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.


Koval Distillery to Travel The UK in A Series of City Launches

KOVAL_Logo_TaglineThis April, UK distributor Emporia Brands have put together a calendar of launch events involving its new award-winning KOVAL Distillery range.

Master Distiller Robert Birnecker will be touring four cities as he brings together the KOVAL range, which includes the American whiskey expressions of Millet, Rye and Bourbon, as well as their dry gin.

Founded in 2008 by Robert and Sonat Birnecker, KOVAL produces organic whiskey, liqueurs and specialty spirits in Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1800s. After choosing to leave their academic careers to bring the distilling traditions of Robert’s Austrian family to America, they vowed to make organic spirits from scratch (avoiding the common industry practice of purchasing and bottling pre-made spirits) and to change the way people understand whiskey by creating a new, signature style – using only the “heart” cut of the distillate – affording a brighter, cleaner take on whiskey.

Robert will be visiting the UK from the 18th April, hosting a masterclass at MASH Steakhouse in London from 4-6pm, before heading to Edinburgh on the 19th April to visit Bramble Bar for his second masterclass launch, one that will be co-hosted with Royal Mile Whiskies. A consumer dinner is also planned at The Hanging Bat, involving a three-course meal matched with KOVAL cocktails.

The 20th April see’s Glasgow and The Finnieston welcome Robert, in conjunction with Glasgow Bartender’s Club, for his third masterclass launch before heading to Manchester on the 21st April for his final class at Cottonopolis. To round-off his visit, Robert will be at Harvey Nichols in London on the 22nd April as we launch into the luxury retail outlet.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite just that little bit more, why don’t you experience the ‘Whiskeys Will’, created at the Citizen Pub in Boston.

Whiskeys Will‘Whiskeys Will’

Glass: Rocks


50 ml KOVAL Bourbon
15 ml Gabriel Boudier Elderflower
15 ml Gabriel Boudier Maraschino
15 ml Lemon juice

Method: Shake, then strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Chicago’s Premier Distillery to Distribute in the United Kingdom with Emporia Brands

500ml Gin White

KOVAL, one of America’s premiere craft distilleries, will expand distribution to the United Kingdom with international luxury spirits importer and exporter Emporia Brands.

Founded in 2008 as Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1800s, KOVAL’s innovative distilling technologies and cutting-edge design practices have led them to become an award-winning, internationally renowned craft spirits manufacturer. Founders Robert and Sonat Birnecker chose to leave their academic careers to bring the distilling traditions of Robert’s Austrian family to America. In making this decision, they vowed to make spirits from scratch and to change the way people understand whiskey by creating a new, signature style—using only the “heart cut” of the distillate—affording a brighter, cleaner take on whiskey.

“We’re thrilled to be expanding our international distribution efforts to the United Kingdom and look forward to working with Emporia’s innovative team,” said Robert Birnecker.

Emporia Brands is taking on a range of KOVAL’s unique whiskeys, including KOVAL Bourbon, Rye, and Millet. Each a rare expression, KOVAL Bourbon is a naturally gluten-free spirit comprised of 51% corn and 49% millet bottled at 47% ABV, while KOVAL Rye (2013’s Best International Whisky by InterWhisky) and Millet are single grain whiskeys distilled with 100% rye and 100% millet from the Midwest, bottled at 40% ABV. All whiskeys are certified kosher, single barrel expressions aged up to 4 years in new American Oak barrels.

Emporia Brands will also take on KOVAL Dry Gin, one of 2015’s most highly awarded gins in the categories of both spirit and package design. A Double Gold recipient from the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, KOVAL Dry Gin is a balanced, crisp gin with notes of citrus, pepper, and a round floral body. In the coming months, Emporia Brands plans to add KOVAL Four Grain whiskey to their portfolio as well.

KOVAL CEO and Master Distiller Robert Birnecker will travel to the UK this April to launch a series of master classes in London, Manchester, and Edinburgh. As the co-founder of Kothe Distilling Technologies, Robert has become one of America’s top distilling experts and internationally renowned consultants, educating over 2,500 aspiring distillers in the last six years alone.

“Emporia Brands is delighted to announce our partnership with a true craft champion, KOVAL. Robert and Sonat’s huge passion is reflected in our team, and we look forward to hosting Robert’s nationwide master classes throughout April,” said Jack Rackham, Commercial Director of Emporia Brands.

KOVAL will be available from retailers across the United Kingdom, including Harvey Nichols, Masters of Malt, The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile Whiskies, and online at thedrinkshop.com.