“QUINQUIREME of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine”.
That’s the first verse of that lovely poem, Cargoes, by John Masefield, of course. He conjures up the exotic appearance and atmosphere of the historic trading vessel, the quinquireme (which had five levels of oars), and goes on to compare and contrast it with a “stately Spanish galleon” and a “dirty British coaster”.
Ophir lends the poem particular interest. It seems to be such a mysterious place, famed for its “stones of gold”, its precise location remaining the subject of much scholarly and archaeological debate. Was it in Africa? Was it near the Red Sea? Was it in Pakistan? Or maybe even Peru? There are many references to it in the Bible and, aside from its appearance in Masefield, it is best known as the destination of an expedition by King Solomon to bring back gold and precious stones.
Solomon got on very well with the Queen of Sheba. After all the talk of trading had been completed, I daresay they sat down and had a tipple – maybe a snifter of gin or two? Except that they wouldn’t have done, because gin probably wasn’t invented until the seventeenth century in Holland.
But perhaps it’s little wonder that when Greenall’s were looking for a brand name for a new product, they saw great potential in that evocative place. Indeed, as their press release at the time (October 3rd, 2013) says: “This new style of London Dry Gin is naturally flavoured with exotic botanicals carefully selected by Opihr’s Master Distiller, from countries along the ancient Spice Route. The hand-picked spices include coriander from Morocco, black pepper from India and cubeb berries from Indonesia. These botanicals are then infused in high quality grain spirit from one of England’s oldest distilleries, to create a unique spiced gin”.
Checking on Google, I discover that when I type the word “Ophir” into the search box, a total of 6,800,000 results are delivered. When I type in “Opihr”, I see the figure has dropped somewhat to 34,400. Investigating as many of the 34,400 as time allows, I find that all the references relate to Greenall’s inestimable new spirit.
Anyway, as I watched someone having a glass of Opihr in my local the other night, replacing his tumbler on the dirty British coaster on the table in front of him, the thought occurred to me that it really doesn’t matter that they’d spelt the name wrong. We kind of get the general drift.
Personally I’m a great fan of Lonon Dry Gin. I think Grenall’s is a terrific company.
And quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to rock the boat …