Opihr gin – a review

Afternoon gin times!
Afternoon gin times!

If you read my blog last week about Blackwoods gin, then you’ll know that I spent a gloomy Sunday afternoon drinking gin and wine with the bestie. The second gin on the menu from that afternoon was Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin. I have seen this gin in a few bars before, the distinctive bottle draws your eye towards it but I have never been brave enough to try it.

Opihr gin
Opihr gin

Spiced rum I understand. Spiced gin is a bit more unusual. The adventure of something new is important to their brand – check out their website and go on the journey with them to discover the flavours and inspirations. Pronounced “o-peer”, the London Dry Gin is made using traditional botanicals from the old spice route starting in Malacca, Malaysia, for cubeb peppers before venturing round the Bay of Bangal to south-east India for Tellicherry black peppers aka The King of Spices. Joined by Turkish cumin, Venetian juniper, Moroccan coriander and Spanish oranges, Opihr gin creates their distinctive and unique taste. Seriously, check out their website. Great stuff.

The bottle was a slight challenge to get into. The stiff cork took me more than one attempt to wrestle out, leaving Catriona worried I was about to throw the bottle across the room once it popped. The second we got it out, the smell hits you. Normally at this point, it’s all about the juniper and citrus. This is different. Rich, spicy, warm flavours waft out of the bottle hinting at winter tipples and aromatic curries.

Granddad Anderson’s glasses

Poured into Granddad Anderson’s glasses, the water brings out the subtler flavours. Pepper. Turmeric. Dark bitter chocolate. It is a strange flavour, and one that doesn’t taste the best with water but it feels as though it would work brilliantly in a mulled, spiced gin cocktail.

Not one to give up at the first hurdle, we make a g&t and the flavours mellow out and it becomes more palatable. I admit that this isn’t my type of drink. This feels heavy, whereas I like my gin light and refreshing. But we were able to agree that of a cold evening, in a mulled cocktail under a blanket, this would be perfection. The mix of spices feel slightly overpowering, which is perhaps why spiced gin isn’t particularly common. I imagine swapping the tonic for ginger beer would compliment and enhance the flavours, whereas the bitterness of tonic seems to bring out the harsh edges of the botanicals. We had made banana muffins and even the cinnamon from them took the edge off the gin and made it easier to drink.

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All the botanicals

I will happily drink this again, but in a cocktail or as a warming winter’s drink rather than as an evening g&t. I realise this blog sounds rather negative, but I believe that by pairing this with the right mixer and the right food, this will be a wonderful drink. Different to the usual G&T, this will appeal to those looking for something out of the ordinary, a taste adventure if you will.

The 40% proof gin is available on Masters of Malt for £23.26 making a good mid-range gin, and the distinctive elephant adorned bottle can be found in Waitrose, Tesco and Morrisons. You can also check them out on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also find out more about me through Twitter and Instagram (warning: I’m not super interesting).

Blackwoods Vintage Dry Gin – a review

Our afternoon in one picture: Blackwoods and Opihr gin
Our afternoon in one picture: Blackwoods and Opihr gin

What does one do on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Brighton? If you’re myself or Catriona, you drink some gin. “Is two o’clock too early for gin?” I ask, “not if we have two different ones to drink plus wine” she replies. This is why we are friends.

She treats me to a gin that she was given by her brother – Blackwoods Vintage Dry Gin. This claims to be the world’s first vintage gin, the current vintage is 2012. How many bottles of this were made I don’t know so soon we might see a 2013 vintage perhaps. Hand picked botanicals from Shetland include Sea Pink, Marsh Marigold and meadow-sweet which are combined with the more usual flavours from juniper, coriander and citrus peel to create their 40% proof gin. Note that Blackwoods also create a vintage 60% gin and a botanical vodka using similar flavours.

Blackwoods Vintage Gin
Blackwoods Vintage Gin

So there we are. Catriona’s kitchen, overlooking the damp garden, measuring out gin into her Granddad’s tumblers like naughty school children while we had the house to ourselves. The first smell to reach you is floral and fruity, with a heavy lean towards the juniper. Measured with water the citrus flavours come to the front and it has a wonderful fragrance to it. It is soft on the tongue and, considering how heavy the citrus is, it isn’t bitter. Sometimes when the citrus flavours dominate, it leaves a bitter taste but this feels well-rounded.

After a mild panic that there was no tonic in the house and that we would have to venture into the rain, we unearthed some (thank you gods of tonic). With the tonic, the coriander surfaces to produce that beautiful clean smell that I love in gin, the one that reminds you of stepping outside just after it has rained. The gin is well-balanced and has all the marks of a good quality gin. Imagine a classic Gordon’s G&T with added flavour. Whilst it is fresh, it certainly has a lot more going on than a Gordon’s. The floral notes come through to balance out the citrus zest.

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Granddad’s glasses

All in all, a wonderful gin. This is one that I wouldn’t save for a special occasion as this is a lovely every day gin. Catriona’s opinion: “I can picture drinking it on a summer’s afternoon as lambs frolic in front of me accompanied with cold quiche and salad”. I agree. If the sun had been shining, sitting out in the garden would have made this drink perfect. Alas, we live in England by the sea-side. In early September.

Selling on Masters of Malt for just £20.48 this is a good buy for someone looking to jazz up their daily G&T from the standard Gordon’s or Greenall’s. As this doesn’t break the bank, I’d suggest that everyone give this a try.

You can find out more about Blackwoods from their website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

For more musings on life, gin and the joys of Southern Rail you can follow me on Twitter or check out my snaps on Instagram.

Burleigh’s Signature Edition Gin – a review

photo (2)With this month’s Craft Gin Club delivery, as well as my full-sized bottle of Burleigh’s Distiller’s Cut gin, I also received a sample of their Signature Edition Gin. You can read some more about 45 West Distillery and their gin making process on the other blog so I don’t need to repeat that here (also making this post distinctly shorter than my others!) Their Signature gin is a London Dry (as are all of their gins) made in their copper distilling pot “Messy Bessy” which can make around 650 bottles of gin at a time. This gin is more suited to the classic G&T according to the makers, whereas the Distiller’s Cut works well in a Martinez due to a different ratio of botanicals.

IMG_0085As it is a small sample bottle I don’t get to hear the nice pop of a cork, but after unscrewing the lid the smell that comes out is more floral than the Distiller’s Cut. Bottled at a slightly lower 40%, this gin doesn’t attack your senses in the way the Distiller’s Cut does. It feels softer and more manageable on a weekday evening. Once in the glass, the juniper comes into its own and hits you at the back of the nose. Mixed with water, the juniper mellows out to create a more balanced smell. It tastes like a ‘traditional’ gin. Floral and zesty, it maintains the earthy undertones that feature so prominently in the Distiller’s Cut, but aren’t as overpowering. The result is a more palatable drink with no sharp kick at the back of the throat or bitterness on the tongue.

Mixed with the Fever Tree Indian tonic, it is fresh and bright. This gin tastes more commercial than the other type, it is less dense and overwhelming. The twist of lemon brightens the gin and brings out the citrus botanical. It leaves a pleasant tang on the tongue that leaves you wanting more as it isn’t too dry. This feels like an everyday gin to be enjoyed year round, whereas the Distiller’s Cut is a gin for a certain occasion and mood (judging from my over the top emotional reaction to it which leaves me thinking I shouldn’t drink it every day…)

IMG_0090Served with cold tonic and ice cubes, this felt like the perfect drink to enjoy after work, and I imagine it will go down a treat on the beach if we get any more sunny weekends!

You can buy all of Burleigh’s gins on their website and in various places around the UK. You can find out more about their brand and what they have going on through Facebook and Twitter. Whilst you’re there, don’t forget to give the Craft Gin Club some love as well (Twitter and Facebook).

You can also hear more about what I like and loathe through Twitter and Instagram.


Burleigh’s Distiller’s Cut Gin – a review

This month’s package from Craft Gin Club was rather exciting. One full sized bottle of Burleigh’s Distiller’s Cut gin, one sample bottle of their Signature Edition gin, a bottle of Fever Tree Indian tonic, a teeny tiny bottle of Angostura bitters AND a bag of jalapeño crisps. That made for a very exciting Wednesday evening.

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Presents in the post are the best

Burleigh’s Distillers Cut is the child of Jamie Baxter at the 45 West Distillery t’up north in Leicestershire. The bottle is a beautiful matt black with very little to distract from the simplicity of it. Admittedly this won’t be one that I can fill with fairy lights, but I’m sure I will find it a home on my bookcase regardless. 45 West Distillery uses some unusual botanicals that I haven’t come across in other gins – dandelion and burdock roots alongside silver birch. Yes, silver birch. As in the tree. He steeps silver birch chips, along with his other botanicals, in the neutral spirit which, he says, “gives off a beautiful eucalyptus menthol note”.

Distiller’s Cut gin

After peeling away the brown paper seal and listening the satisfying pop as you ease a cork out of a bottle for the first time, it hits you. The smell is like walking in a woods. Floral. Juniper. Almost herby. Measured with water the juniper becomes more noticeable, it smells nice and clean. The first tastes leaves it warm in the mouth, on the tongue it has an edge of bitterness about it but this mellows nicely as you drink it. I’m not cultured/hardcore enough to drink straight gin as my standard drink but I can imagine that this with water and a mammoth ice ball to make it super chilled would be lovely. It makes me think I need to be in a log cabin overlooking a lake. The floral notes start to come out once it has mixed with the water but it isn’t cloying as I expected once I read it had elderberries as a botanical. I instantly felt a warming sensation through my body, but this is probably due to it being bottled at 47% – a bit higher than my usual gins of choice around 38-40%.

I did as recommended and mixed it with my Fever Tree Indian tonic and ice. The only way I can really describe the taste is like you have stepped into the middle of a forest and taken a really deep breath in. The taste lingers in the mouth and the chest. This isn’t something I thought I would ever say, and I guess this comes from the silver birch, dandelion and burdock. A slightly woody earthy taste settles on the tongue whilst the back of the throat picks up the floral notes.

Reliving my holiday memories…

Orange is the recommended garnish, but my aversion to oranges is so strong that I can’t bring myself to do this (sorry gin world). I plump for lemon instead. The lemon accentuates the floral notes and brings a new bitterness to the back of the throat (not in a bad way). It’s the taste I would associate with a proper gin and tonic. Quite dry at the back of the throat which makes you take another mouthful. It’s a powerful gin. It doesn’t feel like one I can glug back quickly (not that I do that Mum or Dad, that would be irresponsible). It’s an all encompassing flavour . I’m definitely back at my log cabin, looking over the lake, probably listening to jazz music. This feels like a gin to tell stories to. Despite the fact that I am new to this gin game, it feels like a proper drink. Like how men used to come home and have a stiff whiskey at the end of the working day. This gin makes me want to come home, snuggle up in a large brown leather arm chair, get out a good book and relax.

This gin reminds me of home. I grew up in a little town called Fleet (yes, Fleet services on the M3) and we were lucky enough to grow up near the pond and walk around there and the canal and various parks and woods. Halfway through this G&T I have a craving to go home. To sit in my garden as the sun fades away and only hear the occasional car go past.

The back of the bottle simply says “Spirits of adventure” and never have I agreed with a tag line so clearly. This makes me want to be outside. Which is something my pale Scottish skin and bookworm-introvert-people-hating personality do not like doing.


Masters of Malt list this at £33.95 for a 70cl bottle. I am not convinced that everyone will love this gin. I think it will divide opinions. It is a gin for martinis and negronis aka proper grown up cocktails. It certainly packs a punch with their flavours. As is fairly obvious from the above, this gin had a real impact on me in a strange emotional way so I for one am a big fan.

You can find out more about Burleigh’s gin on their website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For more ramblings about gin and life in Brighton, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

The Breakfast Club, Brighton

Who doesn’t love being served breakfast food all day? When we found ourselves hungry and walking around the south lanes of Brighton in the rain this August bank holiday Monday, we walked past The Breakfast Club ( the former home of Fat Leo’s) and were drawn in by the promise of breakfast at 2:30pm. We arrived in a quiet period and were seated in a cosy booth with views of the rain-soaked streets outside as well as the other diners. The first thing we noticed was the rather epic and varied playlist – whilst we were there we heard from Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, Ricky Martin, early Madonna, Doris Day and the classic “Ooo stick you” by Daphne and Celeste. The layout of the main room meant that it took us a little while to get served as we were hidden behind the stairs from the bar, but we were so busy drooling over the menu we weren’t too bothered by this.

Aperol Spritz and Rosie and Gin
We were served by Maisie (shout out to her for being super helpful and lovely to us!) who guided us on food choices before we picked the chorizo hash browns for me and the breakfast burrito for my companion after a discussion about “how spicy is spicy?” We also had a cocktail craving which Maisie fixed with the bar staff – note: they don’t serve the full menu or cocktails on weekends to save them during busy times, but if you ask nicely and it’s not too crowded they will serve you Aperol Spritzs and Rosie and Gins (Bombay Sapphire, Rosemary Syrup, Pineapple Juice).

We’ll start with the cocktails – the Aperol Spritz was well-balanced with enough soda for me to be able to drink some without screwing my face up but not enough to make Catriona whinge about her weak it is. The Rosie and Gin was from me being brave. I don’t drink Bombay Sapphire. I’m also not super keen on rosemary. But in the spirit of being brave and trying new things I ordered it. The pineapple was the main flavour coming through and the rosemary counterbalancing the sweetness. I recommend.

An empty stomach meeting our strong drinks meant that we were hitting the tipsy line when our food arrived. Mine a bowl piled high with fried potatoes, chorizo, sweet roasted peppers and onions and friend eggs (and a mushroom which I tried a bit of to be brave and quickly passed over). Catriona’s burrito was stuffed full of ground chorizo, fresh scrambled egg, roasted peppers, mushrooms and spicy pepper sauce with plenty of sour cream, salsa and guacamole on the side.

Breakfast burrito
Breakfast burrito
The fried potatoes were heaven, the chorizo was smokey and spicy and the onions and peppers were soft and sweet and gave a freshness to the carby goodness which went perfectly with the salty and slightly melted feta I added. The eggs were fried perfectly, the second I put my fork into it, the yolk oozed out over my plate. The only thing I would change about this dish is having the addition of some chilli, or some BBQ/spicy sauce. The mouthfuls that had chorizo were brilliant, but the potato and egg combo was slightly bland. Ketchup and Brown Sauce was provided on the tables, but as a spice lover I would have appreciated some Tabasco being offered. The portions were more than plentiful and by the time I had finished wiping my plate clean with the last piece of potato I was very content and sleepy.

Chorizo and potatoes and eggs
Chorizo and potatoes and eggs
The burrito nearly broke Catriona due to its size. She is less of a fan of spice and every so often she would go “ahh found a spicy bit” and dip her fork into the sour cream. I tried a bit of the salsa and thought it was fine – the classic game whenever we eat together. She was impressed by the fresh scrambled eggs as we had worried they might have been mass cooked and left until needed, but they seemed fluffy and made to order.

This isn’t the cheapest place to get breakfast food. You’re looking at the price of a ‘proper meal’ – my bowl with added feta came to £10.70, the burrito was £9.00 and an extra £1.50 for a pot of sour cream (note: don’t order this as it comes with sour cream), and the cocktails were £8 each. This was a bit of a splurge but since we had been mooching around town frivolously spending money, this fit that brief. I would save coming back here for a special occasion rather than it becoming my go-to breakfast place – but this is purely for the price rather than the food. You definitely get what you pay for. We enjoyed every mouthful of our food.

We only saw the breakfast/brunch menu but it is varied and provides plenty of vegetarian options and ranges from pancakes to eggs in various styles to full fry ups. The drinks on offer include tea and coffee, juices, wines, beers and cocktails with happy hour every day between 5 and 7pm.

You can check out their website styled on pixelated video games here as well as on social media: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and you can check them out if you live outside of Brighton as they have sites scattered around London.

As always, if you have time to spare and like reading rants about commuting, rain and tourists then you can check me out on Twitter and Instagram.