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Koval Whiskey

Koval Whiskey

Established in 2008, Koval is the first craft distillery within Chicago's city limits since Prohibition. We source all of our grains, fruits, herbs, and flowers from the surrounding Midwest region, and we make all of our spirits in house, entirely from scratch - from mashing to distilling, bottling to boxing.

Our founders, Robert and Sonat Birnecker, gave up academic careers to bring the distilling traditions of Robert's Austrian grandfather to America. They vowed to create a sustainable family business with high quality and organic products. Koval features small batch spirits distilled from 100% organic grain, avoiding the common industry practice of purchasing pre-made neutral grain spirit. Everything we make is certified organic and kosher, and we are darn proud of it.

We started with five single-grain white whiskeys: Rye, Oat, Wheat, Millet, and Spelt. In 2010, we debuted our aged whiskey, Lion's Pride, aged in two distinct styles. No artificial coloring, no chill filtering - only the pure heart cut of the distillate with beautiful amber hues from nothing but the barrel and time. Our lineup also includes several brandies and six liqueurs: Chrysanthemum Honey, Coffee, Ginger, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, and Rose Hip.

The name Koval is Yiddish for "blacksmith," but the word also refers to a "black sheep" or someone who does something unexpected or out of the ordinary. Sonat's great-grandfather earned Koval as his nickname when, at the ripe old age of 17, he surprised his family and emigrated from Vienna to Chicago in the early 1900s. Coincidentally, the surname of Robert's grandfather (at whose side Robert learned the art of distilling) is Schmid - German for "smith." Sonat and Robert chose the name Koval to honor both men - and to reflect their own extraordinary decision to give up comfortable jobs in DC, relocate to Chicago, and build a family business from the ground up.

Koval distills with a custom-built potstill handcrafted in Germany by Kothe Destillationstechnik. Kothe specially engineers each still with solid quality and energy-saving components that meet the particular needs of each distiller. Our potstill, specifically made for the production of whiskey and brandy, has an elongated whiskey helmet, a special distillation column and a unique bubblecap construction that provides greater surface area for the spirits to develop aroma and flavor. The smooth, unhammered copper potstill - combined with the dedication and savoir faire of our distillers - guarantees high quality and aromatic distillates.

One of the 100 Best Distilleries to Visit in the World - Whisky Magazine
  • 2012 Best Local Distillery - Chicago Reader
  • 2012 Best Local Spirit (Lion's Pride Whiskey) - Chicago Reader
  • 2011 Good Eating Award from the Chicago Tribune
  • 2011 Best of Green Award from Treehugger - Best Distillery

Platinum Medals
  • Rose Hip Liqueur - 2012 SIP Awards
Gold Medals
  • Lion's Pride 47th Ward - 2012 International Whisky Competition
  • Lion's Pride 47th Ward - 2011 ADI
  • Koval Rose Hip Liqueur - 2011 ADI
  • Koval American Oat - 2011 ADI
  • Koval Rye Chicago - 2010 ADI
  • Koval Rye Chicago - 2010 Destillata
Silver Medals
  • Koval American Oat Organic - 2012 International Whisky Competition
  • Koval American Oat - 2010 Destillata
  • Koval Ginger Liqueur - Beverage Tasting Institute (89)
  • Koval Chrysanthemum Honey Liqueur - Beverage Tasting Institute (89)
  • Koval Rose Hip Liqueur - Beverage Tasting Institute (88)
  • Koval Pear Brandy - Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition
Bronze Medals
  • Koval Rye Chicago Organic - 2012 International Whisky Competition
  • Lion's Pride Dark Millet - 2011 ADI
  • Koval Chrysanthemum Honey Liqueur - 2010 Destillata
  • Koval Ginger Liqueur - 2010 Destillata
  • Koval Midwest Wheat - 2010 Destillata
  • Koval Raksi Millet - 2010 Destillata