remember when Clyde May’s Conecuh Ridge Alabama Style Whiskey hit
Florida. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow was working at a liquor store, and I was there when
the brand rep was there talking it up. I was so excited; the story was remarkable,
and it was pretty affordable. I was, unfortunately, disappointed.
lot has changed since then. We left Florida several years ago and relocated to
Wisconsin. Since joining the team at Bourbon & Banter, I embraced
the #DrinkCurious lifestyle. And, part of that philosophy is you come
back to stuff you’ve tasted in the past but didn’t initially love.
I’ve had my mind changed a few times. Probably the biggest surprise was Old Weller Antique. I was not a fan until the last few years. I didn’t revisit the entire time that stuff sat on the shelves. Nope, I waited until no one could find it. I’m still kicking myself for waiting so long.
stumbled upon a three-pack of Clyde May’s whiskeys when traveling in northern
Wisconsin. It included the original, a Bourbon, and a Rye. Hey, for the $8.00
investment, I figured this was a perfect opportunity, plus I hadn’t had the
history of the brand is rather tumultuous. It is named for Lewis Clyde May,
a talented moonshiner from Alabama. He was a World War II Purple Heart
recipient. He was a peanut farmer. He was also caught and convicted for
illegally making his shine.
1998, Clyde’s son Kenny started the Conecuh Ridge Distillery in
Troy, Alabama. Because distilling in Alabama was still illegal, the whiskey was
sourced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (more popularly known as Willett).
In 2004, the Alabama Senate passed a resolution making Conecuh Ridge Fine
Alabama Whiskey the official spirit of the state, which was curious since
it was illegal to distill! The governor
vetoed the resolution, the House and Senate overrode the veto. Soon after,
Kenny was arrested for selling alcohol without a license, selling alcohol to a
minor, and possessing an “excess” amount of alcohol in a dry county.
that’s not crazy enough, Conecuh Ridge Distillery lost its license to sell
Alabama’s Official Spirit in Alabama!
holding group then purchased the brand, reorganized it in 2014, and called it Conecuh Ridge Distillery, Inc. In 2017,
the brand announced it would build a new distillery in Troy. Whiskey was still
sourced from Kentucky, although it is unclear if that’s still Willett. The
bottling facility is in Cocoa, Florida.
I’m sipping on the three standard releases. One thing I do want to point out, which
does not affect the outcome of my review, is quality control of its taster set.
Two of the three screw tops were defective. One was cut incorrectly, and the
other stripped and required a can opener to remove.
Up first is the namesake, Clyde May’s Original Alabama Style Whiskey. On the bottle, it states Batch 001. Made from a mash of 55% corn, 30% rye, and 15% malted barley, it is estimated to have aged between six and seven years in charred oak barrels and finished with a “hint” of apple. It is packaged at 85°, and a 750ml retails for about $40.00.
Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Alabama
Style was coppery. It formed a thick rim which created sticky, fat drops that
worked their way back down the wall and into the pool.
apple influence was evident and, in fact, was green apple. That was joined by
corn, cinnamon, and caramel. When I inhaled through my lips, the green apple
Palate: I found the texture to be thin and watery. I
picked up caramel, vanilla, and corn on the front of my palate. The middle
offered only cinnamon spice. Fennel, oak, and black pepper rounded things out
on the back.
in duration, what remained was corn, fennel, toasted oak, and black pepper.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: My opinion all these years later isn’t
changed. Clyde May’s Original Alabama Style isn’t bad; I want to make that
clear. It just is… there. I found nothing distinctive about it sans the nose.
Considering bang for the buck, this one takes a Bar rating.
up is Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a/k/a Recipe 002. This one indicates it was
distilled in Indiana. In other words, MGP. It is non-chill filtered and
aged five years in new, charred oak. A 92°, 750ml package runs about $40.00.
Appearance: Sipped neat from my Glencairn glass, this
Bourbon appeared as golden amber. A medium rim led to weak legs.
of corn, toasted oak, cherry, and brown sugar were easy to discern. When I drew
the air into my mouth, vanilla rolled across my tongue.
mouthfeel was thin and oily. Peach, pecan, and vanilla were on the front, brown
sugar, corn, caramel, and cinnamon formulated the middle, and on the back,
clove, oak, and of all things, cherry pie filling.
Finish: The finish was a combination of clove,
allspice, cinnamon, toasted oak, and more cherry pie filling. It was medium in
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This Bourbon was tasty, easy to sip (perhaps a little too easy), and overall, enjoyable. The 92° worked nicely, and for $40.00, I believe this is well-priced for the market. I place the Bottle crown on the head of Clyde May Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Last but not least is Clyde May’s Straight Rye Whiskey. It is labeled Batch 003. Similar to the Bourbon, the Rye was distilled in Indiana. Non-chill filtered, it offers no age statement but rested in new, charred oak for at least four years. This one weighs slightly higher at 94° but maintains that same $40.00 price tag.
neat in my Glencairn glass, the rye was the color of ginger ale.
smacked me in the face before I had brought the glass to my nose. Beneath it
was rye, vanilla, and oak. The wintergreen muted to mint as I pulled the air
past my lips.
Palate: A thin, oily mouthfeel greeted my tongue. There
was also a significant bite of alcohol, despite giving it about 15-minutes of
breathing room. The front offered apple, rye spice, and molasses. Toffee and
vanilla formed the middle, while mint, oak, and black pepper completed the trip
across my mouth.
long finish featured mint, rye spice, and freshly-cracked black pepper. There
was something bitter that remained.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I have
an overall positive opinion of MGP’s Ryes. You can expect them to be
above-average in most cases. Yet this four-year-old, MGP-sourced Rye whiskey was
wholly off-profile and not in a good way. Rye matures faster than Bourbon, but for
whatever reason, it was overly green in this case. Clyde May’s Straight Rye Whiskey
needs more time in oak, or perhaps proofing it a few points lower. Taking price
entirely out of the equation, this one is a Bust.
Thoughts: I found it interesting
these three whiskeys covered my rating spectrum. The Bourbon was by far the
most enjoyable. The Original Alabama Style was unremarkable, and the Rye was
unpleasant. Nevertheless, Clyde May’s has its fanbase, and so long as that
remains, the brand has no reason to worry. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to
Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.