Clyde May’s Conecuh Ridge Alabama Style Whiskey – American Whiskey Sunday
A Most Wonderful October To You Fellow WhiskyLover
Four weeks to go until we choose our next President and, if you’re like me, you’re sick and tired of the insipid bickering over who’ll serve our country better. This weeks Whiskey Wednesday email is about a true American Hero, who served our country in more ways than one.
After serving in World War II, Clyde May returned to Alabama to farm his land and raise a family. For hundreds of years, Alabama farmers took their excess produce and turned it into liquid gold to help supplement their income. It was a time-honored tradition, and the Conecuh Ridge where May lived is an area that was renowned for its illegal whiskey-making. At one point, Federal agencies said it had the heaviest concentration of stills in the US.
Though Clyde reared eight children, his farming endeavors were not as successful. Following in the well-worn footsteps of many before him, he turned to the illegal trade of whiskey-making, or “branch- farming” as he liked to call it, to help supplement his income. Mr. Clyde had a reputation for honesty, integrity and for producing the finest whiskey in the area.
From the 1950s to the 1980s Clyde managed to produce around 300 gallons a week in a still of his own design. His whiskey, then called Conecuh Ridge Whiskey, was known for its high quality relative to typical moonshine. According to his son, Kenny, the reason was his painstaking insistence on using the best equipment he could fabricate and taking extra steps during production to maintain the purity and quality of the product.
While much of it was sold unaged as corn liquor, a certain amount would be casked and aged for about a year in charred barrels with a couple of dried apples for flavor. Clyde claimed that the hot Alabama summers accelerated the effect of aging, requiring only one year instead of the minimum of two given to Kentucky Bourbons. This would be bottled and given to friends and valued customers as “Christmas Whiskey”.
When Clyde May died in 1990 his son Kenny began looking for a way to honor his father’s memory by producing legal whiskey from his recipe. Careful planning led to a production run of 4000 bottles of Conecuh Ridge Whiskey in 2002 overseen by master distiller Even Kulsveen of Kentucky Bourbon Distillers.
In April 2004, both houses of the Alabama Legislature voted to adopt a resolution naming “Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey” the “official state spirit”. For a few months it was sold in Alabama’s 147 ABC State Liquor Stores and privately-owned package stores in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.
In December 2004, state liquor agents charged Kenny May with misdemeanor violations in two counties. He pleaded guilty and the Control Board immediately moved to revoke Conecuh Ridge’s distribution license, meaning that once stores sold out of their existing stock, the state’s official spirit could no longer be sold in Alabama. May’s stock was held in trust pending the outcome of his trial.
Spirits industry veteran Wes Henderson assumed interim leadership of the company and led the company through turbulent times. Under Henderson’s leadership, distribution was expanded to additional domestic and international markets.
This is a small batch, limited production whiskey. But thanks to our man Nicky The Neck, who has a cousin who lives along the Conecuh Ridge, we’ve been able to secure more than our fair share of this wonderful bourbon-like Alabama whisky.
And so we’re excited to be able to serve our country the opportunity to purchase a bottle of Clyde May’s Whiskey for $36.95/ bottle. But as always, the supply is extremely limited…and once its gone, it’s gone.
Until next week…I wish you high spirits!
CLYDE MAY’S CONECUH RIDGE WHISKEY
Color: Deep, the glimmering bronze color with perfect clarity.
Aroma: The generous aromatics are loaded with rich caramel, dried orchard fruits, toffee, butterscotch, nutmeg, spicy rye notes, maple, and candied orange peel.
Taste: The palate is harmonious and seamless. The flavor profile bursts open with dried fruits, sage and black pepper offering enough viscosity to give the whiskey length and depth.
Finish: Silky finish with a complex black pepper accent and hints of anise and toasted oak.