Sonat, a Chicago native, spent over a decade working in advertising in Europe's most exciting cities while completing an MS at Oxford and a PhD at the University of London. As a former professor in the United States and Germany, she has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships for her many publications. Of all the places she has lived, nowhere is closer to her heart than Chicago, the "Paris of the Prairie," and so she gave up tenure and returned to her hometown to start a sustainable family business, where she has spearheaded much of the product development and distribution and the rearing of the company’s future - two adorable sons.
Master Distiller & Chief Executive Officer
Robert is one of America’s top distilling experts, an internationally-renowned consultant, and the creator of the most unique spirits in America. An Austrian native, Robert grew up helping his grandparents at their award-winning distillery and winery and later received a certificate from Austria’s leading university program for distilling technology, Höhere Bundeslehranstalt und Bundesamt für Wein- und Obstbau Klosterneuburg. He also honed his skills working with Europe’s foremost spirits expert, Dr. Klaus Hagmann, developing fermentation techniques for craft distilleries. Robert is a key lecturer at Siebel Institutes' distilling courses and teaches over 150 prospective distillers a year in his own workshops. Robert's technical expertise and creativity have garnered Koval national and international spirits awards. Before focusing on distilling, Robert was the Deputy Press Secretary for the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC. His decision to distill was born out of his love of traditional crafts and the pride of a small family business, both of which exemplify the real American dream.
Distiller & Chief Operating Officer
[To properly experience this bio, please read this in your head in the voice of Morgan Freeman.] Needing an internship before graduating from Roosevelt University, Mark stumbled upon a young, fledgling Koval in its first year of operation. Yeah, he got the job only a few minutes after leaving the interview like a boss. Now he actually is a boss as Koval's COO. Mark can mash, run the still, and boss people around like nobody's business. Interested in Mark's interests? Well those would be snowboarding, beer, and flugtag. Mark's favorite holiday? That would be a tie between St. Patrick's Day, Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. 'Nuff said.
Southern Market Manager
Jen is a native of New Orleans, the original cocktail city. She moved north to Chicago for college, but found herself truly at home in our distillery. Armed with a degree in anthropology and a healthy reverence for a well-mixed Sazerac, she's thrilled to be introducing Koval to the South, where she can usually be found sipping whiskey on the porch in the shade of banana trees.
Midwest Market Manager - South
A lady from pretty (and hilly) Pittsburgh, PA, Kristine rarely hesitates to tout Steel City as one of America's best and most underrated. After studying photojournalism and French at Boston University, she cozied up to Chicago, a city much larger and flatter than expected but just as groovy as she hoped. Her love of craft beer and curiosity toward Uptown led her to Koval, where she is absolutely delighted to spread the joy of divine whiskey to a city that loves the local.
Midwest Market Manager - North
North-side Chicago native Jessica graduated from Indiana University with a dual degree in religion and India studies. She spent nearly a year in India, studying yoga and ayurveda, and has a background in sustainable agriculture, including biodynamics and permaculture. Her list of passions is long: food culture, history, justice, farming, gardening, baking, catering, freelance writing, and blogging--not to mention wine and spirits! She was attracted to Koval’s philosophy and approach to distilling and its connection to the land and the local community. And the delicious whiskeys, of course!
East Coast Market Manager - NY & NJ
Originally from the Southeast, Stephen has a deep-rooted connection to the food and beverage industry--he views his job as "a facilitator of fun." He has worked with and trained under some of New York City’s most notable cocktail champions, managed restaurants and bars, produced events for luxury brands and nonprofit groups, and has a strong belief in the organic and sustainable movements. His weakness for whiskey and the craft spirits movement led him to Koval, which he is proud to represent in the northeastern US.
Born and raised in the great commonwealth of Virginia, Mariah transplanted to the midwest to study physics at Northwestern University. Staying in Chicago after graduation seemed way easier than selling all her furniture and moving back east, so here she is, a Washington Capitals devotee in a Blackhawks city. She’s a licensed skydiver and can be found jumping out of planes in Wisconsin or eating fried bologna sandwiches when not working. Mariah can be seen running around Chicago, literally (she doesn't own a car), when limited-release whiskies come out, and this love of whiskey and Chicago food/drink culture is what brought her to Koval.
East Coast Market Manager - MD & DC
Peter, an avid gourmet chef and connoisseur of fine wines and spirits who has spent 25 years in the hospitality business, was instrumental in assisting wounded soldiers returning to the US as the former director of Walter Reed Hospital's hospitality program. He currently splits his time between Washington, DC, and Austria's scenic Salzkammergut region.
John hails from California, and he's a retired Army Ranger, sound engineer, EMT, and all-around stone-cold sweetheart. He was one of the soldiers that fast-roped into Mogadishu, Somalia, inspiring the movie "Black Hawk Down." The rest of us aren't nearly as cool; If John was a transformer he'd be Optimus Prime while the rest of us just transformed into a cassette deck a la Soundwave. John can mash all day, run a still like nobody's business, and he's a handyman to boot. He also enjoys a good chicken sandwich on occasion.
A native Oklahoman and a mechanical engineer by trade, Nick graduated from Northwestern University and spent 6 years in Chicago working in product design and development. An interest in distilling, a love for a good Old Fashioned and the desire to get covered in mash on a daily basis led Nick to Koval. There's an endless list of improvement projects around the distillery, so when Nick isn't performing any number of production tasks, you can probably find him wiedling a torch, swinging a hammer or just generally trying to make random objects line up at 90 degree angles. You know, like a man.