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Koval Rye Whiskey

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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@RantavahtiReview by @Rantavahti

28th May 2014


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Right from the start I started thinking of the movie "Planes, Trains & Automobiles". Because the movie and this rye whisky from Koval were both very entertaining and took place in Chicago. And like the Steve Martin's character in the movie, I also wanted the next flight to Chicago. Just to see what Koval distillery was doing back there!

I got a chance to sample Koval Single Barrel Organic Rye Whiskey and Koval White Rye Whiskey. And both are true benchmark products for artisanry. White Rye is closer to the average, yet very funky and progressive. This Single Barrel Rye is great. Surprisingly smooth for a "NAS" and new oak whisky.

Very fresh, offering a versatile rye dram. Rich palate, like a crossover rye whisky and bourbon. So get me planes, trains or automobiles, anything to take me to Koval distillery in Chicago!

Nose: Combo of bourbon and rye. Full of fresh fruits, hints of pear and cinnamon apples dominating. Some plain apples too and fresh grains.

Taste: The feel of bourbon is present. Rye is there but it comes much stronger in the finish. Sweet with fruits and rye. Fruits aren't as powerful as in the nose. Don't add water, ruins it a bit while making it very peppery.

Finish: Bitter notes, fresh rye. Spices really kick in the aftertaste.

Balance: Very exciting dram. Koval Single Barrel Rye is smooth and fresh, light, yet characteristic.

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Victor commented

Thanks for a very interesting review, @Rantavahti. I haven't tasted this one yet. I look forward to it and enjoy the Koval products which I have had.

Well, I tend to get excited when the conversation turns to whiskeys made from rye grain. Here goes:

When people say, "this is like bourbon" they usually mean that they are tasting the new oak flavours prominently. They may much less frequently also mean that it has the thick full body typical of bourbon because of the corn content.

Since 95% of bourbons are made with rye grain, and consist mostly of an interplay of new oak and rye flavours, the distinction between bourbons and US straight rye whiskies is really just noting points on a continuum based on the AMOUNT of rye grain present. US straight rye whiskey requires 51% minimum rye content, and most of them have just a little over that rye content. Most bourbons have between 8 and 30% rye content, with typical rye content being around 15%. Some, like the Four Roses "OB" mashbills have 35% rye. Breckenridge Bourbon supposedly has 38% rye content, which is the highest of which I am aware.

While it is easy to me to taste the increased rye in the higher rye content bourbons (e.g. Old Grand-Dad at around 28% rye, or Bulleit Bourbon, which is a Four Roses bourbon also near 28% rye content) compared to say, Buffalo Trace bourbon, at around 8% rye, the balance is such that US straight rye whiskies still usually show the sharpness of that grain with a very noticeable much sharper emphasis compared to any of these bourbons. Rye does take over in US straight rye whiskeys, while operating in more of a balancing role in bourbon. Breckenridge, though, is so high in the rye content, as to be ALMOST like a straight rye.

But, when the chips are down, if you talk about "mixing" "combining" or "balancing" a bourbon and a rye together, what you wind up with is always still EITHER a bourbon or a rye.

7 years ago 0

Rantavahti commented

Always nice to get your comments and info @Victor feel free to comment on my blog too :)


With this Koval, FRESH is definitely the keyword, probably the most fresh whisky I've ever tasted. I don't have much experience on US whiskey but based on these 2 samples, I'm willing to say Koval is the Bruichladdich of USA :)

And about that bourbony thing (mostly) on the nose and in the taste, I'd have to say it was only feeling I got. Rye is definitely the major factor here, along with fruity notes.

7 years ago 0

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