Upon first opening the squat, but alluring bottle of corn based bourbon rounded out with an unusual dose of millet, it’s not immediately obvious how much this really needs to breathe. While there’s acetates and esters and not much else, there’s an alluring hint of carnival popcorn that indeed beckons your tastebuds. But, if you drink too soon, you’re bound to swear this off as watered down ‘shine. It’ll taste weak and wrong, unbalanced—like copper hued vodka with hints of caramel and wood that eventually give way to orange peel and raw grain, the finish fading all too quickly. You might think it’s mouthwash.
But any seasoned whisky lover knows, it’s all about patience.
Koval fans are rewarded.
After 20-30 minutes of breathing time—and all subsequent pours of this bottle—it’s simply divine. It’s not the most meaty bourbon, but it’s lofty, coconutty, tropical fruit notes dance on the nose just as the tongue and linger through a delightfully crisp and delicious finish. Perfectly sweet vanilla dominates— incredibly—underscored by lip smackingly sweet cream butter and caramel. It’s invitingly delicious, like a summertime playlist from Buffalo Trace with the volume dialed to eleven.
This bourbon is fun. It’s nice to sip something a little different. Founders Robert and Sonat Birnecker established Koval as Chicago's first distillery since the mid-1800s, determined to bottle every offering from scratch. All of Koval's whiskies are single barrel expressions and aged in 30 gallon charred barrels. “This insures that the distillate, made up solely of the heart cut, is able to develop its flavor with the purest grain notes and luscious flavor,” reads the company’s website. “The term 'single barrel' refers to the fact that the bottles come from specific barrels and are numbered accordingly. All Koval spirits can be traced back to their barrel, and even the specific shipments of raw materials that come from our organic farmers.”
This bourbon is fun...and makes a great statement pour. Certified USDA Organic, Koval spirits are produced using regionally sourced grains and filtered water from the great Lake Michigan. But what’s also fun is, it’s an amazing mixing bourbon. It won’t produce a traditional Manhattan off the bat, but it really shines in a Dry Manhattan (Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Blanc was a home run), especially with an inventive application of bitters (Bar Keep Organic Saffron, f.t.w.). It also pairs incredibly well with a splash of Oban 14 year, adding a hint of peat and meat to the mix—absolutely stunning. This is a whisky to experiment with...both pairing with light bites and also through some clever mixology.
Koval is a keeper—and they distill some other extra cool whiskies, too, like Four Grain, Millet, Oat, White Rye, Rye, and various limited editions (in addition to liqueurs, gin, brandy, vodka, and a sunchoke spirit)—many of which we’re just dying to try.
Absolutely game changing.