Sample "From the Cask" at Vom Fass
Two years ago, during a respite from his National Guard duty in Afghanistan, Robert Kay visited a shop called VOM FASS in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
The Bradenton resident and his wife, Debbie Kay, had recently experienced career jolts. She had been laid off from a prestigious financial advising position, and he, a Marine Corps veteran turned real estate broker, felt the urge to reenlist when the market collapsed.
But something uplifting happened when they both entered VOM FASS in that Bavarian resort town: They found their joint calling. “When that corporate cushion gets pulled out from underneath you, it pushes you into reevaluating what you’re going to do with your life,” says Debbie Kay, whose 30-year career in the financial world included posts at Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and Raymond James.
“Necessity is definitely the mother of invention,” Robert Kay adds. In the Kays’ case, it wasn’t as much about inventing as it was about investing, in a 1994-founded franchise with 250-plus shops worldwide. The Kays’ VOM FASS would open on April 17, 2013, becoming the eighth in the United States and the first (and still only) one in Florida. Billed as “the world’s best tasting experience,” VOM FASS means “from the cask” in German, and that concept is embodied in the store’s presentation of cask-aged liqueurs, rums, extra-virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars. There are also pure spirits such as cognacs, single-malt whiskeys, Armagnac brandies, and ryes, as well as wines.
Each take-home bottle—from a 100-millimeter size to a 1-liter jug—has a handwritten, metallic description in lieu of a standard label. It feels like a European apothecary.
Patrons can sample everything in the shop, and the Kays even hold absinthe demonstrations (sugar cube, spoon, dripper and all) during Saturday’s Sarasota Farmers’ Market downtown. The truffle extra-virgin olive oil is a blend of white and black truffles with hints of mushroom and garlic. The Aceto Balsamico di Modena – de Famiglia is a premier balsamic vinegar, produced from hand-selected wines in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region and aged in wooden barrels.
While there are plenty of opportunities to spend thousands stocking up on every limoncello and wild French rose liqueur on the shelves, patrons can spend as little as $15.50 on a gourmet olive oil and vinegar combination. Customizable gift baskets are also available.
“The No. 1 response when people try the oils and vinegars is ‘Oh, my God’ or ‘Wow,’” Robert Kay says. “That’s what we said when we first went to VOM FASS. It’s the kind of business where everyone who comes through the door leaves happy.”
And with the Kays’ happy, welcoming energy, VOM FASS feels more like a living room than a tasting room.