Robert Birnecker and Sonat Birnecker-Hart are devoted to the art of distilling. For Robert, it’s a family tradition: he still treasures memories of his grandparents’ award-winning Austrian distillery, where he often helped out as a child. A graduate of Oxford and the University of London, Robert's wife, Sonat, gave up a tenured academic position to pursue the couple’s dream of making their own spirits from scratch. Today, Robert and Sonat’s award-winning Koval Distillery is the first to open in Chicago’s city limits since Prohibition. There, they blend classic, mainstream techniques with contemporary, indie methods, ensuring quality by using only certified organic and kosher ingredients grown in the Midwest.
Using a Kothe potstill custom-made and hand-built in Germany, the husband-and-wife team produces small-batch spirits, including five original white whiskeys made from rye, oat, wheat, millet, and spelt mash. They also distill Lion’s Pride aged whiskeys, plus a selection of liqueurs and brandies, such as bierbrand made with Dynamo Copper Lager from neighbor Metropolitan Brewing. These spirits have won multiple local and national awards, from Whisky Magazine’s 100 Greatest Distilleries to Visit to the Chicago Reader’s Best Local Distillery.