Malcolm Jolley discovers a beautiful and elegant grain spirit from Chicago.

Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart and the spirits of Koval Distillery.

I tasted the Koval Single Barrel Oat Whiskey with the distillery’s co-founder Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart last week at the offices their agency, Le Sommelier (who recently posted this Good Food Fighter post on it at GFR here). I tried it, and Koval’s Single Barrel Four Grain Whiskey, around 10 o’clock in the morning and an hour and a half later the warm honey tones of the drink were still alive in my mouth, where they remained until I gave in and made myself a coffee. I usually only drink premium spirits in the evening, after dinner. But the morning Koval tasting experience has given me pause to reflect on that timing. Perhaps the Koval whiskeys are best drunk after breakfast or lunch as the length of their finish can be truly enjoyed over extended period of time! All kidding aside, the all organic and kosher Koval Single Barrel Oat Whiskey really is a remarkable spirit: warm but not hot on the palate, honey-sweet but not cloying and wonderfully comforting. At $100 a bottle, it’s not cheap, but really good things rarely are.

That remarkable tasting coincided with a meeting and interview Dr. Birnecker Hart, who began Koval with her husband Robert Birnecker in 2008 in her hometown of Chicago. Distilling is a second career for both them: she was an academic and he was posted diplomat when they met in Washington DC area. But it wasn’t a foreign thing for the Austrian born and raised Robert Birnecker, whose family has been making spirits for generations. When they set-up Koval they were determined to make the finest spirits, form only the heart of the distillation. To do that, they have merged innovation with tradition, using both ancient and thoroughly modern techniques. They also decided to try making whiskeys from unual grains like oats millet, although in a traditional A,erican way. More on this to come at GFR. In the mean time I highly recommend a bottle of Koval on your shelf. Click here to find one at your nearest LCBO Vintages while supplies last.