Koval is a distillery that is unique for many reasons.
Not only is it the first distillery to be based in Chicago since the mid-1800s, but it is also something of an American Dream story.
The distillery is owned and ran by Robert and Sonat Birnecker. The couple gave up their careers in academic life to bring Robert’s Austrian family’s distilling traditions across the pacific.
But then again, who wouldn’t give up a life of dusty books for the wonders of the whisky world?
The distillery prides itself on its organic ethos and dedication to its own spirits. There is no such thing as buying and bottling pre-made stuff at Koval.
The name of the company is also pretty extraordinary. In many Eastern European languages it means “blacksmith” and in Yiddish means “black sheep” or someone who charges ahead of the crowd.
The name also refers to the grandfathers of both owners. Sonat’s great-grandfather earned the nickname “Koval” when he moved to America, and Robert’s grandfather having the last name “Schmidt”, which is German for smith.
Alongside the great family history is the great name that the Birneckers are making for themselves in the drinks industry.
All grains used in production of spirits at Koval are sourced in America and are organic.
There is a wide range of products on offer from Koval. As well as the several variations of Whisky created here, they produce Dry Gin, Vodka, three types of Brandy, a German Bierbrand and a total of seven liqueurs.
If there isn’t something there to suit everyone will you must be some picky readers!
Each bottle carries the prestige of having been hand made in Chicago as well as some refreshing packaging.
The labels on these bottles, that are stand out in themselves, are eye catching and colourful. The Dry Gin Art Deco combo really makes an impression.
Matured in heavily charred American Oak casks, the Koval Bourbon is a fantastic expression and a testament to the distillery’s artisanal methods.
Made from millet and corn, this Bourban is both sweet and tangy, a true exploration in flavour. The Oak lends itself to a dull vanilla undertone on the nose that is only piqued by the dried fruit and spices of the palate.
There are hints of tobacco and a delicate smoke in the finish. This is a well rounded Bourbon that will definitely place Koval on the map as one of America’s finest distillers.
The Rye is similarly as good. It is matured in new American Oak, giving it a fresh sugary sweetness as well as hints of spice.
The most stand out quality of the Rye is its lightness. It is a very easy going expression that can be enjoyed on a lazy Sunday afternoon in the summer.
The nose of full of sweetness and bananas that moves into a smooth caramel palate. This sweetness is continued in a cotton candy deliciousness that is enhanced by a nod towards spicy vanilla.
It ends with a flourish of citrus fruits in the finish and a healthy dose more tof that spice laced vanilla.
Now I’ve already talked about the impressive packaging og the Dry Gin, but what exactly is held behind that label?
Nothing but the finest Dry Gin the Windy City has ever or probably will ever produce, that’s what.
This gin is the perfect mix of juniper and wildflowers. These are first detected on the nose and are very easily picked up on the palate.
But don’t get me wrong; this is not an overwhelming floral attack on the sense. Koval’s Dry Gin strikes the perfect balance between flower and juniper.
The body is lively and exciting, the flavours intermixing but not overpowering each other. There are citrus fruits and herby botanicals in the palate as well, a complement to its deep earthen qualities.
Together with the Bourbon, Rye and various other spirits and liqueurs, the Koval Distillery has a wide and brilliant range.
I highly suggest getting stuck in to trying them all. There is simply nothing bad about this family owned, organic, artisanal distillery, but you can only discover this for yourself through a journey in their flavours, and what could be wrong with that?!