Koval Distillery LogoEstablished in 2008, KOVAL produces organic whiskey, liqueurs and specialty spirits in Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1800s.

KOVAL distills with a custom-built potstill handcrafted in Germany by Kothe Destillationstechnik. Kothe specially engineers each still with solid quality and energy-saving components that meet the particular needs of each distiller.

Their potstill, specifically made for the production of whiskey and brandy, has an elongated whiskey helmet, a special distillation column and a unique bubblecap construction that provides greater surface area for the spirits to develop aroma and flavor. The smooth, unhammered copper potstill – combined with the dedication and savoir faire of their distillers – guarantees high quality and aromatic distillates. 5000L capacity.

The name Koval means “blacksmith,” in numerous Eastern European languages, but the word in Yiddish also refers to a “black sheep” or someone who forges ahead or does something new 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 to start a business. 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 leave their careers to make some of the most unique whiskey in America.


Products Distiller Awards

Koval Single Barrel Oat Whiskey

Koval Oat Whiskey

Koval Single Barrel Rye Whiskey

Koval Rye Whiskey

Koval Four Grain Whiskey

Koval Four Grain Whiskey






Founders Robert Birnecker and his wife Sonat chose to leave their academic careers to bring the distilling traditions of Robert’s Austrian family to America. In making this decision, they vowed to make organic spirits from scratch (avoiding the common industry practice of purchasing and bottling pre-made spirits) and to change the way people understand whiskey by creating a new, signature style – using only the “heart” cut of the distillate – affording a brighter, cleaner take on whiskey.

We interviewed Sonat and asked her thoughts on craft spirits.

Embracing the grain-to-bottle mentality, each step of the spirit-making process is thoughtfully monitored: beginning with contracting local farmers to grow the grain, to on-site milling and mashing, to finally distilling, bottling, and packaging. With numerous international awards and Robert at the helm of consulting for the burgeoning craft industry, KOVAL has grown to be one of America’s leading small batch, independent spirit manufacturers.

KOVAL has numerous international awards, including:

  • Distillery: Top 10 Most Influential Craft Whiskey Makers by Whisky Advocate
  • Rye Whiskey: Best International Whisky by InterWhisky Competition 2013
  • Four Grain Whiskey: Gold by 2012 International Whisky Competition