Gin, with elephants! This is what went through my mind when I saw Opihr Gin sitting on the shelf at the local supermarket, and you know what? I love it already and I haven’t even opened it yet.
Okay, crazy openings, with all their implied bias, aside, I owe this gin a debt of gratitude. Work and family comitments are more important than “the journey” and while I still love drinking gin, this site has had to take a back-seat for a while. Every time I went to the “booze shelf” to fix-up a G&T, I would catch-sight of half a dozen mostly empty bottles of gin, sitting there forlornly, awaiting write-up, and I would get terrible pangs of guilt. However, upon clapping eyes on the delightfully colourful bottle of Opihr on the shelf, I knew I had to buy it, and better than that, I had to share it.
So, here I am; thanks Opihr.
Speaking of the bottle, it’s a glorious feast of red, gold and black with accents of purple and turquoise. The front-ends of two elephants (Indian in design) poke-out from behind a regal-looking circular black badge (okay, the picture makes it look blue, but it’s definitely black!). The neck is adorned with a little square pamphlet (not uncommon with gin) but it’s fastened-on with a thick braid of red and gold cord. The bottle itself is a heavy-bottomed square affair but there isn’t an edge in sight; in-fact, it looks like someone has taken a square bottle and over-inflated it to bursting-point. To me, it strikes a good balance between fun and opulence.
Opihr Gin is produced by Quintessential Brands, owners of G&J Greenall (who distil it), so it comes from the same camp as Bloom and Berkeley Square.
Bottled at 40% ABV, Opihr is a London Dry gin. It’s named after a (legendary, apparently) region that often bestowed cargoes of gold, silver and spices upon King Solomon, and is pronounced “o-peer”. If you hadn’t guessed already, it’s heritage (marketing) comes from the “ancient spice routes” – why does that sound so familiar?
Details are somewhat scant (partly because the its website hasn’t launched yet) but this is what I can piece-together of its botanicals…
I’d imagine there’s a root or two in there too, as well as another spice or citrus fruit.
Opening the bottle and giving it a good sniff reveals copious black pepper. Pouring into a glass, the aroma changes to a much-more cardamom-led experience. There are hints of juniper and coriander.
Trying Opihr neat is a very rewarding and warming experience; the spices are clear and evident in the attack, middle and finish. The juniper is almost overwhelmed by the spices but it manages to just hang in there with a surprisingly clear pine-taste underpinning the overall experience. There’s the burn of citrus and it isn’t the smoothest gin in the world either, with the alcohol roughening the warming feel of the drink. There’s a certain smoky tobacco thing going on too; I can’t help but think of cigars.
Mixing a G&T (3:1 with Fever-tree, no garnish) drives-off a load of cardamom in the effervescence along with soapy hints of coriander. The flavour is wonderful; the tonic water smooths-out any trace of alcohol harshness and adds/brings-out a complimentary load of citrusy goodness. The cardamom is still in strong evidence but its like a small cardamom float and doesn’t overwhelm. There’s a pleasant biting astringency in the after-taste but the ride is rounded and exiting. It makes my mouth water copiously when drinking it and each mouthful leaves me wanting another; I could practically inhale these.
Purists might complain that the juniper isn’t as dominant as it should be, but I’m happy.
All-in-all, Opihr Gin really ticks all the boxes for me; it’s got flavour in spades, it’s loaded with spice, it stands well on it’s own and it makes a magical G&T. Also, at £22 (Waitrose) it seems to be one of the first gins released in an age that doesn’t break the bank.
I’m so glad it lived-up to that moment when I saw it on the shelf.