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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon


Oat Whiskey ... for real? Today, we check out an Oat Whiskey made from 100% organic oat grains from the first distillery in Chicago to open since the mid 1800s - KOVAL Single Barrel Oat Whiskey.

Forging Ahead

The KOVAL Distillery was established in 2008 by husband-wife team of Drs. Robert Birnecker and Sonat Birnecker Hart. The distillery strives to produce a grain-to-bottle approach, milling, mashing, distilling, aging and bottling all on-site at its location in the Ravenswood area - not far from the Wrigleyville area surrounding the Cubs' Wrigley Field.

Distilling runs in the family. Robert, hailing from native Austria, is a third-generation distiller. He honed his skills with Kothe Distilling Technologies, where he has educated over 3,500 individuals and has helped nearly 200 craft distilleries spring up around the globe.

The name "KOVAL" traces to his European roots. Translated, koval means "smith" or "blacksmith" in several Eastern European languages. In Yiddish, however, it has the added meaning of someone who "forges ahead". That's certainly something that describes the Birneckers.

The KOVAL Distillery produces several varieties of award-winning spirits, including whiskey, gin, and other specialty spirits using organic grains from the "heart cut" - that sweet spot between the "heads" and "tails" of the distillation process.

The Tasting

This Chicago whiskey is made from a mash bill of 100% oats. It is bottled in a short, squat bottle at 80 proof without an age statement. The finished product is certified organic and kosher. Our bottle was from barrel PB3F85. From the website, we're told to expect milk chocolate, coconut, caramel and cashew, with an exceptionally creamy palate and finish.

Color: Caramel with oily legs displayed in the Glencairn glass.

Nose: Caramel, nougat and milk chocolate - like a Milky Way candy bar - along with toasted wood and a hint of cinnamon.

Palate: Surprisingly creamy and velvety, with vanilla and nougat followed by light malt, spice and Whoppers malted milk balls.

Finish: Medium with milk chocolate, charred oak, and spice.

Overall: For a low-proof pour, this was surprisingly flavorful and silky, providing a way more interesting experience than one would think. The novelty of an oat whiskey, along with Milky Way and Whoppers notes, and one that is produced in Chicago, makes this a unique whiskey to add to your collection and share with special friends.

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