The photo, if I’ve done my job right, is here in this post. What appears to be Scotch Casks turned out to be much, much, more. So much more that I’m planning a field trip with other students of the current Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) so that they too can sample Spirits, Liqueurs and more “From The Cask”. (See the e-mail from one of the owners of Vom Fass, and my story, below.)
The short answer is yes, we do cask scotch tastings. But there is so much more. Vom Fass (meaning “from the cask” in German) is an international company with approx 250 stores worldwide but only 5 in the U.S. Vom Fass Westlake Village is the first Vom Fass store in California. (Editor’s note: The Westlake store is now closed, this is the closest Vom Fass now: 451 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001)
In our store customers are allowed to taste all of our products before choosing a bottle of a size to their liking to take the product home.
On one side of the store are wonderful olive oils, infused olive oils (citrus and herb infused such as tangerine, basil, rosemary, oregano, truffle etc), nut and seed oils (pistachio oil, pumpkinseed oil, hazelnut oil etc), wonderful aged balsamic vinegars and fruit vinegars such as calamansi, pear, chili-fig and date.
On the other side of the store are single malt whiskeys, cognacs, armagnacs, grappas, liqueurs (including the Green Fairy–Absinthe!) and other spirits. We do have a wine section as well. From your background you I’m sure have much more experience with wine then we do but we are learning fast!
Customers can sample anything in the store (including the wine…and the Absinthe!) and then select from a multitude of bottle sizes (50 ml to 750ml) to take the selected products home. If they choose an oil or vinegar they can bring the bottle back and we will refill it for them as well. We do private tasting and cooking events as well.
We have chefs on staff who can provide you with a full tour of our offerings and suggest various pairings and uses for our products. But allow yourself an hour or so if you want to experience the whole store.
We would love to have you come in and look, taste and enjoy with us! My partner Mike Romance and our General Manager Chef Matt Belzano will be in the store tomorrow and would be happy to host you and give you the tour. Let us know if this would be convenient and we will look forward to meeting you.
Vom Fass Westlake Village
So, off I went
The only thing that comes prepackaged at Vom Fass? The wine. Although they are happy to open up a bottle, along with anything else in the store, for a sampling. I kept my sampling to things I’d never tried before: Grappa, 144 proof Absinthe and cask strength single malt Scotch.
You could have three tastes of the spirits on the house, and then pay $1 for additional tastes, but Vom Fass isn’t a bar. It’s a store. And this is what I found on their shelves: spirits, liqueurs, Absinthe, Grappa, fruit brandies, Cognac, Armagnac, domestic and imported wines, Scotch and Irish Whiskey.
But that’s not all.
Then came the extra virgin olive oils, wellness oils, nut and seed oils, infused oils…whew…and you have to have the vinegars to pair with the oils right? They have aged fruit vinegars, wine vinegars and Aceto Balsamico Di Modena, the “king of sweet and sour seasonings”. Tastes of the oils and vinegars are unlimited and free.
I tried truffle oil, ginger sesame oil, grape seed oil, lemon oil and…and learned that they were imported from all over Greece, Spain and Italy.
A drop of very special vinegar was then added to the oil in my tasting spoon – “Aceto Balsamico Di Modena Maletti Riserva Speciale. OMG, I had died and gone to heaven in Italy.
The liquor items were stored on the other side of the brightly lit shop. I made my move…
Mike Silk, one of the store chefs, and Matt Belzano, a chef and the General Manager, were there that day to help me. Mike told me that his years with the culinary school in Oxnard as well as his restaurant experience with the Plug Nickel and Mariann’s Italian Villa, suited him to staff a shop like this. And Matt, with equal culinary credentials and management experience, led me on to my first Absinthe tasting.
With 72% alcohol and 140 proof I was happy to watch the “Absinthe Fountain” dilute the star anise liquor from its bright green color to a more manageable shade. The fountain trickled water over a waiting sugar cube and into a small glass. From that I had my first, and possibly not my last, taste of Absinthe. If for nothing else, go to Vom Fass for that!
By the time I got to the single malt Scotches I had grown anxious – as I was keeping track of so many new favorites! So I took advantage of their bottling. I could get any size glass container, and in a wide choice of unique styles, of whatever I liked. I have a square bottle of absinthe, a couple of mini pitchers of the Modena vinegar and the truffle oil, and two small (compared to my normal stash) bottles of single malt.
The smaller sizes made it easy for me to take home more “samples” of what I liked.
I watched as they hand-wrote on each bottle with a thin white marker. What a show that was! I’m planning on making a show of them again later when I have friends over! No doubt that my find was truly unique. Who’s to say that when you go, and you shall, you might choose the same item in the same container?
While my order was being wrapped up I learned that Vom Fass, established 17 years ago, has 250 stores in Europe. This one, in Westlake Village, is the only one in California so yes, dear reader, I drove almost an hour for this. And, I will again!
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com