When I was planning my trip to Junipalooza last year, Koval wasn’t particularly high on my list. But I got drawn to that beautiful laser-cut label and then couldn’t resist a sample either. And as I tasted both their Dry and Barrelled Gin, and learnt more about Koval, I got more and more drawn in, for theirs is a pretty impressive story.
Founders Dr Robert and Dr Sonat Birnecker decided they wanted a different life, so turned their backs on academia to set up a family business. Given Robert’s background (his family own an award-winning distillery and winery in Austria) distilling was the obvious choice, if not the easy choice. When they founded Koval in 2008, they became the first distillery to open in Chicago since the mid-1800s. And perhaps for good reason, as they discovered that they didn’t have the same rights in Illinois afforded to distilleries in other states. Much like Sipsmith in the UK, the Birneckers didn’t let this deter them and instead went on a mission to change the law. Their determination led to the introduction of a craft distillery license which would, in turn, allow them to offer tours and have a tasting room and retail on site. Now owners of the largest independent distillery in the USA, the Birneckers have helped set up over 90 other distilleries in the United States and Canada, literally changing the face of craft distilling in the States.
Clearly not a couple to do things by halves, they vowed to make organic spirits (including whiskey, brandy and vodka) from scratch. Impressively, Koval control every step of their spirit-making process, from milling the locally grown grain to distilling and bottling. Their attention to detail is so great that they can trace every bottle back to the fields on which the grain was grown! Their Dry Gin is made using an organic rye white whiskey base which goes through both a maceration and distillation with the botanicals, which include juniper, angelica root, coriander, grains of paradise, rose hip and a variety of woodland spices.
On the nose I’m delighted to find plenty of juniper alongside a floral sweetness and also a slightly spicy earthiness. To taste, that white whiskey base really drives the flavour which some people find a little unconventional, but not me! There’s juniper in there alongside fennel, star anise and spice; there’s a warmth from the 47% ABV but also a smoothness. With a drop of water, Koval develops a softness and a pleasing mouthfeel. It also makes a cracking gin and tonic with a grapefruit and/or mint garnish. With dry juniper alongside a little sweetness, it boasts a delicious depth of flavour.
In fact, I enjoyed my gin and tonic so much I couldn’t resist playing with Koval a little more, and after browsing through their blog, settled on this; a delicious frothy spin on a gimlet.
The Harvest Gin Fizz
One egg white
15ml simple syrup
15ml lime juice
45ml Koval dry gin
Dry shake all the ingredients together. Pour over ice and shake again. Double strain into a glass and garnish with Peychaud’s bitters.
Koval Dry Gin has already won Double Gold at San Francisco World Spirits Competition, it is the most awarded artisan American gin, and now has the Gin A Ding Ding seal of approval too!
Purchase Koval Dry Gin from Master of Malt at £39.90 for 70cl (40% ABV).
With thanks to Manuel Marek, Brand Ambassador, for the complimentary bottle of Koval Dry Gin.