KOVAL Distillery, featuring Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart [The Jewish Drinking Show, episode 118]

I was surprised to hear in the course of the 118th episode that there were fewer than 45 distilleries in the US just a decade and a half ago when the founders of KOVAL Distillery sought to enter into business(!). In talking with one of the co-founders, Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, I was impressed to hear about how they created not only the first distillery in Chicago since the 19th century, but also about getting legislation passed to make distilleries legal in Chicago and Illinois. Dr. Birnecker Hart shares not only about starting up the award-winning and kosher-certified distillery KOVAL, but also about being consulted by hundreds of people about getting their distilleries off the ground.

Biography of Guest
Dr. Birnecker Hart co-founded the internationally award-winning distillery, KOVAL. As its president, she has spearheaded product development, distribution, and marketing. She also co-founded Kothe Distilling Technologies, a distillery start-up consulting firm. Prior to her distilling experience, she received her doctorate from University of London with her dissertation on “History through Humor: The Evocation of the Viennese Coffeehouse Society in Friedrich Torberg’s ‘Tante Jolesch’ Books, with particular Reference to the Problems of Assimilation and Anti-Semitism” (WorldCat link), she has spent over a decade as a full professor of Jewish Studies in both the United States and Germany, holding the Walter Benjamin Chair of German Jewish Cultural History at Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2008, she gave up tenure to co-found KOVAL. Dr. Birnecker Hart also currently serves as the Chair of the Steering Committee of the JDCorps.

In addition to being available below in video format, the episode is also available in podcast format on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you prefer listening to podcasts:

Disclosure: Review samples of KOVAL whiskies and gins were provided to The Jewish Drinking Show for review purposes.

Time Stamps
0:00 Welcome
0:36 Introduction to Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart
1:42 Transitioning from Academia to Distilling
9:35 Dealing with Legalities of Opening-Up a Distillery in Chicago
14:29 Consulting with Distilleries in Other States
18:18 Learning from Consulting
20:26 Sneak Peak Into Next Week’s Episode Featuring Tzafona Cellars
21:00 Growth of KOVAL Distillery and Products
23:53 KOVAL Chooses Hearts – No Heads, No Tails
28:13 The Specialness of Grains for KOVAL products
31:20 Further Discussion on Products
39:21 Kosher-Certification
42:44 Why is KOVAL’s rye whiskey not hot?
44:36 Visit KOVAL
45:58 L’chaim!

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