Koval Spirits and Vintegrity have partnered up for 2021’s Spring into Gin campaign, a collaboration with restaurants and bartenders promoting a variety of spring cocktails made with Koval gin to raise contributions for No Kid Hungry. No Kid Hungry is a nonprofit working to solve problems of hunger and poverty, especially childhood hunger, in the United States and around the world.
A portion of proceeds from Koval Gin, Koval Barreled Gin, and Koval Cranberry Gin Liqueur sold in March and April will be donated to No Kid Hungry through the Spring into Gin promotional campaign. Beyond their one-of-a-kind distillation process and their foothold on the forefront of Chicago’s distillation legislation, Koval has been making their own way for quite some time.


Dr. Sonat Birnecker (left) and Dr. Robert Birnecker are the married powerhouse behind Koval.

About Koval: The “Black Sheep” of Craft Distillation

The nickname “black sheep” has its own special meaning for Koval. When the great grandfather of Koval’s modern-day president, Dr. Sonat Birnecker, left Vienna to start his own business in Chicago in the early 1900s, he was given the Yiddish nickname “Koval” meaning “black sheep.” The word originally means “smith” – which also bears special meaning for Sonat’s husband, and Koval CEO, Dr. Robert Birnecker, who learned much about distillation from his award-winning grandfather Robert Schmid – which loosely translates in English to “Smith.” Sonat and Robert chose the name Koval to honor both men – and to reflect their own decision to leave their careers to make some of the most unique spirits in America.

Robert and Sonat Birnecker received a wide variety of public accolades and accomplished much throughout their equally impressive careers. Sonat Birnecker spent over a decade as a professor in both the United States and Germany and was awarded “Illinois Business Person of the Year” by the National Small Business Association.

Her husband, Koval CEO and Master Distiller Dr. Robert Birnecker, is an Austrian native and was formerly a deputy press secretary at the Austrian embassy. Leaving behind their corporate jobs to begin craft distillation was an eager choice, but not an easy one.

Koval Opens Door for Craft Distilleries in Chicago

When Robert and Sonat established Koval in Chicago in 2008, the laws were virtually the same as they had been since the 1930s. Chicago’s history with alcohol dealt more with distribution than distillation. And, since no craft distillery had opened in Chicago since before Prohibition, no distillery laws had been updated.

In 2009, although wineries and beer taprooms could hold tastings, it was illegal in for a craft distillery like Koval to do so. Koval took the lead in efforts to change the legislation and, in 2010, helped push a new bill through. In addition to allowing samplings and tasting rooms, the bill increased the limit placed on distillation production.

Prior to this legislation, a craft distillery could produce just 35,000 gallons per year. And, while many companies found a loophole in holding multiple licenses and producing 35k gallons under each license, it wasn’t ideal. The new bill, championed by Koval, increased the limit to 100k gallons per year.

Koval cleared the path for craft distilleries to be able to produce more product – and become more profitable – while also creating new equality among various alcohol manufacturers by allowing spirit tastings, not just those for wine and beer.

In 2011 Koval opened their own tasting room and, by 2013, they were selling bottles at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market.

Koval: Made from the Heart

“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.”

Koval’s products are unlike many others. Koval’s ingredients are sourced from organic midwestern farms, distilled in Koval’s own facility, and slightly aged in one-use American Oak barrels. Offering five single-grain spirits, crafted from unique grains like spelt and oat; and Koval’s whiskeys are only slightly aged (one to two years max), 100% organic, and follow kosher guidelines.

Koval vowed to make organic spirits from scratch and to change the way people understand spirits. They created a new, signature style, one that used only the “heart” cut of the distillate, and affording a brighter, cleaner product. Only the most aromatic, complex, and clean portion of the still production goes into Koval’s whiskeys, gins, and liqueurs.

Gins crafted by Koval are as unique as their whiskeys. The Dry Gin is known for notes of Juniper and wildflowers. Noted as “crisp enough to enjoy straight” the Dry Gin makes for excellent classic and contemporary cocktails. The Barreled Gin is crafted with the same recipe as the Dry Gin, but with extra butterscotch notes that stem from its maturation in a Koval whiskey barrel.

To learn more about Spring into Gin and see the beautifully unique cocktails crafted with Koval Gin, follow the Spring into Gin Facebook page. Vintegrity is proud to carry such a historically rich brand as Koval. Check out the rest of Vintegrity’s fine wine and spirit selections in our Kansas and Missouri portfolios!