Chicago-based Koval is one of the old guard of American craft distilling, but we’ve actually had limited hands on experience with their products, namely limited to a collection of reviews way back in 2011 (check out those labels!) when most of the whiskeys were unaged and some didn’t even carry the Koval name.
Today we’re finally wading back into the pool, 8 years later. Koval has matured greatly as a distiller in the last decade, and it now produces everything from gin to prune brandy. Its whiskeys, of course, remain the major focus, with six different products now on the market. Koval uses organic grains in its production and, unique in the market, has a strong affinity for millet, which appears in many of its mashbills in varying proportions.
Today we look at two of those six whiskeys, both single barrel releases. Let’s get our millet on!
Koval Single Barrel Bourbon – Made with only corn and millet; no proportions noted. Aged under 4 years. Bold butterscotch notes are immediate on the nose, along with significant barrel char, red pepper, and a roasted peanut note — all hallmarks of young-ish bourbon. There’s an earthy, very savory note beneath all of that which I attribute to the millet, as it’s quite unusual. The palate has some heat, and many of the aromatics make themselves known here as well. Cracker Jack, peanut butter, and baking spice kick things off, with a more barrel char-heavy character taking over toward the finish. It’s not overtly woody, but it is quite toasty, almost ashy at times, with a dense vein of wet earth and animal hide running through the entirety. That millet, though… it kinda grows on you. 94 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #NB4K37. B / $51 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Koval Single Barrel Rye – 100% rye sourced from a Midwestern farm collective. No millet, no age information. Poured into a glass, this whiskey is immediately engaging on the nose, which evokes classic rye whiskey elements, including a healthy baking spice character plus notes of red pepper, charred sugar, and some toasted barrel notes. Enticing on the tongue, the whiskey is soft and pretty, with plenty of that baking spice folded into a palate that reveals chocolate sauce, gingerbread, and a touch of mint. Fresh and lively, the rye is perfectly enjoyable on its own, though its flavorful base will work with any whiskey-centric cocktail. 80 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #FB3M79. A- / $50 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]