I need to sit down. No, like, I really need to sit down!…
2020 was not the year that any of us had planned for. And whilst hardly the biggest of problems to contend with in the grand scheme of things and the gravity of the situation, our home extension and improvement plans were understandably ground to a halt. With a rescheduled start date of June 2021, we eased ourselves in to the mundanity of lockdown routine.
Until 2 weeks ago that is…
“Would you like to start the works ‘slightly earlier’ than planned” our builder had enquired. An innocent enough sounding question on the surface. What we hadn’t banked on was that ‘slightly earlier’ actually meant that very week! Cue a full on clear down of the house, walls being removed, temporary plywood walls being created, the kitchen being ripped out & our little family unit being evicted whilst the chaos ensues! An unexpected level of stress and excitement (in equal measure) has ensured that the mundanity of lockdown routine has had more than a little shake up!
Like I say. I need to sit down.
Luckily, a package landed on my doorstep that offered to help me take the weight off for a little while. And whilst it’s not perhaps the four legged recliner that I’d usually opt for, it almost certainly had the credentials to take the edge off!
I was about to unfold the story of ‘Deck Chair Gin’. Take a seat and I’ll tell you all about it…
Deck Chair Gin; Take a seat…
The story of Deck Chair Gin starts as all good stories should; in the pub! Business partners Matt and Andy had spent the best part of a year renovating a harbourside Grade 2 listed Free House in Brixham, Devon. And in November 2014 their dream of opening the ‘New Quay Inn’, on the English Riviera, to the public became a reality.
Never ones to rest on the laurels, the Real Ale & gin loving duo felt their creative urges pushing them to expand and evolve. With the options of establishing a ‘Brew Pub’ or a distillery, there could only be one winner, and before long works were underway to stand up the ‘Devon Coast Distillery’.
After acquiring their licenses in 2018, swatting up at numerous training courses and getting stuck in to recipe development, Matt & Andy found that they had a more than willing tasting panel for their juniper journey amongst their pubs clientele (shock horror)! After working their way through around 30 recipes, it was lucky number 21 that was selected as the make up for their flagship London Dry gin. I’m pretty sure that there’s an underage drinking joke here, about the pub landlords ‘thinking 21’…but I’ll leave it.
A larger Still was purchased, to allow commercial production to begin. By 2019, within just a year of launching, Deck Chair Gin was awarded a Silver medal at the 2019 International Wine and Spirits Competition IWSC – a feat that the team went on to impressively repeat in 2020’s competition.
Do you reckon our intrepid heroes stopped at that? Of course not! Following the success of their London Dry, a decision was made to explore wider expressions, with a range of fruit infusions introduced that stay true to the teams ‘single shot’ distillation process and classic style. You can now pick up Deck Chair in ‘Lemon’, ‘Cucumber & Watermelon’, ‘Raspberry’ and ‘Cranberry & Lime’.
Deck Chair Gin; Message on a bottle
Deck Chair Gin takes the inspiration for its name from its coastal location and lapping waters of the English Riviera, paying homage to the 1920’s pomp of traditional holiday resorts like Paignton and Torquay. As such, Matt & Andy have set about creating a citrus forward gin that aims to be the perfect sipper for hot summers days on the beach.
It’s a theme that carries through to the look and feel of the branding and design. A classic red and white striped deck chair sits proudly on a golden sandy stretch, with the crystal blue waters of the back label evoking summer holiday vibes.
Even the font and regal colour scheme of the brand name is reminiscent of the retro games arcades that line the seafront of British coastal towns. It’s a playful nod to childhood memories that will undoubtedly be shared by many, but with a very grown up twist once the aesthetically pleasing cork stopper is popped.
One niggling sense of doubt that I do have, is how would this gin stand up for itself on a back bar amongst the ‘sea’ of competition? When you know the story, and take the time to appreciate the illustrated throwback to family holidays on the ‘English Riviera’, it has an undeniable charm. Indeed, if holidaying in Devon, I can see Deck Chair Gin having selling points that would allow it to hold its own. I do however question whether the design and branding would be strong enough to appeal to the masses once the comfort of locality is removed from the equation. In a market where image has never been so important to be able to compete, I suspect that more work is needed should any larger scale expansion be considered.
Deck Chair Gin to taste
With my trusty tasting glass at the ready, I made sure I was sitting comfortably for this one.
A combination of zesty orange and a zippy, herbal, coriander sit at the forefront of the neat gin. There are bold and resinous lashings of juniper that bring chunky forest floor pine vibes. Wait, wait… citrus and juniper forward?! It’s an exciting start that speaks to my personal persuasions…
There’s something quite floral to the vapours, bringing a perfumed and herbal quality to the spirit, with the liquorice root delivering a healthy helping of natural sweetness that works superbly with the citrus and juniper profile.
I do struggle to pick out the cardamom on the nose; strange as it’s a flavour that usually makes its pungent presence known. Here I find it to be far more subtle, with no flexing going on, on the metaphorical ‘muscle beach’.
To taste neat, and notes of sweet orange rush across the tongue, straddling the tightrope between the fresh peel and flesh of the citrus fruit and the more floral aromas of orange blossom.
As the gin evolves, it becomes obvious that the orange is EVERYWHERE, on every single sip – it’s right up my street!
The sweetness of the liquorice root is deliciously amped up on the palate, whilst the juniper also pleasingly retains its power, bringing an assured and piney richness to the neat liquid.
The cardamom is far more evident on the tasting, with a more noticeable earthy spice on the back of the throat. There is a beautiful longevity to the gin, with a herbal finish of coriander and orange citrus lingering after each sip, with a very slight hint of menthol that adds a layer of freshness as you draw breath and return to the glass.
At 44% ABV, this is a gin that acts its age – there is enough power and aggression to let you know you’re having a grown up drink, but enough restraint not to risk alcohol burn and intimidation.
If I was to share one slight surprise, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say ‘disappointment’, it would be that there is no element of salinity or even hint of the ocean. Within the botanicals, you’ll find no real coastal inspiration (the likes of samphire or seaweed that have been included by other brands). Here you’ll find juniper, coriander, cardamom, orange peel, angelica root, liquorice root and orris root. But that said, there is no denying that the orange blossom feel and herbaceous greenery evokes summertime vibes, with enough juniper muscle to root you firmly in classic gin territory.
Deck Chair Gin; Table service…
The classic sensibilities of the oily juniper, bright and veracious orange citrus and slight sweetness of the liquorice root mean that this gin is screaming for a Martini serve! And by the same token, it’s the perfect contender for a G&T.
The Deck Chair Martini
Within the Martini, the stone fruits of the Cocchi Americano Bianco vermouth pair sumptuously with the profile of the gin, bringing a bright and lively feel.
The citrus is huge, with the orange seemingly elevated by the addition of the vermouth. The floral edge of the gin, with a hint of herbal greenery, work fantastically well in the classic cocktail – feeling refined and refreshing.
The juniper still stands tall, with the sweetness of that liquorice root feeling indulgent. It’s absolutely delicious.
The Deck Chair G&T
The orange remains the star of the show, with the citrus and juniper combining to root you in to a classic grounding, with summer time sun beams rising from the glass.
There’s something about the addition of the tonic that awakens much more of the herbal profile of the gin, pulling forwards a much larger bouquet of fresh picked coriander, evoking imagery of freshly cut grass and late spring / summer evenings sipping at home with friends and loved ones.
Here’s hoping those times aren’t too far away!
Deck Chair Gin; All on deck…
As I reflected on a very enjoyable introduction to the flagship expression, it was time to get better acquainted with the London Dry’s ‘little friends’, with four accompanying miniatures of the wider range.
So follow me through a quick fire tasting round as I provide the low down…
Cranberry & Lime
Fresh lime zest sits tall on the nose, with a slight berry compote suggestion following in behind. On the taste, the lime is distinguishable, with a zippy character, but to my palate the cranberry falls flat and doesn’t offer the fruit hit I had hoped for. Honestly, I had thought the combination sounded an odd flavour pairing on paper. Unfortunately, it tasted as odd as I had expected. This ones not for me I’m afraid…
Cucumber & Watermelon
The surprise package! I’ll level with you. I expected to hate this. But in reality…it’s actually pretty ace! On both the nose and palate you get exactly what it says on the tin. The flavours are fresh and vibrant, with no suggestions of chemical nasties or syntheticness. This would be PERFECT on a hot summers day as a light G&T with a cucumber garnish. I love it when my preconceptions are blown out of the water, and this little sipper was a delight!
Now. This is my jam! I enjoyed the flagship, but I am a lemon fiend when it comes to citrus forward gins. This is unmistakably lemon – punchy and vibrant on the nose, the lemon is just as sharp and bright to taste. This is pure and unadulterated Martini territory. It’s my pick of the bunch!
The nose is, unfortunately, disappointing. I get a damp suggestion of red fruit, but only just. In my opinion, if you’re going to write ‘raspberry’ on the bottle, you want to be blown away by a jammy fruit assault. I don’t get that here. I will concede that it is more evident on the taste, which actually grows as it evolves on the tongue and lingers on the back of the throat. But if I’m really honest, it just doesn’t bring the heavy hitting flavour I had hoped for. I wanted to be picking metaphorical seeds from my teeth, but was left wanting. That said, served ice cold with a Mediterranean tonic and you’re not going to be sending these back to the bar I’m sure…
Deck Chair Gin; Life’s a beach…
In sitting back to collect my thoughts on Deck Chair Gin, this has to go down as an impressive experience overall. The flagship London Dry has a flavour profile that I simply adore, with the perfect balance of hard nosed citrus and juniper speaking to my calling card. Working well in both the Martini and G&T, it’s classic gin making that has adopted the art of delivering beautiful simplicity at its finest.
Ok, so the branding isn’t grabbing my attention. And I must admit that it wouldn’t have necessarily lured me in to try, had it not have been for the opportunity to sample for the review. In my opinion, if the ambition is to break out of the constraints of the local market then it is something that should be addressed.
But push past the aesthetics and taste the gin, and there is more than enough promise to suggest an exciting future ahead. I was thrilled to be proven wrong by the artfully created ‘Cucumber & Watermelon’ (it just shouldn’t work in a gin…but it does!) and I could happily drink the ‘Lemon’ gin from a trough! I think I’ll just steer clear of the ‘Lime & Cranberry’ for now…
As far as having the ability to transport the drinker to a coastal retreat, it’s got summer time vibes in abundance. And with the changing of the tide seemingly on the horizon with the pandemic, it’s a welcome taste of the brighter days ahead. I’ll drink to that…
With huge thanks to Matt, Andy and the Deck Chair Gin team for my complementary bottle of their London Dry and miniature samples of the wider range!
Be sure to follow the Deck Chair story, as I have no doubt that this ambitious team will have a lot of exciting plans as they continue on their journey;
Facebook: Deck Chair Gin
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!