A year ago this week, Fernweh Distilling Co. debuted its tasting room and distillery in a renovated historic building in Hermann, Missouri. Founded by brothers Andrew and Tim Weiss and Sable Dixon, Fernweh aims to bring a different kind of craft spirit and cocktail experience to one of Missouri’s most historic wine destinations.
“The building that we’re in was in very poor condition when we purchased it, and the owners, Andrew’s parents, invested a lot of money into making it nice again and restoring it,” says Dixon, Fernweh’s marketing director. “I think it was kind of a service to the city. And then everybody was really excited about the idea of a distillery, because the wineries have been in Hermann since the beginning. We’re not so connected to the history of Hermann, but to the future growth of the town.”
Although the partners don’t come from distilling or cocktail-industry backgrounds, they have a passion for providing high-quality food and drink. “Fernweh means wanderlust [in German], in a sense, and we’re taking that to mean a passion for adventure, and this business is an adventure for us; distilling is an adventure for us,” Dixon says.
As Fernweh’s master distiller, Tim manages the portfolio of spirits, which currently includes a young bourbon whiskey, straight rye whiskey, wheat whiskey and bourbon mash moonshine. The two aged whiskeys are 86 proof while the moonshine, or unaged whiskey, is 100 proof. All of the grains used to make Fernweh’s spirits are sourced from Midwest farmers. When the distillery first opened, limited-edition versions of the wheat as well as a rye whiskey were offered; Dixon says a straight version of the rye will soon be available at the tasting room.
“We were able to [open the distillery with aged products] because we have some friends in Virginia who helped us in the distilling process – all the laws and regulations that go with opening a distillery,” Dixon says. “They helped us navigate our way with that and helped us create our first mash bills for the wheat and rye whiskeys.”
Fernweh’s young bourbon – which Dixon describes as a “precursor” to a straight bourbon – was aged for nine months in small barrels and released in June. In October 2019, Dixon says the distillery will release its first straight bourbon, aged for two years.
“We tossed around the idea of doing a vodka or gin, because that’s really easy to make, get out there and it’s cheap to make, but our passion is whiskey, and that’s what we wanted to go with and that’s what we stuck with,” Dixon says. “We’re so excited about our bourbon [next October] because that’s a spirit we’ve actually made grain to glass right here in Hermann with our little still and equipment and everything. That’s our passion right there, and what’s most exciting about what we do – being able to create something that’s delicious and up to our bourbon standards.”
Craft spirits are at the heart of Fernweh, and inform the tasting room’s creative cocktail list. Signature drinks include the Rhythm & Rye, with house rye whiskey infused with chamomile, housemade strawberry syrup, housemade sour mix, Lillet Rosé and club soda, and the Chameleon Moon ‘Arita, with the pineapple infused into the house bourbon mash moonshine, Sombra mezcal, pineapple juice, lime and a salted rim with smoked ancho chile powder.
“The cocktail side is probably the part I’m most personally and heavily involved with when it comes to what we serve in the front of house,” Dixon says. “Customers can always expect very high-quality ingredients; we don’t skimp on ingredients at all. The cocktails are artisan cocktails; they’re 100 percent handcrafted. All of the small details when it comes to a cocktail… the end result is only as good as the ingredients in the cocktail. So we pay attention to the small details in those drinks.”
A similar attention and focus on quality directs Fernweh’s food menu. Dishes are inspired by cuisines from across the globe – think Cajun street tacos with blackened shrimp, Hawaiian smoke sliders with teriyaki smoked pork, Thai curry chicken and a brisket grilled cheese. Dixon says the menu has evolved greatly in the past year; the current menu debuted earlier this month and features the best-selling fan favorites offered in the past 12 months. The kitchen is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 9pm, with apps served after 9pm.
“I’m feeling really good about the food menu we just released,” Dixon says. “We’ve been collecting feedback on menus for the past year and seeing what’s well accepted in our area – not just by locals, but by tourists – and I think this is a good balance of items. We have new items like, for example, a vegan item actually – which I’m happy to say has gotten great feedback over the last week – it’s a Mediterranean quinoa bowl. We’ve added a really nice Bianca primavera with a housemade white wine-cream sauce with asparagus and peas and your choice of grilled chicken or shrimp.”
On Sundays, one brunch special is currently served in addition to the regular menu, although Dixon hopes brunch service will grow in the future. “Eventually, my goal is to hopefully see a demand for brunch and maybe open earlier on Sundays and have a full brunch menu with brunch cocktails, because I love brunch,” she says with a laugh.
In addition to the tasting room, the distillery also now features a second-floor private event space called The Loft at Fernweh Distilling Co. With sweeping views of downtown Hermann and the Missouri River and a private balcony and bar, Dixon says the space has been a hit, especially for rehearsal dinners for those planning weddings at nearby wineries.
This Sat., Aug. 25, guests are invited to attend Fernweh’s big first anniversary bash at the tasting room. Starting at 8pm, the event will feature live music from DJ Matt Wallach, whiskey and cocktail specials behind the bar and more. As the distillery gears up for the celebration, Dixon says she and the other owners have been thrilled with their first year of business.
“When we opened our doors, we had such a warm welcome from the town of Hermann – from people who live here and pleasantly surprised tourists as well,” Dixon says. “The most rewarding part of everything we’ve done is hearing that customers are thrilled with what we’re doing. They get our brand, they get our concept and they appreciate the fact that we pay attention to the small details.”
Fernweh Distilling Co. spirits are currently sold only in the Hermann tasting room; Dixon hopes to expand distribution online for shipping within the state of the Missouri soon, as well as growing retail distribution in the next year. Visit facebook.com/fernwehdistilling for updates.
Fernweh Distilling Co., 1148, 4 Schiller St., Hermann, Missouri, fernwehdistilling.com