Opihr Gin
This is full of Eastern promise

There was a time when the only question a gin drinker faced in the pub was: “Ice and a slice?” You could have your gin and tonic (which would be Gordon’s) warm and unadulterated or with the chink of ice cubes and a sliver of lemon. This changed midway through the 1990s, and I think it was my heart’s ease Bombay Sapphire that built the barricades around the nation’s bars until publicans allowed people a choice of citrus fruits in their G&Ts. Anyone who’d been within glancing distance of the metropolitan elite knew that lemon was the mark of a provincial hick and the only acceptable garnish was lime.

Then Hendrick’s Gin appeared and suggested that we slip a chunk of cucumber into our drinks. Cucumber! That’s not even a fruit! (Well, it is a fruit. But I invoke the David Mitchell Would You Put A Tomato In A Fruit Salad? defence and say it’s a vegetable). The salad drawer was open, the fruit bowl gaped wide and barmen ran wild.

Wedges of grapefruit have been jammed into tumblers, lime leaves tucked around lumps of ice and a hedgerow’s worth of apples, berries and bits of bark deployed like pastoral practical jokes. A gin and tonic is no longer an elegant way to get decorously drunk at 3 in the afternoon, but an obstacle course of garnishes and artisanal flourishes.

Gin and tonic madness
A dedicated follower of fashion

Last week a PR sent me a bottle of Opihr Gin, a London Dry gin that’s made with botanicals from the spice route. It arrived in a hessian sack filled with a few of the 10 botanicals, which include cubeb berries, coriander, cardamom, juniper, orange and grapefruit zest and ginger. The serving suggestions for an Opihr and tonic is a double measure of gin, Fentimans Tonic Water (natch) and a slice of red chilli. It’s practically a meal.

While I’m staying in the East End it made sense to settle down with this bottle filled with Eastern spices (you see the loose connection I’ve made there) and subject it to a thorough reviewing.

Day or night gin? At 40% ABV, Opihr is at home in the twilight world of early evening drinking. I imagine it wears sequins and sits on a terrace with a lovely view.

What does it smell of? My spice cupboard. It barely smells of gin at all, which confuses my grain spirit obsessed brain. There’s a touch of cool pine forest from the juniper, but mostly it smells like the steam room in a Turkish bathhouse. A fug of aromatics that’s heavy on the cardamom and coriander.

What does it taste of? Not of gin. A silken mix of citrus brights, green cardamom and hot pepper. I want to put it in a balloon glass, light a cigar and settle down in an armchair in my Club, my waistcoat popping open and a copy of the Times ready to cover my face should I feel the need to rest my eyes.

Mix it with tonic and ice, however, and it tastes far too strongly of cardamom. As if there was a terrible cardamom-related accident in the still that everyone is trying to ignore, even though their eyes water and there’s green paper skins everywhere. But make the G&T with a slice of chilli in it and the is transformed. The red fruit ripeness of the chilli knits all the spices together and smoothes them out. The person who suggested capsicum would be the perfect compliment to Opihr hadn’t gone completely garnish mad.

Buy it? Opihr is priced £23-27 and looks to be mostly available from fancy specialists at the moment. I’m not sure I would buy Opihr for straightforward gin and tonics. Interesting as it is with ice and spice, I’d prefer to drink it in cocktails in bars or straight up in the winter, curled up on the sofa and remembering the heat of summers past.

Tagged with: DrinkGin

11 Responses to Gin tasting: Opihr Oriental Spiced London Dry Gin

  1. Plobi says:

    I am addicted to Gin & Tonic AND to chili so thanks for that blog, I now have to get this Gin (and that can be an expensive matter since Im from Austria *g*) 😉

  2. Sue says:

    I love Opihr gin but have never tried the chilli thing – just off to the shops …. 🙂

  3. steven says:

    With tonic alone I found it unpalatable The sliver of chilli really does transport it into a very special and delightful drink

  4. Bob says:

    I was treated to a particularly red-blooded cocktail version in a restaurant on Manchester’s Curry Mile last night. The Opihr had been infused with red chilli and ginger, then served with slices of lime, more fresh red chilli and in place of tonic, Fever Tree ginger ale… A fantastic riot of flavour that will delight fellow chilli enthusiasts!!

  5. Gareth Towns says:

    A very interesting article. I bought a bottle of this unusual sounding gin to widen my tastebuds. The author was bang on the money with his description, when drunk with tonic and ice and as a result I had put the bottle to the back of the cupboard. I now, however, look forward to trying it with the slice of red chilli instead.
    By the way, it’s sliver, not slither, unless of course the slice was delivered by way of a snail!!

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Correction made, although now I am imagining little slivers of red chilli and lemon slithering across the table towards their gin and tonic homes. An arresting image.

  6. SallyFi says:

    We had it served with ginger ale. Delicious!

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