Origin: Chicago, IL (USA)
Type: Rye Whiskey
Ageing barrels: Minnesota Oak toasted
Added coloring: No
Owner: Koval Distillery
Average price: € 52.00
Official website: www.koval-distillery.com
Founded in Chicago in 2008, Koval was, unbelievably, the first distillery to open in the Windy City after the end of Prohibition. Since then it has established itself as one of the most interesting craft distilleries on the American market.
The two founders, a husband and wife of Austrian descent, had been doing a completely different job in the USA for twenty years before deciding to follow their passion, making it their company’s hallmark from the outset to work only with the highest quality ingredients. The grains are sourced from organic cooperatives in the Midwest and the barrels are made especially for them in Minnesota.
When distilling, the company decided to select only the heart, discarding both the head and tail, to maximise the varietal aromas of their grains.
Their whiskies are aged for two years in small 30-gallon casks, which offer a greater volume of exchange with the distillate than the usual 53, dramatically speeding up the maturation process and giving a smooth smoky note. Finally, all their bottles are single barrel (i.e. they come from the separate bottling of individual casks, rather than a complete blend of the whole batch).
On paper, this is a very impressive track record.
Today I present to you probably their most famous product: Rye Whiskey, winner of the Best International Whiskey Award at the InterWhiskey 2013 in Munich. 100% organic rye, 40% alcohol, for the maturation protocol that I explained earlier.
The selection of only the heart leads to a product that’s very concentrated on a precise aromatic palette (the tail and head contain many different aromas, together with impurities that can compromise the overall quality), which is nevertheless optimally enhanced by a rather unusual wood.
The result is a very atypical profile for a rye whiskey: in spite of the low content, you feel the alcohol right away, but after a little aeration interesting notes of leather and thyme can be perceived. The spices are greener and more subtle than in typical rye whiskies, probably due to the whole rye selection. There’s also no shortage of classic toasted barrel spices: maple syrup, nutmeg, vanilla.
There’s practically no alcohol on the palate, and it’s the herbaceous notes that are enhanced by a delicate sweetness that ends in a surprising hint of aniseed that lengthens the aromatic persistence with a tasty warm tactile sensation on the tongue and at the back of the palate.
Ah, the natural colour is really beautiful, a bright and persuasive ochre without the need for technological aids.
Not a bad result at all for such a young product: it offers all the essence of a rye whiskey coupled with a personal character. Finally, the satisfying aromatic profile is accompanied by an extreme drinkability: be careful because you might find yourself emptying an entire bottle with great ease.
Therefore, I believe that here too we find a product of great versatility for making excellent cocktails: there’s little you can do about it, rye whiskies of this level manage to give a completely different tone to your Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.
Finally, I would like to point out that, unlike many other ryes that arrive in Europe with difficulty or at improbable prices, the Austrian origin of the founders has probably given them much more interest in being present in the Old Continent with a well-structured commercial strategy (hence the direct presence at festivals such as the one in Milan): you can in fact find this Koval online and in the large-scale retail trade in Austria and Germany (even LIDL) at a price between 30 and 40 €, which makes it much more attractive.
The Whiskey Wash