The history of the Clyde May’s brand is rather tumultuous. It is named for Lewis Clyde May, a talented moonshiner from Alabama. He was a World War II Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient while serving in the Army’s 77th Infantry Division. He was a peanut farmer. He was also caught and convicted for illegally making his shine.
In 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, and 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.
If that’s not crazy enough, Conecuh Ridge Distillery lost its license to sell Alabama’s Official Spirit in Alabama!
A 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, slated to open in early 2023.
Today I’m exploring Clyde May’s Special Reserve, a 6-year Straight Bourbon distilled by MGP/Ross & Squibb, although the mashbill is undisclosed. This Bourbon is non-chill filtered and packaged at 110°. It should run in the neighborhood of $60.00.
“In 1946, before there was a craft whiskey boom, Clyde May revolutionized the art of whiskey making by crafting a unique style of whiskey we refer to as Alabama style. Clyde discovered that by using dried apples in the aging process, it resulted in a whiskey of unparalleled smoothness and richness. The ultimate sipping whiskey.
Back in the day, Clyde May gifted this select stock of barrels as a sign of respect to his close friends and lucky locals. Today we pay homage to Clyde and offer you our Special Reserve Straight Bourbon.” – Conecuh Brands
Sixty-some-odd dollars for 110° six-year MGP Bourbon seems reasonable; of course, that’s assuming it tastes good. The only way that can be determined is to pour a glass and #DrinkCurious. Conecuh Brands generously provided me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s get to it!
Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass revealed a liquid the color of burnt umber. A medium rim released slow, sticky tears.
Nose: I smelled brown sugar, corn, cinnamon, and cherries. Despite allowing it to rest for about 20 minutes, there was still a punch of ethanol. When I brought the air into my mouth, molasses coated my tongue.
Palate: In contrast with the nose, there was no ethanol blast on my palate. An extremely oily mouthfeel introduced vanilla and caramel on the front. Raisin, black currant, and dark chocolate flavors were at the middle, while charred oak, cinnamon, and clove formed the back.
Finish: I encountered a long, spicy finish of dark chocolate, cinnamon spice, clove, and barrel char. There was a kiss of caramel before everything fell off.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Clyde May’s Special Reserve is a Bourbon that drinks at its stated proof, if not a smidge higher. The spice notes became bolder as I continued to sip, and if I tasted this blind, I would swear to you that it was an American Rye. Overall, this whiskey doesn’t offer something to differentiate itself from other high-rye Bourbons. Is it priced reasonably? Yes. But it hasn’t crossed the threshold to a Bottle rating, so I recommend you try this one at a Bar first. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.