Old Tom | Frederic Robinson Limited

very good
98 Reviews
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Old TomOld Tom

Brewed by:
Frederic Robinson Limited
England, United Kingdom

Style: English Strong Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by cokes on 01-13-2003

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Reviews: 98 | Ratings: 175
Photo of Bouleboubier
4.46/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

(poured into a balloon)

A: very dark, reddish-brown liquid, clear.... almost an inch of spongy tan foam on the pour - thought it would stay longer - alas, it did not - settled into a ring around the edge

S: gotta say - this almost smells like Abt 12(?!)... very fruity - sort of strawberry, grape, cherry.... bold presence of dark caramel, sweetish, desserty - perhaps a mild, sweetish coffee in there?... the booze is more felt in the nose than overtly detected as a scent - in other words, it's tucked far back behind the other aromas

T: raisin, cherry skin, dark brown sugar syrup up front... fairly assertive, tonic-herbal nuance starts around midway, coursing through the finish, ending with dark, dried cherry, toffee, and a medicinal booze (akin to Ny-Quil?) in the aftertaste - just hanging there... gotta be judicious, nearly indulgent use of dark invert sugars here - I wouldn't call this necessarily sweet - superb balance from alcohol and bitterness tempers it, at least - but the melanoidin-derived flavors associated with candy sugar are all too present... the bitterness grows fairly assertive after long. raining down on and flooding the palate - thank heavens for it!

M: approaching fullish-ness - actually, considering what the flavors suggest, I'm surprised it's not a notch or two more viscous - a soft rinse of suds seem to balance that with a phantom rush of clean booze on its heels... vaguely-menthol cooling sensation at the back of the throat after the finish...

O: fan-damn-tastic!... is this what a latter-day Burton Ale tasted like? I've found few British imports here in the States that have tasted quite like this... can't help but pick up another bottle

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Photo of Halcyondays
4.44/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

11.2 oz. bottle, nice to see another beer I've read about in Michael Jackson's books show up in the Southland,

A: Pours a clear mahogany, medium white head, good retention, light lace.

S: I like this from the first sniff. Great leather and English malt, cherry skin, very inviting, I love a good nose.

T: As spiritous and sweet as the nose was, the flavour really reins it in. Great molasses and dark dried fruit notes, raisins, but never super sweet.

M: The dryness on this beer is exemplary on a beer that initially seemed this sweet. I love it, this is the drinking man's old ale. Nice soft carbonation, medium-bodied, never really full-bodied.

O: This is a great English beer, the dryness makes it really dangerously drinkable. A modern classic as I've read and heard about this beer from the late legendary Michael Jackson, but never had a chance to try it, glad I came upon it today.

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Photo of Offa
4.42/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is an excellent strong/old ale/barleywine-type and is to me an example of a strong English ale that is very similar to a strong dubbel-type.

Deep red brown, almost black, it has a medium-big dark tan head steadily shrinks to foamy ring, some weak lace.

Aroma is ginger bread with molasses, brandied cherries, metal, tiny hint of vinegar.

Taste is light and lively in body and feel, dark brandied fruits, brandyish toasted-spicy dryish finish with bitter wood. It has a lot of brandied cherries throughout, with spicy-peppery-woody qualities, zesty, engaging.

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Photo of khensley
4.39/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a nice beige head, which quickly dissipated, leaving no rings or lacing. Cola colored in appearance, no chill haze noticed.

Smelled like sour apple, with a hint of ginger. Made my mouth crave the next sip.

Taste is unique, plum dominates the palate, with a maltiness of blackened crisp pizza dough. Finishes with a warming alcoholic note and fades into a light pepperiness, much like a good Trippel might. Bitters can only be found when swallowed before the plum notes can take hold.

Mouthfeel is warm and inviting, surprising for such dull head retention. Not too thin, but not noticeably big at the same time.

Port-like in so many ways. Overall, a very rewarding bottle, as it should be for the $6.00 price tag. A once a year treat for me.

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Photo of drmeto
4.35/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

-pours a clear ruby with a medium,foamy,beige head
-medium carbonation visible
-huge toffee,caramel,chocolate,nutty,molasses,plums,raisins,figs,slight coffee
-syrup,molasses,chocolate,nutty,slight coffee,toasty finish
-medium-high carbonation (overcarbonated for the style),medium-full body
-slight alcohol-warming
Really good Old Ale

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Photo of bark
4.35/5  rDev +16%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The colour is deep wine red, the liquid is clear and the pale brown light finger thick foam is slowly dissolving.

The large, full-bodied smell is full of malts with a burned sweetness, marzipan, wort and some alcohol. There is also a sour touch with hints of bitter almonds.

The carbonation is sort of soft with lots and lots of small bubbles that balance the taste which otherwise might have given this beer a dull feel.

The taste is complex and heavy (in a positive sense) with notes of loaf, some yeast, raisins and a cask-matured flavour. The complex (yes balanced and pleasant) finish is a bit sweet, and the long lasting aftertaste is a bittersweet one with notes of a sweet Madeira, caramel, lemons, bitter almonds and raisins.

A fine ale for those grim, cold winter nights.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.34/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Very dark coloring, nearly black, with a beautiful off-white, creamy head above. Wonderful.

Aroma: deceptively soft, smooth and creamy. Malty-sweet, but even-tempered and expertly balanced.

Taste: Enters the palate full, rich and in complete domination. Rowdy, ruddy, and taking no prisoners. This brew tastes like an old tom behaves, it throws itself around without regard for societal norms and common regard. Dark fruit on the flavor, some spice, massive malt, some toffee and a touch of caramel. All very well-played and perfectly put. No over-weening hops, no over-bearing malt, but this is still a large beer, just like any Tom Cat strutting it's stuff.

Philosophical question: is the American barley-wine style better because it's bigger, and hoppier? I say, not necessarily. If you can't handle some subtlety, if you need to be pounded on by every beer you try, …well, you're missing a lot. There is so much to be said with just plain old good taste. This is a barley-wine, but don't expect a ton of American-style over-hopping. Don't expect to be burned by over-…alcoholing…?
What's wrong with the classics, I ask, and I don't expect an answer, because I know what it should be. If you want something delicious, and beautiful, cool, calm and slightly cacophonous, Old Tom's your man. Deee-lightful. Tasty, tasty, tas-teee……

this is so good, so malty, cool, calm, and utterly lovely. My goodness. I like this more and more, as I drink it down. I'm practically in love with it, ...mmmm.

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Photo of soulgrowl
4.33/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Surprisingly excellent head, sandy white, airy and smooth with great retention. Body is thick coffee brown with sparks of bright red-orange. Lovely nose with plenty of caramel, chocolate, raisins, and vinous dark fruits, plus a honey-biscuit note reminiscent of graham crackers. Flavor is big on prunes, black tea, caramel, and dark rum, although the alcohol is well-integrated - not exactly hidden, spicy but not too hot or medicinal. Cola and oaky red wine round out the flavor. The mouthfeel is a nice balancing act; it's medium-bodied, lush but also quite dry. It could be richer, but that might make this too sweet. Overall this is very nice, almost Belgian in character - fruity, spice, drinkable and complex.

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Photo of StephenRich
4.32/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Rarely would you think that a beer bottle with a drawing of a cats face would be a big 8.5% Barlywine/Old Ale. Old Tom though has made it so. And the bottle and one eyed cat is somehow fitting to the old English beer. Old Tom is now brewed based on the original recipe that was found in the original head brewers note book written in 1899. The recipe had a hand drawing of the breweries resident mouse killer, Tom, the cat.

This beer has raked up the beer awards over the years, and is now recognized as one of the very best beers to be brewed in England. The World Beer Awards have even crowned it the World's Best Ale. It is described as an English Strong ale, and I would consider it somewhere between a Barleywine and an English Old Ale. It is 8.5% abv, and comes in a custom printed dark short 330ml bottle. I like this sort of beer. Old school, not shouty or trying to prove anything. Just real good, and thats all.

Aiming for the Barleywine side of the spectrum, I opened Old Tom at cellar temperature around 14C (57F) and poured it into a tulip glass. The pour was gentle and smooth building an oily deep nutty brown beer with garnet reds emanating from the edges, and hints of ruby peering through. It was transparent but very deep with a heavy blackness right in the center. It did build a nice lush and dense creamy tan, lightly browned head with tight carbonation and excellent retention.

The nose is sweet and matly with easy notes of caramel, toffee, syrup, dates, figs, plums, more dark and sticky fruits with the lightest note of candy apple, toast and walnuts. It was smooth and not very boastful - however the aroma was certainly apparent. It didn't show any bitterness, and alcohol was perfectly muted. I was thinking much more of this and an Old Ale rather than a Barleywine by now.

The flavor was mildly rich and sweet showing a large complexity of fruity malts and brown sugar. First in on your tongue is a smooth flow of toffee and caramel malts and a even balance of dates, figs, prunes, mashed plums and peaches - all very gooey and warming. Still though all this is fairly gentle. The mouthfeel is somewhere between smooth, oily and carbonated if that makes any sense. Its is not sharp or aggressive, but is not creamy or slick. It sort of has hints of all of the characteristics and actually creates a very enjoyable sensation.

This off-mild mouthfeel matches the off-sweet flavors perfectly. Hints of toast, walnuts, roasted chocolate, and big wide round malts wash into your cheeks and bring big flavors to the top of your mouth and beyond. It comes off pretty fresh, and actually very soothing. I was expecting more of a musty sensation, but it is actually very lemon like with notes of zest and pepper.

In the back is a wine like dryness that is smoothed out by the warms of sweet malts leaving me with a very satisfying and lightly cloying sticky date pudding flavor on my palate. Again, no hops to be found, maybe there aren't even any in here. Hints of port and raisins show greater strength as the beer warms even further.

This is certainly not worth considering as a Barleywine; it lacks both the potency and depth in the mouth to be. However, as a soothing and just delicious Old Ale, I think it sets the standard. Smooth and lush malts meet sticky fruits and wide custard flavors in a harmonious and masterfully crafted beer. Awesome.

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Photo of daliandragon
4.3/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I was lucky enough to live in England for a year in my salad days and despite knowing jack all about beer or styles or hops or anything, I found I enjoyed English Ale. As this proudly claims to be the "World's Best Ale" I have high hopes for it, although I realize somewhere someone is buying that Bud is the "King of Beers" as well. Here we go.

Pours a murky, even, chocolate brown with little head and almost no lace, Nose is fruity with grapeskin and plums and your basic malt notes. Understated but just about right. Taste is mellow and hides 8.5% like a magician. I do taste the pepper mentioned on the label briefly but the flavors generally blend together. Carbonation is blessedly light. English hops (Goldings?) show up in the finish and aftertaste, bit only in a supporting role. Love the balance throughout. The goal isn't to amp up or overwhelm, but to satisfy. Not everyone loves traditional English Ale, even in England, but this is excellent English ale.

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Photo of BeerDocT
4.26/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Label proclaims it the "World's Best Ale." Hmph. We'll see.

Appearance 3.75: Pours out a murky, opaque dark brown. Very little head and no lacing. Still, this is quite a difference from your typical yellow ale.

Smell 4.50: Ho, wow! As I poured this brew in the bottle, a big wave of malt and caramel seeped up and hit me in the olfactory senses! Amazing bouquet on this beer. Malt, caramel, grassy hops, butterscotch, I could go on but won't.

Taste 4.25: Front is slightly sweet and tart with a lovely hint of malted barley. Middle is slightly caramely with more of the barley and a very nice hint of grassy hops. Finish is so smooth with just a delightful blend of caramely, buttery malt and light hops. Balanced and no over the top sweetness. Aftertaste is long and you get more of that lovely malt along with a pleasant earthy taste reminiscent of porta bella mushrooms.

Mouthfeel 4.0: Beautiful and balanced and outstanding.

Overall 4.25: Excellent beer. Big, balanced and no hint at all of its 8%+ ABV. Smooth, delicious and just an excellent ale, this baby may very well be the best of its kind in the world. It really reminds me of a Scottish ale, what with its deep malt obsession, but it does have the English interest in hops about it as well. This beer was a revelation to me, certainly one I had not heard of before, but certainly one I will buy again, this time in bulk. Highly recommended.

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Photo of Ozzylizard
4.25/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

$ 4.29/11.2 oz bottle at Vintage Estates in Boardman, OH
Bottle marked L3346 21:51 at 45 degrees into standard pint glass
Aroma of earth and pepper, some maltiness
Head large (5 cm), light brown, frothy, diminishing to 3 mm layer
Lacing very good – thick ring extending from the top of the glass to the beers surface, mostly small bubbles
Body very attractive red-amber, clear
Flavor follows the nose – very woody and earthy with some peppery spice – no alcohol, no diacetyl
Palate medium, creamy, soft carbonation

Excellent ale – I could drink this all day if it had a better price point. Oh well; champagne tastes and a beer budget!

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Photo of JoeAmerican77
4.23/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bought from the Aeon at American Village, Okinawa.

A - Pours thick and dark like espresso with a fine two fingers of dark cream on top.
S - Coffey, toffee, caramel, mocha, mollasses, anything and everything delicious
T - The first thing that hits is the Belgique yeast explosion on my tongue, followed shortly by roasted malts and a smattering of the above scents becoming flavor in addition to sweet pit fruits, namely red cherries.
M - Medium to heavy on the tongue with staying power and warmth from the booze. Extremely pleasant carbonation fits the bill nicely.

Overall: This beer came right out of nowhere and made my night. It is always a relief to find good beers in Okinawa, this being a classic no less.

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Photo of Suds
4.23/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer falls into the category of brews that I'd wanted to try for a very long time. I'd read about the beer years ago, but never found a bottle until coming across it in a great beer shop in Italy. The beer pours a dark chestnut color with a firm and soapy head. The foam is densely packed and a chocolate-tan color with lots of staying-power. The aroma is solidly good, vinous, with plenty of oak and malt. There's also a touch of vanilla, caramel, and booze-infused dark fruit. The taste is complex and mildly sweet. Balance, drinkability, and subtle flavor nuances are the key to this beer. It's quintessentially English in style, not the in-your-face American strong ale. This suits the beer perfectly. Smooth and complex, the beer is a real joy. The carbonation was a little more pronounced than expected, but it fit nicely with the brew. Very enjoyable.

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Photo of spointon
4.23/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

I poured this one from a stubby brown bottle that has raised lettering in the words "Old Tom" and "Strong Ale". Poured into a stemmed globe glass.

A= This ale poured a clear, reddish mahogany color showing an off white head that rose about 1/2" with a vigorous pour at cellar temp. The head dropped to a ring after a few minutes but showed nice retention and some stickage on the glass.

S= I first noted big aromas of treacle, molasses and rich malty sweetness. There is a nice chocolatey note in there too. Alcohol stays pretty well hidden. Some fruity ester showing fig and raisin. Really a star in the aroma department.

T= Begins with that treacle note on the tongue and then brings in some caramel malts, a hint of chocolate, and even a vinous character that adds complexity. Nice English yeast character throughout. Hop bitterness is there but doesn't get in the way of the malts. Esters are there as well, but the malts are the real star. Finishes pretty dry despite the earlier malty sweetness.

MF = lighter side of medium bodied, with an appropriately modest carbonation level. Overall impression is a soft feel on the palate.

D= Super high drinkability on this one. I find this to be an exceedingly enjoyable English old ale / winter warmer, and the drinkability combined with the hidden alcohol make this one deliciously dangerous!

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Photo of AEK
4.22/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

330ml brown bottle poured into a Delirium Tremens snifter.

A. Burgundy in colour with a one and a half centimetre tight, bubbly white head.

S. Nuances of figs, prunes, raisins, cognac and port. Claret wine notes join in the blend.

T. Raisins, cognac, oak and bitter chocolate.

M. Thick and oily.

D. Strong English barleywine who's alcoholic warmth soothes the chest. A lovely sipping ale to have at hand. A good nightcap.

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Photo of DaveUK
4.2/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - Deep reddish black with a strong head of light brown bubbles. A wonderfully, enticing look.

Aroma - Medicinal, phenolic character followed by rich roasted malt and overtones of dried fruits, such as figs and sweetened dates. A mild but intriguing mixture.

Taste - Rich but smooth malt, ripe fruits. Followed by warming alcohol. Further sips reveal raisins and other dried fruits along with the figs and dates of the aroma. The finish is soft and prolonged, conjuring treacle covered dates and flaming christmas pudding.

Mouthfeel - I dont think I have ever a beer of this strength with such a delicate mouthfeel. I could hardly detect any hint of carbonation, despite the adequate head. No sourness to speak of and superb, thick and chewy body that just slides down the throat.

Overall - A complex and rich brew, hardly any sweetness left on the lips but oodles of character and flavour. An excellent beer that I shall be buying again!

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Photo of cypressbob
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

on cask, i noticed alot of the reviews were based on bottled

Pours with a very dark brown ruby body, almost black but with a ruby tinge at the light, slight foamy head with little retention

Smell, hints of wine, slight hint of malt, some sweetness also, slight whiff of alcohol

Taste, dry and port like, winey with a strong hint of alcohol on the finish, slight bitterness also, buttery on the finish , slight hint of hop oil

A nice strong ale, i was happy to find this on cask, its hard to believe that this is from the same people who brought us double maxim brown ale :S

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Black Raven pint glass. Pours a dark clear red amber. Nice two finger light brown head with good retention and lacing. Intriguing aroma of dark malt and fruit. Flavor supports the aroma, sweet malt, dark fruit, distinct molasses, hints of cherry. Complex and fun to drink. Finish rather abrupt, leaving memories of faint dark malts and light hops; somewhat watery in the finish, unlike the main body of the flavor. Slightly oxidized flavors. Medium bodied, approaching, but not quite reaching creaminess. I like a beer that appears interesting and then surprises with an unusual flavor profile and this does both. Nice ale that I will return to. I also enjoyed the chocolate and ginger versions.

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Photo of wl0307
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

New packaging: a brownish 330ml bottle embossed with words Robinsons OLD TOM STRONG ALE, with a pix of OLD TOM Cat's face blinking with one eye~~ BBE MAR 07.

Served cool in a broad-rimmed goblet.
A: beautifully clear dark ruby hue, coming with a thick and foamy light beige beer head, gradually settling to a thin layer of froth sustaining constantly on top.
S: deep scent of caramel malts bringing mixed aroma of mildly preserved figs, sweet plums, dried black dates, preserved black cherries, a little licorice syrup and a touch of coconut, with good backbone of treacles/burned sugars and fruity hops; each swirling bring out more perfumy scent of fruity esters and creamy note... so smooth and quietly pleasant~~
T&M: slightly fizzy on texture upfront, followed by raisins, toffeeish malts with a not-so-sweet treacles-edge, coming hand in hand with moderate alcoholic warmth creeping down the palate... the mid-flavour sees a flow of bitter-sweetness and mildly spicy hops developing quietly, lending some depth to the smooth, dark-fruity vinous texture of a forteified wine (maybe tawny port?) and an underlying herbal-syrupy maltiness at the back of the palate. Surprisingly clean and moderately-lingering bitter finish, without the slightest trace of sugary or syrupy aftertaste while the alcohol hides just too well underneath.
D: compared with my previous note of this beer on draught, it seems that the bottled version shows less alcoholic warmth and also less explicit fruity elements but better-balanced... Slightly lighter-bodied than expected, this beer just punches above its weight and makes a really smooth yet complex digestive instead of a glass of port to round off my X'mas celebration~~ Wonder how it'd taste if bottle-conditioned?

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Photo of Zimbo
4.1/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Old Tom. Originally the name conjured an image of a stinking old drunk collapsed in a puddle of his own piss. But since, having had numerous half of this in Manchester, I can say that the cask version is quite the thing of beauty though albeit a rather full and buxom beauty.

It has a thick almost medicinal smell with some initial sulfur. It pours a deep reddish crystal brown and forms an effortless magnolia head leaves many rings of head. Tastes of molasses and prune with a biscuity and buttery quality. The booze is well hidden as you drink but knocks you with a piledriver as you finish the glass. Tres bien but lacks that special complexity for greatness.

Think Charlie Sheen would like this.

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Photo of BlackHaddock
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brown 330ml bottle, best before Sept 2008, drank July 2007.

Poured into one of my Gordon Thistle glasses. Very dark brown/red with a well formed off-white head. The head stayed throughout the drink.

Aroma was sweet malts and plum bread.

Tangy, malty, old Sharaz wine flavour, very different from other Barley wines I have had over the years. Complexed and interesting.

A very good beer. By far the best beer I have had from the Robinson brewery.

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Photo of Sigmund
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

330 ml bottle, bought in Scarborough. Mahogany coloured beer, large and lasting tan head. Malty sweet aroma, notes of port wine, oak and bakery. Excellent mouthfeel, full and rich. Flavour of generous malts, caramel, dried dark fruits, moderate but noticeable hops (Goldings and Northdown), port wine finish. Fairly sweet, but not cloying. A true classic!

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Photo of stevoj
4.05/5  rDev +8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nice aroma and flavor from this brew. Dark and strong, with aged oak barrel essence. Slightly fruity (raisins, figs, prunes). Alcohol very present in finish. A nice evening sipper to finish the day

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Photo of ivanwatling
4.04/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Very dark, almost opaque. No head
Smell: Hints of barley wine, suggests a heavy body
Taste: Like a subtle barley wine, sweet with a hint of biterness in the backgroound
Mouthfeel: More carbonated than barley wines I've tried, leaves a sweet taste and some warmth
Drinkability: One to savour in the winter months

Not sure whether this is a stong bitter or a barley wine. It has a deep, rich taste that relaxes and soothes in the cold winter months.

Served from a 330ml bottle.

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Old Tom from Frederic Robinson Limited
3.75 out of 5 based on 175 ratings.
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