Established in 2008, Koval is the first craft distillery within Chicago’s city limits since Prohibition. We source all of our grains, fruits, herbs, and flowers from the surrounding Midwest region, and we make all of our spirits in house, entirely from scratch - from mashing to distilling, bottling to boxing.
Our founders, Robert and Sonat Birnecker, gave up academic careers to bring the distilling traditions of Robert’s Austrian grandfather to America. They vowed to create a sustainable family business with high quality and organic products. Koval features small batch spirits distilled from 100% organic grain, avoiding the common industry practice of purchasing pre-made neutral grain spirit. Everything we make is certified organic and kosher, and we are darn proud of it.
We started with five single-grain white whiskeys: Rye, Oat, Wheat, Millet, and Spelt. In 2010, we debuted our aged whiskey, Lion’s Pride, aged in two distinct styles. No artificial coloring, no chill filtering - only the pure heart cut of the distillate with beautiful amber hues from nothing but the barrel and time. Our lineup also includes several brandies and six liqueurs: Chrysanthemum Honey, Coffee, Ginger, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, and Rose Hip.
The name Koval is Yiddish for ”blacksmith,” but the word also refers to a ”black sheep” or someone who does something unexpected or out of the ordinary. Sonat’s great-grandfather earned Koval as his nickname when, at the ripe old age of 17, he surprised his family and emigrated from Vienna to Chicago in the early 1900s. Coincidentally, the surname of Robert’s grandfather (at whose side Robert learned the art of distilling) is Schmid - German for ”smith.” Sonat and Robert chose the name Koval to honor both men - and to reflect their own extraordinary decision to give up comfortable jobs in DC, relocate to Chicago, and build a family business from the ground up.