Firstly, the name. “Opihr” seems a play on the place name Ophir, a place of legendary untold wealth in the bible. In the case of the gin, it’s pronounced “o, peer!” The story that the botanicals tells is a romanticized narrative of the European/Asian spice trade, out of which the botanical accord of gin emerged from in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Even the word Oriental, hints at a simpler time when all of Asia’s vast bounty (and parts of baltic/Eastern Europe and Northern Africa) was reduced to a simple “other” by Europeans.
But in all fairness, Opihr Gin is truly Oriental in the way that the term was once used by Europeans. All but the juniper comes from the vast other beyond Europe. For example the Cubeb hails from Indonesia; black pepper from India; Turkish Cumin; Moroccan Coriander and Spanish Seville Oranges.
I say this to acknowledge that to some readers the term Oriental may be troubling. If the story in Opihr Oriental Spice Gin is one of European characterization of the numerous cultures of three different continents as a single gigantic other, then let us ponder for a moment, through the lens of this gin, how disparate food cultures can be brought together as one, and that story is worth telling.
The nose is intense with cardamom and ginger, with notes of toasted cumin seed and curry powder underneath. It’s incredibly spicy on the nose.
Sipping, Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin, it’s heart comes has a traditional gin juniper, coriander and citrus note. At first, it’s dry coriander and cardamom, then the juniper/gin note, finally the finish is peppery with black pepper, cubeb and coriander.
Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin receded with a lovely warmth, echoing coriander and ginger. Quite long finish, that almost leaves the palate with a clean, faintly menthol-kissed coolness.
It may not be surprising to hear this, but mixed, shaken or stirred, Opihr Oriental Spice Gin is a bit of a bomb. The spices are so loud, that they can take over cocktails.
Case and point, I think that it works well paired with ingredients like Allspice Dram, or Pear Brandies. Saveur’s recipes for this Allspice and Pear Gin and Tonic seems custom designed for this gin. A regular Gin and Tonic I find to be a little too much ginger, coriander and cumin. These are interesting spices, but ones that I don’t find as wanted in my G&T. And it’s even less my bag with lemon or lime. They just don’t seem to go.
And therein lies the conflict for me about Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin. It tells an interesting story, and has an interesting flavor Neat, but I find it to be really hit or miss in cocktails. I’d advise bartenders to try it before subbing it freely in most drinks. Home drinkers will likely find this to be as versatile as their love of heavily spiced spirits.
I find Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin and intriguing offering, from especially a mainstream distiller. It truly pushes the envelope of what gin can be. Fans of classic gins only are best advise to look elsewhere.
But for contemporary spice-forward gin fans, here is your conundrum. As intriguing as it is a spirit, it isn’t particularly versatile behind the bar. I prefer to sip it neat, but you might find your mileage will vary based on how much you’re in love with intense cardamom and coriander spice notes.