KOVAL: Common Eastern European surname meaning “blacksmith,” but in some dialects it also means someone who “forges ahead.”

Forges ahead? That seems, to me, to sum up KOVAL and all I have witnessed from the brand since its official UK launch with new distributor Emporia Brands. I thought that I’d sit down and dive into why KOVAL has reached the shores of the UK, have both gin and a range of whiskey expressions released at the same time, and how Chicago has rung the changes from the more traditional Kentucky and Tennessee ideas.

Founded back in 2008 by Robert Birnecker and Sonat Birnecker Hart, KOVAL became Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1800’s. With Robert being a 4th Generation distiller (his family still runs a distillery and winery near Salzburg, Austria), and Sonat spearheading the product development, distribution, and marketing, KOVAL had a bright future from day one.

Vowing to make organic spirits from scratch (avoiding the usual practice of purchasing and bottling pre-made spirits), Sonat and Robert created a new style that uses only the “heart” cut of the distillate. Using the mentality of ‘grain to bottle’, they both make sure that they use local farmers to grow the grain (all harvested from organic Midwestern farms), on-site milling and mashing, as well as distilling (within a custom-built pot still handcrafted in Germany by Kothe Destillationstechnik that holds 5000 litres), bottling, and packaging. The water is sourced from Lake Michigan using a natural charcoal purification method, and American oak barrels from The Barrel Mill in Minnesota.

With this, lets take a look at the expressions available within the UK. First up, their Dry Gin.

KOVAL Dry Gin – 47%

Made with a unique variety of woodland spices, fresh lime aromas hit the nose, followed by soft lavender and violet. Plenty of earthy, dry spices come through on the palate, with mint and coriander present too. Crisp, clean, and offering a vibrant, long finish.

KOVAL Bourbon – 47%

KOVAL’s single barrel bourbon has the requisite mash bill of at least 51% corn, but instead of the usual rye or wheat supplement, this includes millet (one of the main cereals from Asia and Africa).
Soft, creamy aroma on the nose, with mango, vanilla and oak present. Fresh flavours of fudge and vanilla on the palate, with hints of apricot and dry-leaf tobacco compliment on the long, dry finish.

KOVAL Millet – 40%

100% Millet, the prized grain in Asia and Africa. Very light and clean upon the nose, a profile that runs straight onto the palate in the same way. Smooth, with a touch of dry oak, caramel and sweetened butter. A lingering finish of Summer.

KOVAL Rye – 40%

100% rye recipe, a light, orange zest aromas comes through on the nose, with a slight boiled sweet scent of cream and liquorice. Slightly sweetened on the palate, with the dry spice of tobacco and oak underlining the cinnamon and fudge. An orange zested finish works well.

All three whiskey expressions and the gin really do offer something very different, and can easily be enjoyed over ice or neat. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work in some of these –


Pomp & Circumstance
Pomp & Circumstance

Pomp & Circumstance


Glass –


Ingredients –

50 ml KOVAL Dry Gin
90 ml Premium tonic water
1 sprig of mint
Grapefruit peel

Method –

Build the ingredients over an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with a sprig of mint and grapefruit peel.

Or perhaps,

KOVAL Bourbon - Under The Sun
Under the Sun

Under The Sun, by Joy Richard, Citizen Pub, Boston, MA

Glass –


Ingredients –

50 ml KOVAL Bourbon
25 ml Yellow Chartreuse
15 ml Orgeat
30 ml Pineapple juice
2 Dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Method – 

Shake and strain over crushed ice. 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters on top. Orange peel & cherry garnish.

It’s always great to see a range that is classic to drink, but also versatile to enjoy too. A couple of bottles for your drinks cabinet for sure, plus every product they make is Certified Organic by Midwestern Organic Services Association (MOSA) and Certified Kosher through the Orthodox Union (OU). Always a plus.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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