Old World-Style Retailer Attracting Connoisseurs to Westlake Store
The German franchise operation Vom Fass is fast becoming a world-wide brand. The company operates on an old world concept where people can talk to knowledgeable owners and taste a variety of things. It’s close to a bespoke clothing kind of operation, because customers basically pick whatever they want and buy it in virtually any size.
The local Vom Fass outlet celebrated a grand opening recently and Austin Chronicle wine/spirits writer Wes Marshall and I stopped by to check things out. Here’s some of what we discovered.
VBW: The first Austin outlet is owned by Chris and Kristin Vetromile. “I was looking for a career in the culinary field but didn’t want to go to cooking school and open a restaurant. I actually thought about doing a store somewhat like this from scratch on my own, but then I discovered Vom Fass,” Chris Vetromile explained. “I looked at it as though they had already done all the research and development and had long-standing relationships with producers all over the world, so why not go with a successful company?” The Westlake outlet near the popular Breed & Co. is the first of three stores they hope to open in the Austin market.
WM: The Ventromiles and their employees are both proud of and passionate about what they are doing. Their spirits concept is unique and requires a bit of explanation. They sell approximately two dozen liqueurs, six brandies and grappas, three Absinthes, and 18 whiskies. Vom Fass' international buyers search for deals on high end spirits, and then deliver the product to the franchisees in large bottles. Once delivered, the local folks pour those into large glass containers (glass balloons is how they refer to them). From there, you can pick your bottle size and, based on TABC rules, you can often get a taste.
Fair warning: the prices may cause bit of sticker shock. A normal fifth (.750 L) of my favorite Absinthe runs $50.99. Some of their whiskies run over $100 for a fifth. But worrying over the prices misses the whole point of Vom Fass. Their bottles range from 100 ml (about 3.2 ounces, or about two jiggers) all the way up to .750 L (a fifth). Fancy a Scotch tasting? Buy 10 tiny bottles of whiskey and immerse yourself in a little malt madness. The good news is there is no upcharge for buying small. If .750bottle runs $75, a 100 ml goes for $10. For folks learning, or someone who just needs a bit of liqueur for one recipe, this sales style is a bargain.
VBW: I was intrigued by the wall of exotic oils and vinegars with many flavors I’d never imagined and pleased to discover they are all available for tasting and for sale in any quantity. In order to demonstrate the versatility of the product line, the party featured small ham sandwiches overwhelmed by a dark balsamic glaze (not a personal favorite) and two flavors of Amy’s Ice Cream; one made with olive oil and the other made with pumpkin seed oil, both subtle and delicious. The non-alcoholic beverage that afternoon was a tart but very refreshing flavored-vinegar and sparkling water concoction called a shrub.
WM: Vom Fass sells their wines in regular size bottles and I was quite impressed by their selection and pricing. It’s a small collection, but it is well chosen. They had a notable number of Charles Smith’s wines, and that’s always a good sign. So the verdict is this: buy the small sizes to determine if you really love the spirit, and then go crazy when you find something you love. The Libertine 55 Absinthe is my new love. Isn’t it nice to be able to choose?
VBW: There was a small selection of artisan food products such as flavored salts as well as some upscale wine and spirits-related gift items like wine openers, lovely bottle stoppers, and the paraphernalia required for serving Absinthe. However, I was most impressed with the stores selection of custom bottles in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It would be easy to go wild buying custom gifts here with a different bottle for everyone on the shopping list. And the best thing is, once the distinctive bottle has been filled at Vom Fass, it can be re-filled at a lower price. Unique gifts that keep on giving!
Vom Fass www.austin.vomfassusa.com
3663 Bee Caves Rd. 512/637-9545
Monday – Saturday, 10am-6pm
Read more stories behind the bar and deep in the jigger at austinchronicle.com/drink-drank-drunk. The Austin Chronicle's Drink Drank Drunk issue hit stands Wednesday, July 3.