KOVAL Distillery Photo Essay

The curiosity from the pond in Kentucky traveled to a distillery in Chicago. A couple decades after my grandfather and I reeled in our lines and the shoreline drifted farther into the pond, I entered the whiskey industry at KOVAL Distillery. The artistic charm of the copper stills, the depth of the stacked barrels and the familiar hum of a distillery transformed my childhood imagination to a daily reality. The distillery became my arena of education and the fellas on the distilling team were my teachers for more than three years.


On Friday mornings I arrived early to the distillery. A luminescent glow shined through the rooftop windows, painting a sepia tone on the column potstill and metal tanks .I rambled down the row of fermentors, following the light and the fresh aroma of rye converting its starches into sugar. The mash tun expelled the laden smell of organic grains settling in the tank.

Past the mash, an assembly of barrels were transforming the white ghost of the spirit into deep a amber. The morning glow turned the white oak barrels into golden monuments. I glided my fingers along the light, through the grooves and knots of the staves. Around the corner, one of the distillers was admiring a batch of whiskey running through the columns. We greeted each other with a hug. Our conversation turned to what he was just appreciating. Although we’ve both seen the production process countless times, we remained charmed by the magic of distilling; how the heart cut–clear as rain–will transform into an unrivaled whiskey after calling charred barrels home. 

He gave me second hug, this one a bit tighter, because we were saying goodbye. This was my final morning wandering through KOVAL Distillery. I was privileged to have worked at the revolutionary distillery. My grandfather was an engineer at Jim Beam, and he taught me the importance of remaining dedicated your craft. Friday mornings are what I miss most–conversing with and capturing the fervent folks that are apart of crafting KOVAL’s innovative spirits.

jake hukee