Koval Distillery: Mixing whiskey and tours in Ravenswood

Yes, Tip C is finally getting tipsy (or at least slightly buzzed).

Koval Spirits

Koval Spirits: Lion’s Pride Whiskey (left), Koval Liqueurs (right)

Last Saturday, I scheduled a tour with some friends at Koval Distillery, located at 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave. (Tip: Don’t forget to bring your driver’s license or state ID to prove you’re of drinking age. Otherwise, staff won’t allow you into the facility!). Koval is a family-operated, craft distillery founded by Robert and Sonat Birnecker. Robert brought his family’s distilling techniques from Austria and continued the tradition in our fair city. Koval’s business model is the first of its kind in Chicago since Prohibition. And now, we get the privilege to sample its whiskey without breaking the law.

Koval Office Manager Jason Liechty led our tour. Jason guided us through the distillery’s history, whiskey-making process, and Koval product line. (Tip: Be sure to wear comfy shoes! It’s a 1 ½ to 2 hour tour of the distillery, which can be harsh on the feet.). And of course there were tastings of Koval spirits. However, don’t expect to get drunk unless you’re a total lightweight. Jason informed us that alcohol producers are only allowed to serve each patron up to 2 ounces of liquor during tours. Needless to say, we were given small servings of the 9 spirits we tasted – 3 from the White Whiskey line, 3 from the Lion’s Pride Whiskey line, and 3 liqueurs. Koval has 30 spirits, so it was nice that they offered us a good portion of their products.

Distillery Machines

Distillery Machines: Column Still (left), Pot Still (right)

Koval makes a pure artisan product – single barrel whiskey made from rye, wheat, oat, millet, or spelt. Jason handed us jars of each ingredient in its purest form, which is why Koval is certified organic and kosher. Aside from whiskey, Koval creates truly unique liqueurs and specialty spirits. For instance, Koval used Metropolitan Brewery’s Dynamo Copper Lager to concoct Bierbrand, a German beer schnapps. Koval also has limited edition spirits, such as its Paw Paw Liqueur and Asian Pear Liqueur. (Tip: Pick up those limited edition liqueurs in case Koval doesn’t produce them again. It may be your last chance!).

At the end of the tour, you can purchase any Koval spirit, as well as t-shirts, glassware, and much more. (Tip: Sign up for Koval’s newsletter and volunteer list. Volunteers at Koval receive a discount on products!).

Tours take place every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday at 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 7:00 p.m. (Tip: Buy a Drink Deck before scheduling. You get a complimentary tour of Koval for two and 15% off in-distillery purchase!).

Be a locavore and sip some Koval whiskey soon…cheers!

Koval Whiskey Barrels

Koval Whiskey Barrels

Other tips about the area:

  • Interested in brewery tours? Then schedule one with Metropolitan Brewery (Koval’s next door neighbor). Like Koval, Metropolitan is a Chicago brand with an emphasis on quality. Tours with Metropolitan are few and far between, but don’t be discouraged. Metropolitan beer is sold and served at various stores, restaurants and bars in Chicago.
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