Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Donate and Support    
In the Cups: Standing Out

In the Cups: Standing Out


Lessons from a retired mechanical engineer, an accountant with a vision and palate to match, a hunter, and a chemist

Finely crafted DEK? mules.

In Old Town Lafayette sits family-owned and operated DEK? (“deck-eye”) Distillery. I had the honor of sitting down with Scott and Hélène, the driving forces behind this innovative concept, to hear their story and discuss some products that make their brand stand out.

After 40 years working in California as a mechanical engineer, Scott retired and moved with Hélène to Colorado. When I asked what the driving force was behind their move, they both smiled, and Hélène said, “Our grandsons are here.” A distillery, however, did not top the list of second careers. Opening a brewery seemed like a natural option, but with Colorado’s booming scene, the challenge of that quickly became clear. A pivot to a distillery occurred with Hélène, an accountant by trade, asking the visionary question she had been wondering all along: “What will differentiate us?”

One mule mix can craft 33 cocktails! Photo by Chris Curtis.

The family decided they wanted to make intensely flavored spirits that would help them craft the best cocktails. Enter the chemist, their youngest son. Working out of a basement, he began the research and design process and, after two years of work, created the line of spirits, all of which had to be approved by Hélène’s impeccable palate.

During this time, the vision of the distillery and tasting room became a reality. The family remodeled a hair salon, with Scott and his sons doing almost all of the work, including building the beautiful bar from the ground up. Scott used his engineering knowledge to design the still according to his son’s vision and, after putting numerous safety features in place (e.g., they can only distill when customers aren’t there, the boiler room could double as a safe room, and the fire suppression system delivers a torrential downpour), things began to take shape.

Naming the distillery was the next piece that needed to fall in place. The first name made the business sound like a plumbing company. Rebrand #1. The eldest son, the hunter, suggested “Twelve Points” as an homage to Colorado’s majestic elk. Unfortunately, that earned a cease-and-desist from a New York distillery, who kindly gave them six months to change. Rebrand #2. By hiring lawyers this time and gaining access to a database, the family was able to change to “On Point.” Unfortunately during this time, the federal government merged all wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries into one database of names. You guessed it. “On Point” was already taken. Rebrand #3. With what I am sure is a touch of exasperation — rebranding is expensive — the family decided they needed a made-up name with only two syllables. Using a computer app name generator, the family decided on DEK?.

Which leads us back to the vision of intensely flavored spirits and the recent innovation of the chemist. The Moscow mule has found its way onto many distillery menus. A delightful combination of vodka, citrus, and ginger, it’s a fun spring and summer drink that stays very cold when served in the traditional copper mug. DEK? offers a 750ml bottle of concentrated mule mix that yields a whopping 33 cocktails. The only mixer needed is a 7.5-ounce bottle or can of Sprite — make it skinny with Sprite Zero — per ¾ ounce of the mix. In the bar, mixologist Liliana can make one in eight seconds. While it may take a bit longer at home, it offers a very reasonable, high-yield option for spring and summer get-togethers.

Another innovative product comes in the form of DEK?’s two-flavored vodkas, which can only be found at the distillery. When I’ve wandered down the flavored vodka aisle at a liquor store, I’ve always found the fact that every single flavor is clear to be a bit suspect. The family of  DEK? agrees. When you get a bottle of either the raspberry- or blackberry-flavored vodka, it is the furthest thing from clear because it’s made with real raspberries and blackberries. When I asked about that process, Scott, the storyteller, smiled and confessed, “They won’t tell me.” Apparently, he’s the Tom Holland of the DEK? universe, and recipes and processes remain a closely guarded secret.

Our time came to a close, and Liliana mixed up a fun island mule for me using the mule concentrate mixer, proving that in the hands of a master mixologist, a high-quality cocktail mix can yield some fun surprises. Indeed, the mule section of the menu offers six different variations of the classic cocktail.

It’s definitely a stand-out.

Leave a Reply