As a Chicago-area native, it seems a shame that I had yet to review (or even try) anything from Koval distillery, a Chicago craft distillery that makes its way onto the shelves in nearly every liquor store and liquor isle, but not in my shopping cart. Finally, I gave one of their offerings a try--their four-grain whiskey.
Most intriguing is the blend of grains Koval uses to make this whiskey. It has a mashbill of oat, malted barley, rye and wheat. No corn in the mashbill, but with the strong flavor that rye usually provides, the unique tang that wheat adds, and the wildcard of the oat, I couldn't even guess what this was going to taste like.
The nose is soft and subtle, and it very much reminded me of a Scotch. The barley scents certainly came through. Minimal burn on the nose, but, considering it's bottled at 94 proof, that's to be expected. There's a certain sweetness on the nose as well, letting you know that though it may smell like a Scotch, it's not going to taste like one.
And it certainly doesn't. My initial impression was that this is a very sweet whiskey, and I mean syrupy sweet. While I enjoy the sweetness with bourbons, this was, quite frankly, a bit too much for me.
Interestingly, the grain that I expected to be the least noticeable seemed to be the strongest. There was a predominant flavor that I couldn't quite place my finger (tongue?) on. However, the flavor, in a certain weird way reminded me of oatmeal cookies. To be more specific, a few years back Baskin Robbins had an oatmeal cookie flavored ice cream, which didn't taste exactly like oatmeal cookies but you got the idea. That's more like the flavor that was coming through.
The whiskey was drinkable, but I couldn't tell if I liked it or not. So, I let it sit on a shelf for a few weeks and re-visited the bottle, wondering whether it might improve after opening up a bit. While remaining very sweet, after a couple weeks, it had mellowed enough to not be as mouth-puckering sweet as it was. Interestingly, it seemed to take on a bit of a smokey flavor, reminding me just a bit of peated Scotches (but not quite as yummy).
Overall I was not impressed. It just came across as a weird and unfriendly mix of flavors that was way to sweet and kind of odd tasting. While drinkable, it's not one I'd prefer to drink again. I will, however, be trying out their other offerings, as I've heard they're doing good things at Koval, and perhaps I just started with the wrong one.