Just about the last thing you might expect to find among the eclectic mix of specialty shops, sidewalk cafes, galleries, boutiques and restaurants that line Claremont’s downtown Village is store that offers its guests a swig of whisky.
At first glance, Vom Fass – Claremont is a gourmet food store specializing in premium European vinegars, oils, syrups, spreads and spices. But step inside and around the corner awaits a variety of spirits, including a wide range of wines from around the world, unique liqueurs and small casks filled with whisky, brandy and other distilled liquors. All are available to sample, and bottles are available to purchase, both online and in the store.
Located in the Claremont Village Square on First Street just west of Indian Hill (the store’s address is actually on Indian Hill), the Vom Fass franchise was opened by local owners Kim Peeples and Denise Solis a little more than a year ago. The store has quickly found a following for both its food and beverage offerings.
Catering to its spirits connoisseurs as well as those simply wanting to learn more, Vom Fass invited Scotch Master Stewart Laing from Glasglow, Scotland, to share his knowledge about scotch whisky at several special tastings and classes last month. Thanks to a generous invitation from longtime friend Helen Weatherell-Bay, I jumped at the opportunity to further my education.
Mike Bergmann poured four widely diverse scotches, while Laing mingled with guests throughout the store. The first two offerings were from the Speyside region of Scotland, along the northern part of the country’s east side. Mac Spey Scotch is a blended malt scotch that originates from the nation’s cooler areas, and was blended by Vom Fass at its base in Germany. Braeval is a 13-year-old single malt scotch distilled at the youngest distillery in Scotland. Both of the Speyside offerings were relatively light, and notes of various fruit and other flavors were much more obvious than the two tastings that followed.
The island of Islay is located along Scotland’s southwestern coast and produces whiskies of a completely different nature. The Cragabus scotch can best be described as a “campfire in a glass” with its peaty, smoky flavors. Among the scotches that are included in this blend is a 33-year-old single malt from the Port Ellen distillery, which closed in 1983
Because farmers on the Islay island use peat moss to malt their barley, the peaty flavor is unmistakable. That was also the case with the 13-year-old Laphroig, which was also smoky, but carried more of a medicinal taste, almost like iodine.
Before we left, Bergmann offered a taste of another whisky not among the four that were featured. The 29-year-old Dailuaine from Speyside was almost like drinking a nice Chardonnay, with obvious fruit notes without tasting fruity.
While educational liquor tastings of this sort are not the normal operation for Vom Fass, Peeples and Solis are happy to share a wealth of information and samples of all of the spirits and liqueurs in the store. And while you’re there, don’t leave without trying the vinegars and oils. You’re sure to be taking home something special.
Articles from “Sips, Suds and Spirits” focusing on the local craft beer scene now appear in 9-0-9 Magazine. The above article will appear in the January magazine.