Koval is a tiny distillery owned by husband-and-wife team, Robert and Sonat Birnecker, who produce nearly 30 products including 'whiskeys' (unaged 'white' and lightly aged), vodka, fruit eaux de vie and liqueurs.
Sonat is a former Baltimore Hebrew University professor, and Robert was previously an Austrian embassy spokesman, but more importantly, Robert's Austrian grandparents have been distilling spirits and liqueurs for more than 40 years and it is this which inspired the couple to open Chicago's first post-Prohibition distillery in 2008.
As for the name, Koval is Yiddish for 'blacksmith' but apparently also refers to someone who does something unexpected. Sonat's great-grandfather earned the nickname Koval when he surprised his family by emigrating from Vienna to Chicago at the age of just 17. Coincidentally, Robert's grandfather's surname is Schmid, German for 'smith', so the name Koval neatly honours both men.
The couple source all of their grains, fruits, herbs and flowers from the surrounding Midwest region and produce all of their spirits in-house, from mashing to distilling, bottling to boxing. They do not buy in any neutral grain spirit. Indeed, everything they make is certified organic and kosher.
Named after their son 'Lion', Robert and Sonat launched their 'Lion's Pride' whiskey brand in 2010 with two distinct styles: an unaged spirit the couple call "white whiskey" and whiskey aged under two years. All of the various Lion's Pride whiskeys are single grain and distilled in a modern pot still with bubblecaps and aged in new 30 gallon, charred American oak barrels sourced from the Barrel Mill in Minnesota. Each batch of Lion's Pride is bottled from a single barrel without artificial colouring or chill filtration.