By Richard Thomas
Clyde May’s Alabama Whiskey is a sourced-and-bottled brand released by Conecuh Ridge Distillery, and has a lengthy backstory full of twists and turns. That tale begins with the very real Clyde May, a very real and very prolific post-war era Alabama moonshiner. His fame is pegged both to his consistent, long-term productivity and the quality of his product, which was reputedly a blend of unaged and aged corn whiskeys. The latter spent a year, give or take, in an oak barrel with a handful of dried apples thrown in.
After Clyde passed away in 1990, his son Kenny began looking for a way to honor his father and legitimize the family’s liquor recipe. He was eventually able to produce the first sourced Conecuh Ridge Whiskey in 2002 through what is now known as Willett (themselves purely a source-and-bottle operation, the nation’s largest, in those days). Alabama named it the state spirit in 2004, and it did very well as a local product.
Then Kenny May ran into some legal difficulties, resulting in his sale of the brand to a Georgia-based company in 2006, which in turn sold it on to a Texas company in 2009. There is no actual distillery.
The original Alabama whiskey was sourced from Kentucky and clearly labeled as such, but modern examples like this 2017 9 year old cask strength come from an unknown provider. This particular release follows last year’s 8 year old cask strength, thus representing an older version of the same fundamental stock, bottled at 117 proof.
In the glass, Clyde May 9 Year Old is a sharp red, middling amber, a tone with a very reflective, bright appearance. The coat of the glass dropped a lot of skinny legs.
The nose has a current of peppermint and spiciness that jumps out at you, followed hard by a thick layer of vanilla and a little stone fruitiness/. Only after a few sniffs did I pick up a light note of oak. Sometimes I picked up a little heat, but not with every nosing.
One on the palate, a dry, spicy and woody character occupies most of the stage, crowding out the underlying sweetness. Although it’s not a hot whiskey at this stage, I recommend a splash of water or an ice cube, because either will bring the flavor into better balance. That done, the sweetness opens up to reveal vanilla and peach. In terms of texture, the whiskey is rich and creamy, and hangs onto that character even with a little dilution, so you have nothing to lose.
The finish continues that run of dry spiciness, but this soon fades just leaving some sweet, seasoned peaches and warmth to savor.
This 9 year old cask strength bourbon-cum-Alabama whiskey retails for $99.99.