Opihr gin is the work of Joanne Moore (she's also the distiller behind Thomas Dakin gin) and it's a great example of some of the exciting things that are happening with gin at the moment. Moore is in the enviable (and well deserved) position of master distiller for G&J Greenall (Britains second largest gin distillery) where she's proving, not that proof is really needed, that interesting gin isn't just the preserve of independent artisanal mavericks.
From what I've read, her baseline approach was to develop a gin flavour wheel (like this one Here) and look for gaps in the market on it which could then be coupled with other sources of inspiration. In the case of Opihr gin the inspiration is the spice route. There's a distinct hit of cardamom on the nose, and the finish is defined by the cubeb peppers - they're not overwhelming, but like the horseradish in the Thomas Dakin, it's a distinctive element. The packaging is equally distinctive and very much picks up on the story behind the gin.
I have a particular fondness for Opihr because it's a gin that allowed me to prove a point. It makes a perfectly good gin and tonic, but it goes particularly well with ginger ale (a gin buck). When we first had it open for customer tastings at work that's what I paired it with - and that's how I got a lot of people to realise that when they thought they didn't like gin and tonic, what they really didn't like was tonic. It was a wonderful afternoon of being able to say 'told you so'.
The other thing I really like about Opihr is that at around £22 it's a very reasonably priced premium gin. It's good to know there are interesting bottles out there for considerably less than the £30+ I'm starting to get used to paying for favourites.
Book wise it's has to be something which captures the exotic imagery of the spice route, but something that avoids too many associations with the Raj. It's altogether too easy to think of gin in terms of a vehicle to down quinine in a palatable form in the days of empire, but Ophir doesn't taste traditional enough for that. It's the botanicals that matter in this bottle and I feel they're telling a different sort of story.
Rumer Godden's spikey, uncomfortable, tales of Europeans trying to make a life in pre partition India are a different thing altogether. She celebrates the country and its indigenous culture all the while using it to highlight the tension caused by the inevitable clash with European ideas and customs. Everything is always on the cusp of change, and that seems right for such an individual sort of gin.