Review – Opihr Gin
Popping down to the local supermarket to pick up a few spices for a Saturday night curry can, if you get your timing wrong, prove a hazardous experience. Good Lord those trolleys with a dodgy wheel are dangerous things. This pales into insignificance however, to the perils faced by those embarking along the ancient trade routes of King Solomon’s era when vast sums of money were involved in the lucrative trade that was the ancient spice routes. It is these ancient spice routes that Opihr is inspired by, calling itself a ‘spiced gin’. The botanicals themselves are pretty mainstream; Moroccan coriander, Indian black pepper, Indonesian cubeb berries, cardamom, orange, grapefruit and ginger amongst others join the required juniper to create a gin that is upfront about its spicy personality.
Nose: Curry spice rather than juniper is immediately apparent, in of Mongolian-style aromatic way. As it builds, it becomes apparent there is loads and loads of coriander here, dominating the other botanicals. Cumin too is discernible as is a little cracked pepper, and even a little lemony citrus as it spends time in the glass. There is no getting away from the cardamon heavy hit though.
Neat: Bucket loads of coriander spice, with a whack of cumin too. It’s not until the finish that the juniper gets to have a go on the palate and even then its usual waxy character is dominated by spice. This is a bold and aggressively flavoured gin that holds short of being ‘rough’, but is by no means a balanced offering. Whether this truly fits the requirement for a gin to be predominantly juniper flavoured is most certainly up for discussion.
Mixing: With such a bold spice element to this gin, mixing a balanced drink is challenging. In a Martini or G+T the results are so dominated by cardamon as to be almost unpalatable for example. Success requires the inclusion of some suitably boldly-flavoured ingredients who refuse to be brow beaten by the cardamon. A Basil Gimlet works nicely, the herbaceous aromatics acting as a go-between from the spice to the sour cordial. Sour flavours, and particularly grapefruit are a wise choice too, cutting through the cardamon to reveal the citrus element that it often offers in more subtle gins. The Money Penny for example when carefully made is a sweet, spicy, sour and aromatically pleasing cocktail. Bitter flavours by contrast do this gin no favours, and it won’t be making its way into many Negroni’s I suspect. Even the heavy spice presence in this gin is no match for that most dominant of flavours, the peated whisky however, and a Smoky Martini proves shows that assertive gins do have a place in the cocktail cabinet.
Opihr gin is an intensely-flavoured, cardamom-heavy gin which strays far from the traditional juniper-led flavour profile. Unbalanced in gin-heavy drinks, careful mixing with other bold ingredients does reveal some hidden strengths.
Opihr Gin is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.