Old Tom

Throughout history, vice has been the mother of humanity’s greatest inventions. May we present the Puss & Mew – the world’s first ever alcohol vending machine! In this particular case, the vice was gin, the tipple of choice of the early 18th century.

England’s Gin Act of 1736 had made it much harder to sell alcohol, with licenses costing £50 (over £7,000 / €8,000 in today’s value). Paid informers would buy illegal gin, report it to the police, and pocket the fine.

To get around this, an enterprising man by the name of Captain Dudley Bradstreet came up with a hack to sell gin: the Puss & Mew, also known as Bradstreet’s Cat or Old Tom.

After scrutinising the Gin Act, he realized that it gave the police no authority to enter a building, relying instead on informers to catch a gin seller. He enlisted a lawyer friend to rent a house, then mounted a statue of a cat on an outside wall.

An aspiring drinker would ask the statue “Puss, do you have any gin?” The statue would meow, and a small drawer would open in its mouth where the drinker would insert coins. The gin would then flow out of a pipe in the cat’s paw.

There were no mechanics involved, but rather Bradstreet would stand concealed behind the cat, taking the money and pouring the gin down the pipe. Informers could not see who had sold them the gin. When the police questioned the lawyer, he refused to reveal the identity of the mysterious occupant, claiming it was part of an ongoing court case.

Driven by an ambition to do things differently, Co Founder of Stillgarden Distillery Pat O’Brien spent four months creating Old Tom from recycled mahogany. We can finally introduce our own Old Tom, the newest addition to Stillgarden Distillery. This exact recreation is currently the only working model known to exist in the world. You can now take a trip back in time and for €6 you can enjoy the thrill of a tipple from the Old Tom’s paw.


Now available from the distillery during opening hours with the option to relax with your G&T on our covered terrace at a Garden Session.