Koval is a small distillery in Illinois who’ve released a number of whiskeys made from 100% mashbills of various kinds of grains (there’s also oat and millet) as well as a bourbon which has millet in place of the usual rye and barley complement, and a four grain whiskey from oat, wheat, rye and malted barley. They currently also have an aged 100% rye and a 100% white rye but this Dark Rye (I don’t know what “dark rye” is) doesn’t seem to be part of their current/continuing lineup. So, clearly they’re doing interesting stuff—but is it any good?
It’s not just the Dark Rye that’s gone, by the way. Their current releases don’t sport the “Lion’s Pride” moniker either. I believe the early releases were all dubbed Lion’s Pride for the owners’ son who is apparently named Lion.
Lion’s Pride Dark Rye (40%; Barrel 198; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: A bit of rubber at first and then very herbal and vegetal notes: anise, dill, juniper and betel leaf (I would just say paan but only my non-existent South Asian readership would know what that was); some new-makey floral notes too. This is somewhere between whiskey, mezcal and gin and I can’t say the nose has me very excited to take a sip.
Palate: Ok, it’s pretty much as promised by the nose with some added chemical bitterness as a bonus. The watery mouthfeel doesn’t help. A little sweeter than the nose. With time there’s a bit of lime and the bitterness eases a bit. With even more time the wood is rather prominent along with herbal bitterness (almost like an herbal extract).
Finish: Medium. The sweetness and the chemical astringence dominate with some menthol developing late.
Comments: A fine Australian fighting whiskey. I can see why they discontinued this.
Rating: 70 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample!
Ewww, sounds nasty! I’ve read some good things about Koval, hope they’re not heading toward “jumping the shark” with stuff like this :-/
The good news, I suppose, is that this seems to have come out at an earlier point in the company’s history. That they’ve discontinued it may be a good sign.
I don’t think they discontinued it, they have changed the bottle and label, and maybe mainstreamed their offerings – no more “dark” vs. “bright” or whatever the other one was. See e.g. http://www.koval-distillery.com/newsite/whiskey/rye
I believe they are still committed to young (2 years) distillate, in the Austrian fruit brandy tradition.