“I’m not terribly familiar with the ins and outs of Kansas City yet,” confesses Rob Vossmeyer, distiller at Tom’s Town Distilling Co., which opened in January at 1701 Main St. in the Crossroads Arts District.
What this recent transplant from St. Louis is terribly familiar with is booze.
Distilling piqued Vossmeyer’s interest about four years ago, and a workshop at Koval Distillery in Chicago hooked him. He took courses from the American Distilling Institute and earned certificates from the Institute of Brewing & Distilling in Britain, Kothe Distilling Technologies and the Society of Wine Educators. He was briefly involved with a micro-distillery in St. Louis, worked with GrandTen Distilling in Boston and studied gin at Corsair Distillery in Tennessee.
Given the growth in craft distilling and resulting shortage of distillers, he had plenty of job possibilities, but Tom’s Town proved the perfect fit.
Tom Town’s wanted a gin, so Vossmeyer began experimenting with a small laboratory still on the century-old building’s third floor. He distilled some 70 herbs, fruits, spices and other potential gin flavorings individually, building what he calls a botanical library to better understand the characteristics of each. Finally, he created McElroy’s Corruption Gin (90 proof, $31.99 per 750-milliliter bottle at the distillery).
These days, gin is his specialty.
“It has been my cathexis for quite some time,” the silver-tongued Vossmeyer says.
Indeed, this self-proclaimed “autodidact” moved to KC to get Tom’s up and running. He now lives six blocks from work.
Vossmeyer says he doesn’t get out much, spending “the majority of my time either at the distillery or sleeping.” It’s often 16-hour workdays - Vossmeyer can’t step away from his stills for even a few minutes while they’re boiling and burbling away.
Supplementing these long spells of waiting with reading (focusing on technical manuals for his craft) and laptop busy work (focusing on paperwork for Tom’s), he has little time for anything else.
“It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy doing it,” Vossmeyer says. “And if you can find that kind of work for yourself, you’re golden.”
Q: Favorite spirit to drink?
A: The one that’s in my hand.
Q: Favorite spirit to make?
A: Whiskey or any kind of grain-based spirit. Because it takes extra work.
Q: Spirits you don’t like to drink or make?
A: Vodka is pretty straightforward. So it doesn’t interest me too much.
Q: Favorite cheap meal on the fly?
A: Town Topic.
Q: Best meal you’ve had this week?
A: I made a Valentine’s Day meal for friends of mine who are all single.
Q: When money and calories aren’t a concern, what do you splurge on?
A: A hard-to-find whiskey, for sure.
Q: What’s your go-to drink after a long, hard day?
A: Beer. Something light. A pilsner.
Q: Dream vacation?
A: I’d go to the Maldives Islands before they disappear.
Q: Which celebrity would you like to sample your drinks?
A: Jimmy Fallon.
Q: Do you have a distilling idol?
A: Hubert Germain-Robin (distiller at Germain-Robin brandy).
Q: Is there a “bible” of sorts you use for your craft?
A: The books from White Mule Press.
Q: Favorite dessert?
Q: What culinary trend do you wish would hit town?
A: I’m glad the ramen trend has been catching on.
Q: Favorite KC BBQ?
Q: Favorite foodie city (aside from KC)?
A: Florence, Italy, is really good.
Q: What else would you do if you weren’t a distiller?
A: Fly helicopters.