KOVAL Single Barrel Bourbon & Rye (2017)
A change of pace today, as I move to the United States, something I don’t to often enough. I took a closer look at Westland a little while ago, a distillery located in Seattle. A city very different from Chicago, which is were KOVAL Distillery, today’s subject, is located.
The name actually means black sheep in Yiddish, which tells you something about the mindset of founders Robert and Sonat Birnecker. It was actually the nickname of Sonat’s great-grandfather, which he earned after he surprised his family and emigrated from Vienna to Chicago in the early 1900s.
It also shows the spirit of a craft distillery, a willingness of going against the grain, so to speak. Since 2008 they’ve been producing a whole array of spirits, from liqueurs and brandy, to gin and vodka. They also found time to produce a series of whiskies.
Today I’ve two of those whiskies ready to taste. One is a rye whiskey, in this case meaning it is made of 100 percent rye grain. The other is a bourbon, but also not in the traditional sense. Yes, it contains at least 51 percent corn. But the mash bill also includes millet, on of the main cereals in Asia and Africa.
Nose: Fresh oranges and honey, accompanied by cinnamon and nutmeg. A whisper of jasmine. Come to think of it, it is quite flowery. This smells quite delicious.
Taste: Thick and syrupy. Plenty of ginger root and cinnamon, but also coconut, almond and cedarwood. The oranges make an encore.
Finish: Gentle spices and oranges. They linger for quite some time.
Nose: Super-charged vanilla, but also stone fruits like peach and nectarine. Finally some dried apricots. Quite sweet, concentrated and syrup-y.
Taste: Sweet and dry, with plenty of tannins. There’s some icing sugar, marshmallow and maple syrup, as well as plenty of oak. A nice subtle spiciness too, some chili and ginger.
Finish: Sweet and medium in length.
I quite like both of these. Maybe not super complex or challenging in any way, but overall very tasty. Nice, easy sippers that’ll fit almost any occasion.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.