Opihr Oriental London Dry Gin Review
A spice market feel and very intense Indian style flavors.
Made in: Warrington, Cheshire, England, by G & J distillers.
42.5% alcohol/85 proof
Botanicals 10 : Juniper, angelica, black pepper, cubeb pepper, cumin, orange peel, grapefruit peel, cardamom, ginger,
Style: Modern gin
Opihr gin,is pronounced O-peer, and certainly can be as puzzling and unique as its name. The name comes from the bible and in this case refers to a fabled city somewhere along the spice route that is mentioned many times for it’s riches in gold, gems, spice and algum wood (sandalwood?).
The bible says that King Solomon led an expedition there. And returned with vast riches. It also tells that he received shipments from there every three years. Where it is, or was, is a question for scholars. It has been surmised to be in just about every place other than Europe, or along the Red Sea. In fact the Solomon Islands are named that because Spanish explorer Alvero de Mendana y Neira, thought them to be Oiphr when he found them.
In any case that mystical setting, be it a town, province or city, was the inspiration for this gin that celebrates the spice routes. The other name on it “Oriental” may be bit of a odd choice, and by some might be considered quite derogatory, but isn’t a reflection on Asia, but rather the old fashioned colonialistic Eurocentric thought process that labeled everything that wasn’t Europe, Africa, or the Americas simply as the “Orient”.
And the term “Orient” conjured mystical images of the lands of spices, to a populace where unlike today only a miniscule number of people ever really traveled. That is what this gin reaches for.
This is a slightly rough, very intense gin that can be drunk neat or on the rocks but it's a sledgehammer of a flavor profile reminiscent of a middle eastern spice market and can easily overwhelm. It paired nicely with some very hot Thai food, but I don’t think anything without intense flavors would really be complemented by this gin. That’s not to say you may not enjoy it.. This is so far from traditional it's hard to compare it to anything.
Opihr’s nose is sharp, and tangy, with the ethanol giving a lot of heat before the aromas of the botanicals burst through. There is a very strong note of cumin, as well as juniper, ginger and cardamom followed by sharp peppery notes with a trace of citrus bringing up the rear.
Taking a sip you are greeted by a host of strong flavors - cardamom, cumin and ginger predominate, followed by strong midnotes of black pepper and only then juniper. The tail end offers ginger, and a trace of bitter grapefruit zest. It tastes like you’d expect a indian spice market to taste - full of curry, dark and exotic spices. It lacks subtlety, and the flavors are so strong that I didn’t find hidden layers of flavor, just a tsunami of it.
There is a thin oily mouthfeel with a slightly silky finish.
This gin is a flavor bomb. It’s not meant for faint hearted, or light drinks as it’s going to drown out gentle flavors, but might work for cocktails with strong heavy flavors - especially those with ginger, anise, or cinnamon.
In a martini it has a strong curried flavor, with cumin and cardamom strongly coming through and not quite meshing with the juniper or the vermouth. It was at best an uneasy alliance that lacked balance with either a 4:1 or 6:1 ratio (mixed with Carpano Dry). It might appeal to some, I admit I was very much on the fence as to if I liked it this way, as I tasted hints of Indian and middle eastern cuisine in it. That said it was at best a like, not a love.
Initially I tried this with classic indian style tonic for a G & T and honestly felt it was a waste of good tonic water. BUT at the advice of a few Opihr lovers online I decided to give it a go with a different flavor profile - Fever Tree aromatic tonic water, and then I found I could actually enjoy it. Now I don’t ordinarily like the aromatic tonic water, but it matched the Opihr so nicely that the drink meshed well, with the cumin and cardamom balancing beautifully against the bitterness of the tonic. It’s a very good pairing.
Now this was such a difficult gin to match with I turned to my online gin family on social media to see how they liked it. Almost universally the opinion was to match this with ginger ale or ginger beer and with strong garnishes like chili peppers or star anise. So I made the decision to try it with London Essence’s ginger ale, but accidentally grabbed the ginger beer. Honestly it was the best combination I found for this in a mixed drink. The levels of spice added to the cocktail quite nicely, and the heat from the pepper kicked it up a notch. I’d use it for this, and for Gin Gin Mules.
That said it was not a more complex cocktail so I was stuck trying to figure out what drinks it would go best with. A FaceBook buddy suggested an Aviation so I gave it a whirl. Truthfully I didn’t much care for it. The cumin was just too powerful and overwhelmed the delicacy of the violette and just made the cocktail muddy. I suspect it might be fine in things like a gin basil smash, or maybe a Corpse Reviver #2, but it’s really not a gin I’d mix with and I’d caution others to do some taste tests before serving too many guests with cocktails made with this one.
This is certainly a gin for very adventurous souls. It’s not likely to appeal to anyone who likes a classic gin, and it’s probably a bit too intense for those looking for easy drinking gin. That said it pairs well with curries, spicy food, like Indian or more authentic Thai, but will overwhelm the palate of anything lighter than that. It’s a blast of spice that you’ll either love or find unpleasant on its own.
While this gin will undoubtedly have a lot of fans, it really wasn’t up my alley. I do want to try some of the other gins from their line, But this is not one I would buy again, not because of the quality - which is very solid, but just because it incorporates a bit too much spice for my personal taste.
Rating (Sipping):83 - It’s an interesting sipping gin, but not an outstanding one. It tends to overwhelm rather than seduce the taste buds.
Rating (Mixing) 73 - Unless you are making mules, or drinks with very strong flavors this isn’t a great mixing gin.
Overall rating: 78 - Very unique, but lacking in mixability and delicacy.
What you need to know about my reviews: All my reviews are my honest opinions based upon my own personal tasting. I am NOT a paid reviewer, and no compensation was given, or expected. I may from time to time choose to do a second review and amend my opinion of a product, should I feel like it and find my review criteria has evolved, or that I’ve found it different at a later date. That said, as I’m unlikely to repurchase anything I thought was less than very good to excellent, it would be by chance or at the request of a distiller who thought I rated them very unfairly - BUT even then, whatever you get will always be my honest opinion.