O.R.E. 118 Gin sits in a striking tall, narrow bottle with green labels. The base spirit is distilled entirely from Chardonnay grapes and features an array of botanicals that seems slightly inspired by Asian food culture: Makrut lime leaves, ginger and green peppercorns.
Green peppercorns are really just the raw version of black peppercorn. Did you know that to create black pepper, fresh peppercorns are cooked in hot water before being left out to dry in the sun?
That brings us to another thing about O.R.E. 118 Gin— the choice of uncooked peppercorn vs. cooked peppercorn is intentional and super-deliberate. O.R.E. 118 Gin is a raw vegan gin.
The raw vegan diet is basically a diet where a person consumes entirely uncooked plant derived foods. For more detail, I referred to this piece on The Spruce Eats. Jolinda Hackett clarifies further, “A raw food vegan diet consists of unprocessed raw vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 F (46 C).”
In other words, not only does O.R.E. 118 Gin use a vacuum to distill their botanicals, using pressure to lower the temperature at which things will distill. They’ve also distilled the grape base spirit at low temperatures, making this the first gin to boast that they are entirely suitable for raw vegans.
The nose of O.R.E. 118 Gin is vivid with citrusy and fruit-forward notes. There’s an extremely bright note of fresh makrut lime leaves and zest that while dominant on the nose there’s slight hints of spice and juniper along side.
On the palate the lime leaves again hold court as the star. But they’re bright and citrusy, almost suggesting fresh key limes and lemon leaves as well.
Then the spice comes up just a tad, notes of fresh grated galangal and turmeric root segue into pine-forward juniper and a long lime leaves finish. For having no citrus fruits among the botanical bill, O.R.E. 118 Gin comes across is extremely citrus-forward owing to the brightness that they were able to pull from the low-temperature distilled makrut lime leaves.
The story behind O.R.E. 118 and raw vegan gin begins of all places— at a raw vegan restaurant. “Robert Elder wanted a Martini to go with his dinner, but the server at the raw vegan restaurant he took his family to wouldn’t serve him one,” the story begins in this Supercall piece. “Only beer and wine were considered raw and vegan, that is, not distilled above 118 degrees Fahrenheit, as grain alcohol requires.”
So of course— I had to try it in a Martini. My verdict is that if you look beyond the “Raw Vegan Gin” moniker and just the spirit inside— it’s a really delicious Martini. The Chardonnay Grape eau-de-vie in the base makes a beautiful base spirit and it’s well complimented by Vermouth†.
It furthermore works really nicely in a Gin and Tonic with the lime notes rising to the fore. A little light on juniper, but a nice drink nonetheless.
Overall, O.R.E. 118 Gin the Raw Vegan Gin
Based on what I’ve read about raw veganism, it seems to be that if you practice the raw vegan diet, this might be the only gin in town for you.
But otherwise, I urge the non-raw-vegans and even carnivores among you to not judge a book by the cover. I know that often times seeing a product marked as “vegan” usually means a poor imitation‡ of the real thing. This is not vegan cheese. This is not a vegetarian hamburger.
O.R.E. 118 Gin is a fun contemporary style gin with a delicious and rich grape base and vivid Thai cuisine inspired botanicals. Even if you’re not raw and/or vegan, you should give this gin a try.
Certainly if you’re a fan of classic-style gin you might find this gin a little light on juniper, but everyone else— give it a try.
Recommended in its category.
† I don’t want to look like a luddite, but I’m new to this raw vegan thing. I’m not sure if dry vermouth is raw or vegan.
‡ I couldn’t have dairy growing up and I also can’t have gluten. I’ve subsisted on many of these substitutes for a long time. But then again, I’ve not quite understood the paradox of wanting a “Vegan Sausage” anyway.