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Koval Distillery was established in 2008, the first distillery to operate in Chicago since the mid-1800s. Founders Robert and Sonat Birnecker left careers in academia to make organic spirits from scratch rather than the common practice of bottling pre-made spirits.

The name Koval translates as 'blacksmith' in several languages, but also means 'black sheep' in Yiddish. Sonat's great grandfather earned the nickname Koval when he emigrated to America in the early 1900s and Robert's grandfather's surname is Schmidt, German for Smith. In this way Koval pays tribute to both men.