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Lion's Pride Toasted Spelt Whiskey Single Barrel

Wheat Sibling

1 585

@VictorReview by @Victor

17th Mar 2017


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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  • Brand: Lion's Pride
  • ABV: 40%

Koval Distillery in Chicago makes a variety of spirits products including artisanal whiskeys from unusual grains. According to the distillers, "Koval" means "blacksmith" in some Eastern European languages, and also has the connotation of "black sheep" in Yiddish. The Black Sheep in this case was Emmanuel Loewnherz, the great-grandfather of Koval distiller Sonat Birnecker. Emmanuel left Vienna a century ago to emigrate to America. Koval's lightly aged whiskeys and unaged spirits are all organic and Kosher. Koval distillery was founded in 2008 by Robert and Sonat Birnecker. The Lion's Pride brand is named after Lion, who is the son of one of the distillers. Koval brand and Lion's Pride brand feature aged and unaged spirits made from oats, spelt, and millet, in addition to rye and wheat

Once again I thank my sister, @Maddie, for the opportunity to sample freely from her large whisk(e)y collection, many bottles of which I would be unlikely to buy for myself. @Maddie likes the unusual and the exotic

Lion's Pride Toasted Spelt Whiskey is lightly-aged no age statement whiskey made from 100% spelt. Spelt is a hybrid of tetraploid wheat and wild goat grass which has been around for 5,000 years. It originated in the Middle East, and is currently found mostly in central Europe and northern Spain. In recent years Spelt has gained popularity as a healthful 'health food' grain. The reviewed bottle is nearly full and has been open for 5 years. I surmise that exogenous enzymes were used in the production of this whiskey because there is no mention of malting of the spelt, and no malted grain other than spelt in the whiskey. The reviewed bottle is # 100 from 30 gallon Single Barrel # 8

Colour: very pale yellow

Nose: sweet light low-to-moderate intensity grain flavours. No, this does not smell just like wheat, but it smells like what it is, a grain a little like wheat, but decidedly different. Nuttiness is the best descriptor here. This smells like a mixture of almonds and cashews. There is definitely also a cereal quality to the nose, with just a hint of grassiness accompanying it. Wood influence is light, but you can observe some in the background if you look for it. Comparing to other grains and pseudo-cereals, this is also reminiscent of the buckwheat from Corsair's Buck Yeah, but is not at all fierce like the buckwheat was in that whiskey. The sweet/dry balance is very good. This is overall a very light experience, not unlike the most gentle barley-only Speyside malts. It is actually quite elegant, which greatly surprises me. While I like more intensity of flavour most of the time, I cannot deny the high quality here. With water added this whiskey is just as attractive or more so. Water raises the pitch and bundles the flavours together. Score: 23/25

Taste: the nutty flavours of the nose are expressed in the mouth as well, though they are a little more sharp, feisty, tangy, and bitter there, and less elegant. I am noticing alcohol in the mouth more than I would like. This is OK on the palate, but does not show the refinement of the nose. Water added straightens out the rough edges. Better with water. Score: 20/25 neat; 21.5/25 with water

Finish: goes sour into the finish, and gains some root-beer like flavours. Water added continues the water-added palate and is a big improvement. Score: 18/25 neat; 20.5 with water added

Balance: excellent in the nose, just adequate in the mouth. Score: 20/25 neat; 21.5 with water added

Total Sequential Score: 81 points neat; 86.5 with water


Strength: light in the nose; moderate in the mouth. Stronger with water added. Score: 21/25 neat; 22/25 with water added

Quality: great in the nose; only adequate in the mouth. Score: 20.5/25 neat; 21.5/25 with water added

Variety: very adequate variety of flavours, but that is about it. Slightly better with water added Score: 18/25 neat; 19/25 with water added

Harmony: wonderful in the nose; adequate in the mouth. Much better with water added. Score: 18/25 neat; 21.5/25 with water

Total Non-Sequential Score: 77.5 points neat; 84 with water


Comment: I am glad I tried this one with some water. I almost didn't because it is bottled at 40% ABV. The difference between with and without water for this sample is night and day, "meh" overall vs "pretty damned good!". I see this as a sort of first effort at making whiskey made from Spelt. I see no reason why there cannot be better and better variants produced. The taste of spelt itself is a little tangy, and has a bit of bite in the mouth. As a result this grain will not appeal to everybody, and I expect that it will be somewhat difficult to combine with other ingredients. As for Lion's Pride Organic Spelt Single Barrel Whiskey, I can gain a lot of pleasure just visiting with the nose alone. And if you drink some of this by all means try adding some water to it. Water added raised the mouth experience for this whiskey from "OK" to quite enjoyable


Nozinan commented

Fantastic review! I like these unusual whiskies you've been featuring lately. I wouldn't mind trying this sometime.

Just a couple of notes on the background information:

1. Koval

Don't believe everything you read on the internet. This could, I acknowledge, apply to this post as well. As a native Yiddish speaker, I know that Koval means blacksmith. In fact my maternal maternal great grandfather was a "Koval" which my grandmother said was the reason she could handle hot metal pots without gloves (yes, she was amazing, but that is another story entirely). However, I am not aware of any usage to mean blacksheep. I checked with a Yiddish expert who concurred.

Unfortunately a lot of meanings are attributed to Yiddish words by people who don't really understand and then the people who learn from them propagate the incorrect usage, especially in the US where the shift from native speakers is 1-2 generations more advanced than in Canada. Other examples of misuse can be seen on twitter, often used by trolls in derogatory manners, and often referring to the President.

2. Kosher whisky

This is a whole essay topic on its own. Suffice it to say that putting the "O-U" on a bottle of whisky increases its price without increasing its value, because of the extremely high costs of certification.

Then comes the question...what does Koval do with its stocks of grain, spirit and finished bottles during Passover, when even ownership of these items renders them forever not-kosher? I solved that problem from the outset (in the case that I ever want to serve something to an observant guest) by not owning any of my whisky. My wife likely has the largest collection of whisky of any non-whisky drinker in Toronto, and I seal off access to my cabinet during Passover. This is a much larger logistical problem for a distillery. Except maybe for Quinoa.

And finally, why bother with the certification. The London Kosher certification authority (UK, not Ontario) has ruled that all Scotch is Kosher, even if matured in sherry or other non-kosher wine casks. By extrapolation any similarly produced grain spirit would be Kosher and are essentially treated as such (in my line of work I see a lot of people who keep kosher and have whiskies in their cabinets) . The only exception might be Canadian whiskies because they are allowed to add wine to them (Like Alberta Premium dark horse).

Of course, as I say when I discuss resuscitation status.... when in doubt ask your local religious authority...


2 years ago 1Who liked this?

Victor commented

@Nozinan, I am delighted that you enjoyed the review.

The Black Sheep spiel was directly from the Koval website. Those guys "know from" being Jews, and speaking Yiddish. While the 'black sheep' attribution for the word 'koval' may be uncommon, who is to dispute that that is the experience of the ancestors of those guys?

As for the Kosher thing, I am continuously baffled and entertained at the efforts of my many Jewish friends who believe nothing whatsoever about spiritual Judaism, but who will go to sometimes extreme lengths to stay inside the boundaries of the kosher "letter of the law."

2 years ago 1Who liked this?

Nozinan commented

@Victor I don't do it for me... but for the benefit of my more observant friends.

2 years ago 0

Alexsweden commented

Thanks @Victor, I had missed this review until now. It's a fun notion making whisky from more odd types of grain. In Sweden spelt became extremely popular some ten years ago. Especially for baking. I understand from your description that this isn't the style I know you most prefer but I am sure you did it justice with your fair review.

2 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Alexsweden, thank you for your kind remarks. I do the very best I can to give new and unusual products a fair review.

2 years ago 0

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