Water of Life - Koval bourbon
Ah, Chicago you windy city with your colourful underbelly history. It has been a few moons since the days of prohibition, the moonshining it prompted and the emergence of a proper distillery since the eighteen hundreds: Koval is an entity dedicated to crafting the art of a sort of bourbon that challenges the status quo by their choices of secondary grains. Needless to say that intrigued me instantly, as it was the first time I have heard of millet being used in the whisky of the South.
Koval’s impressive line-up is comprised of a straight Millet whiskey, a 100% rye, an oat whiskey and a four grain, all of which are sourced from individual barrels.
Now, what sounds like something that is rather common with bigger distilleries as the sheer volume enables them to pump out a distinct and consistent product, gets interesting with more boutique-y hoocheries like Koval as their limited stock for better or for worse will vary with each bottle at least to some extent. Talking about keeping things interesting in the flavour department.
Now, you might have a preference for batched whiskies and the skill that goes into the alchemy of blending and the creation of something the totality of which is greater than the sum of its parts, but I have yet to come across a Koval expression that underwhelms.
The straw coloured Koval Bourbon is a corn / millet hybrid that literally hits the sweet spot between savoury and sweet: The nostrils are tickled with tropical fruits and honey and there a surprisingly spicy pepper note is what first arrives on the palate, which is followed by subtle waves of differently graded sweeter nuances that finish with an uplifting, light and delicate flavour that is reminiscent of lighter Irish malts.
Next expression I tried was the Koval Millet, which had been aged in oak barrels that were freshly torrefied – a trademark of this mid-western distillery as Koval tends to sell their barrels after their first use.
This one is quite spicy on the nose and unfolds citrussy, berry nuances that blend in with more than a mere hint of rye. Not unlike the Bourbon, the palate is caressed with honey-esque sweetness punctuated by spicier tones and a dominance of cinnamon, which heralds the finish: An exercise par excellence in both rounding things out and amplifying the flavours that passed the palate before adding a eucalyptus like counterpoint. A very nice experimentally crafted young drop.
The Koval Rye is another interesting one with its dominant bread and spicy notes that lead the nose eventually to a bed of berries, dark fruits and floral notes. The red threat with Koval seems to be the well-calibrated balance of sweet and spicy notes that in this case turn out to be fruitier with quite a bit of the bread flavour being carried over and culminate in a more-ish finish.
photo from company website
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