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Koval Single Barrel Four Grain Whiskey (500ml)
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- ABV 47%
The American craft distilling movement continues apace with several upstart producers now treading their wood aged wares on Australian shores. We sampled a number of white spirits last year (gins, vodkas) as well as a few young whiskies and liqueurs. The quality was generally very commendable, with one or two complete surprises. Repeat customers are vital if these ventures are to thrive and with a dearth of big marketing dollars, the standard of their product is their most viable avenue for promotion.The buzz surrounding micro distillers both in Australia and in other parts of the world gives pause to consider exactly what should be classified as a ‘micro’ / ‘small batch’ / ‘craft’ operation. Call it what you will, as they continue to multiply, how do we differentiate them from other distilleries? Noted American spirits writer, F.Paul Pacult, offers one approach: “Craft distilling is difficult to define, much like “Small Batch Bourbon”, which likewise has no legal definition. Here’s our stab at it: Small, independent and aligned (meaning supported by large, mainstream distilling companies) distillers who produce distillates in less than 10,000 cases quantities per year should be considered authentic craft distillers. Any distillery that produces more than 10,000 cases, whether independent or aligned, is, in our view, a mid-range distillery.”
Independence and tiny output seem to be key criteria. The former provides the conditions for innovation, while it’s the latter (in part) that makes this possible. Upstart, small scale operations will (almost always) be inherently experimental via the process of ‘discovering their soul’. Do-it-yourself stills, single barrel trials, unusual wood finishes, grains from all corners of the earth - these are just some of the ingredients that make craft distilling so exciting right now. Our coverage of the American movement continues with new arrivals from the Koval and Few distilleries.
Founders of Koval (est.2008), Robert and Sonat Birnecker, gave up academic careers to bring the distilling traditions of Robert's Austrian grandfather to America. Five organically grown grains (Rye, Oat, Wheat, Millet, and Spelt) are harvested locally for distillation into single grain whiskies. These unfiltered single cask offerings are classified both organic and kosher.Tasting note: Distilled from a mash bill of oat, malted barley, rye, and wheat and aged in heavily charred new oak barrels. Pours a deep gold / polished brass. The lazy bouquet requires coaxing - some initial sweet malt then appealing grainy notes are followed by fresh sawn American oak and hints of liquorice bullets. Pure and poised, spicy fruit cake-like delivery is sustained by delicate white pepper intensity through to the long fruity/ aniseed infused honey fade. Concludes deliciously fresh, bordering on tangy. Very different. Very moreish. 47% Alc./Vol. Other reviews... Nose: If all whiskies were this complex on the nose, not sure this book would ever get completed. Several points to focus on, each sharp as a knife. Though oat holds sway(and checking the label ...yes oats are part of the mash bill) there is a secondary intensity of light chocolate malt and fruity rye; astonishing layering of light sugars, crystallised layers of golden syrup seemingly the anchor point; bloody hell... Taste: Quiet fantastic.... both earthy and ethereal in equal measures and as the oil spreads, mainly of an oaty flavour, so does the sharper, crisper rye. Finish: a few fainty notes at last collate, but the salivating quality of the grain is re-established at the last, helped by a few peppery spices.... One of the most intriguing whiskies on the circuit... A very serious contender for micro distillery of the year. 96 points - Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2017.