I can’t tell you the last time I had a martini. There was a period in my life when that’s all I drank—gin or vodka, I didn’t care, dirty and cold as hell. Always cold as hell. Then I found bourbon and forgot all about the martini. Call me whiskey monogamous.
Then Koval sends me a bottle of their Dry Gin and here I go straying again. Koval, out of Chicago, makes a number of different spirits, including a solid rye and bourbon. It’s Chicago’s oldest distillery, and one that strives to use only organic grains. Word. The distillery only produces small batch, hand crafted spirits and has a bevy of awards that prove their attention to detail.
This gin speaks for itself, and it speaks volumes.
First of all, it smells so good, I considered asking my wife to start using it as perfume. It has an herbal, earthy quality to it, which makes sense when you consider that well-made gin is basically just a bunch of botanicals. The taste follows suit, with a complex mix of citrus and floral notes followed by some pepper. It has an incredibly dry finish, with just a bit of burn from the alcohol on the back end.
There aren’t many gins I’d drink neat just for fun, but Koval is that good. Add ice and it takes the edge off of everything. The mouthfeel gets a little rounder. The finish a little less dry. It’s still good, but there’s too much water in the mix now. Gin isn’t like bourbon where a little bit of ice or a drop of water brings out new characteristics. With gin, the booze just gets diluted. That’s why a lot of people think it’s actually best to stir a martini instead of shake it (sorry Bond).
After letting the bottle sit in the freezer for several hours, I went to work on making a martini. Your standard martini is simple—1 part vermouth, 4 parts gin. Add an olive. What I like to do with my martinis is just introduce the gin to the vermouth. I put the bottles next to each other, let them have a moment, but never actually allow them to mingle. The vermouth never actually goes into the martini. I’ll drop a dash of olive juice into the shaker, a couple of cubes of ice and stir.
The Koval martini is top notch. You still get all of the floral and herbal complexity of the straight gin, but there’s a bit of saltiness added from the olive juice. I’m sure Koval would make a hell of a gin and tonic too. I don’t know for sure though, because honestly, I cashed the entire sample bottle working through one martini after the other. It feels good to be home again.
Distillery: Koval Distillery
City: Chicago, Ill.
Style: Dry Gin