduced Genever (the Dutch precursor to gin; also, considered a medicine to cure kidney problems) to the UK and made it law that anyone could distil without much of a license; and so the first London gin craze was born!
This sounds fun, right? Not so… this is the part where gin became known as ‘Mothers Ruin’, not so fun times…! With one in four houses in London making gin plus the Brits drinking habits being rather glutinous; as you can imagine this caused a few problems and meant the government had to get involved, and impose new taxation and licensing laws to control the flow of gin; thus, forcing it underground.
Secret gin palaces opened where a picture of a black cat on a wall might mean gin was sold inside, lending its name to the gin style of “Old Tom Gin”. With the introduction of “London Dry” style gin in the early 19th century, gin became more consistent and more recognisable to the spirit we know today. In 2009, Sipsmith became the first gin in 189 years to be given a license to distil in London, and so began the new gin craze; although a much more civilised affair than the first one!