Review: Koval Single Barrel Millet Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

Koval Millet.jpg
30 gallon charred virgin oak casks
100% Millet
Distiller Koval (Chicago, Illinois)

This whiskey is made from 100% millet grain, distilled in Chicago at Koval, a high-tech craft distillery which was established in 2008. All of their whiskey is organic, and matured in 30 gallon barrels (about half the size of standard 53 gallon bourbon barrels). Their informative website is here. This whiskey is not aged long in new oak, but, because of the small barrel, the wood to spirit ratio is higher and it ages faster than a similar whiskey in a large barrel.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: Barrel 298

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Well, this one is a bit different. Charred, ashy oak, stewed fruits, prunes, light vanilla, banana laffy-taffy, anise, and creamy coconut. It has a bit of a herbal character to it as well – but the dominant flavour for me is the smoky char. There’s also a spicy feel to it as well, though I can’t pin down the spices specifically.

Taste: Caramel, and fresh charred oak, along with some sharp, spicy and ashy notes. There’s a good grainy note to it as well – millet, I suppose? (I’ve only had it once – and I don’t remember what it tasted like). We have banana cream pie amidst the grainy structure and spicy edge – I think it’s quite well done.

Finish: More ash, light herbal and creamy notes as well. Still we have some light creamy notes – banana, vanilla, caramel, and coconut as well as some clove. It’s a bit drying with a little bit of a spicy feel.

Interesting all of the ashy notes – I am not familiar enough with millet to know if they could originate from that or whether it’s just from the barrel. Though I don’t find it particularly complex, it is very easy to drink and enjoyable, and well balanced. This seriously makes me wonder why we don’t see more millet whiskies out there – even if not as the main grain.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). In terms of raw rating, this one isn’t quite so high - but it’s just so unique! It’s one that I definitely think is worth a try, if you haven’t.

Value: Low, at $80.