Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin is an aromatic take on the premium gin category. Launched by Quintessential Brands in October 2013, the gin is made at the G&J Distillery and backed by their experienced marketing team.
G&J Greenall is Britain’s second largest distillery, producing 7mn cases of spirit annually and boasting a hard-earned, world-class reputation for expertise and craftsmanship. The distillery plays a big part in the third party distilling world, but also has a plethora of quality spirits under its own portfolio: Greenall’s, Bloom, Berkeley Square and Thomas Dakin, all of which are made under the watchful eye of head distiller Joanne Moore.
Opihr Gin is named after the legendary port from which King Solomon was said to receive a cargo of gold, silver, sandalwood, pearls, ivory, apes and peacocks every three years. While this may sound like the content of a hipster’s Anthropolgie shopping basket today, during days of yore such items were extremely exotic and would have only been garnered through mad and dangerous means.
The gin itself was designed with the equally exotic ancient spice route in mind – that which sailed from Indonesia to the United Kingdom via India, Turkey, Italy, Morocco and Spain. The route was treacherous indeed; the sea was wild, and so were the pirates that roamed it. The spices were in huge demand however and so the ships sailed…
Opihr Gin positively vibrates with the influence of the stops along the route. Upon its launch, Moore said: “I took my inspiration from visits to the Orient and various countries along the Ancient Spice Route. I kept an image of the spice markets in mind while deciding on the spices and botanicals to include in Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin. I hope that when people enjoy the gin, they too are reminded of the vibrant aromas, tastes, noises and colours of these exotic spice markets.”
While none of the botanicals are particularly unusual, their combined presence pulls the drink down a very distinctive path. There’s cubeb from Malaysia, black pepper, cardamom and ginger from India, cumin from Turkey, coriander seed from Morocco, bitter oranges from Spain, Juniper from Italy and Angelica from Germany in the mix. The only ingredient whose origin goes unexplained is grapefruit peel. This lack of passport is quickly forgiven however, as it gives a much-needed zing to the gin and is a very welcome addition to this potent mix.
Opihr Gin to taste…
On the nose, Opihr Gin has a heady spice mix with cardamom very much raising its hand above the rest of the class. There’s also a cheeky, zesty citrus making itself known. While there is certainly a spiced explosion to taste, there is also a discernible sweetness from the orange in Opihr Gin. Cubeb dominates the finish with its deliciously exotic and characterful notes of cracked pepper and light violet. Bottled at 40% ABV, the gin is an interesting, intoxicating adventure.
Pairing Opihr in a G&T is an interesting challenge as pushing it to become more spiced with a sliver of red chilli yields some interesting results, but fair warning – it’s not for the faint hearted. We like to serve Opihr with Double Dutch Tonic and a grapefruit peel along with a couple of cardamom pods. For those who like a Gin Buck (Gin and ginger ale) – Ophir is a contender for the ideal gin choice, as its flavours carry particularly well in the mixer.
Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin feels like a drink built with an end brand in mind, rather than a brand built around a type of liquid, so the integration between taste and bottle is seamless. It’s a stubby, clear glass with the logo printed boldly across the front. The logo itself features two red, colourful elephants and is redolent of the unusual, exotic taste of the drink.
The clever use of messaging behind the drink and initial big budget splurge was well thought-out too. There was a large reception for Opihr Gin and it seems to have cemented its place in bars and cabinets alike with relative ease. Three years on, there’s a good social media presence and an interactive website, helping to keep the brand alive. Between them, they allow users to trace the journey taken by ancient traders, presenting insight on the provenance of the drink’s botanicals in an interesting, enjoyable way.
Also worthy of taking note – there have also been some interesting bartender competitions (one with a rickshaw ride across India as the grand prize), pop-ups and logical tie-ins (they’ve worked with Indian restaurant chain Dishoom), making the brand a continued sighting in bars and supermarkets alike. We recommend keeping an eye on their activity going forward as to date, there have been some fun and enjoyable things to take part in, both for those in the drinks trade and regular drinkers alike. No doubt future plans will be as engaging.
A traveller in its own right, Opihr Gin has seen steady trade abroad and is now exported to France, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, as well as some areas of the US. At less than three years old, the fact that it has managed to establish itself so well is a testament to the team at Quintessential Brands driving it.
Expect it to grow in years to come and as with any voyager, expect it to have some adventures along the way… We look forward to sharing them with you!
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