DSR – OTH – 002: Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Company/Distillery: Conecuh Ridge Distillery
Location: Distilled in Indiana; Bottled in Auburndale, Florida
Mash Bill: Undisclosed; Sourced from Indiana.
Age Statement: No Age Statement. Website indicates aged 4 to 5 years.
Proof/ABV: 92 Proof/46% ABV
Color & Viscosity: The appearance of this whiskey in the glass is light and thin. The color is close to a burnished tint. A very thin and transparent viscous line appears on the glass. Spotty tear drops form and quickly descend down into the pool of bourbon below.
Purchase Price: $38.47 from the NC ABC Stores – May 2021; 750 ml
Bottle Label Information:
“Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey”
“Conecuh Ridge Distillery, USA | Since 1946”
“Non Chill Filtered”
“Recipe No. 2”
“Honoring the historic distillation process made famous by Clyde May – The Clyde 240”
“Master Distiller: Clyde May”
Side Panel Label
“Say Whatcha Be & Be Whatcha Say”
“Clyde May was a moonshiner by trade but a craftsman by heart. He made his famous whiskey in hand-built copper stills, with fresh Alabama spring water and the finest local ingredients. The man was locked up for his passion — eight months in the federal penitentiary — yet he started up those copper stills the day he got out.”
“This straight bourbon honors Clyde’s dedication to the craft. We use simple ingredients and a patient aging process to produce a fine, easy-drinking spirit. Like Clyde’s own moonshine, it’s a whiskey with integrity. Straightforward, porch-sitting, rocking chair bourbon — and this time, it’s perfectly legal.”
“Distilled in Indiana | Bottled by Conecuh Ridge Distillery, Auburndale, FL | Product of USA”
History of Clyde May
Clyde May was born in 1922 (or 1925 according to some accounts) near the Conecuh River in Bullock County, Alabama. Mr. May was born to a single mother and spent much of his pre-teen years surviving the Great Depression–a time that most certainly wasn’t easy to navigate as a young boy in Alabama. In 1942, at the age of 20, Clyde would enlist in the US Army to serve with his fellow Americans during World War II. He was assigned to the 77th Infantry Division which would spend its time deployed in the Southern Philippines. While enlisted, May would lead a rifle squadron of 12 men. He would eventually be wounded in battle and awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service.
After his stint in the Army, around 1944, Clyde May would return to his hometown in Alabama and begin his distilling career deep in the woods. May would craft the highest quality moonshine corn liquor by using his own designed still, later to be known as the Clyde 240 still. May’s 240 still used a compact condenser which allowed him to move it easily out of sight of the authorities. In addition, May believed that the smaller condenser cooled his moonshine quicker and distilled moonshine faster than other designs. May cleverly nicknamed the Clyde 240 still after the fact that it cost him $240 to build it from scratch. May’s luck would run out in 1973, when he would be apprehended by the authorities and sentenced to serve an 8 month sentence in the federal penitentiary at Maxwell’s Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. His time in prison only served as a brief pause in his distilling career. Upon his release, he promptly returned to the woods and distilled moonshine up until his death in 1990.
In 2001, Clyde May’s son, Kenny May, would decide to honor his dad’s legacy by starting to produce Alabama whiskey legally. Early on, whiskey was sourced from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers where they produced the spirit using limestone spring water secured from the Conecuh Ridge area in Alabama. In 2004, the Alabama legislature would name Conecuh Ridge Alabama Whiskey, the official Alabama State Spirit – another nod to the work and life of Clyde May. At the time of this review, Conecuh Ridge Distillery had planned to break ground on a new distillery in Alabama in late 2019 or early 2020, which appears to be delayed. Currently, Conecuh Ridge Distillery, which is headquarter in Garden City, New York, sources their whiskey from Indiana (presumably MGP). The barrels are then shipped down to Florida where they are bottled by Conecuh Ridge Distillery in Auburndale – the home base of Caribbean Distillers, also known as Florida Distillers Company.
Offerings available from Clyde May’s Conecuh Ridge Distillery: Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey; Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Clyde May’s Special Reserve Cask Strength 5 Year Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Clyde May’s Cask Strength Alabama Style Whiskey; Clyde May’s Straight Rye Whiskey; Clyde May’s Special Reserve Alabama Style Whiskey.
Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey is sourced from Indiana and bottled in Florida. The mash bill is undisclosed by the company. After distillation, the whiskey is aged for 4 to five years in 53-gallon new American oak barrels and is bottled without chill filtration. Very little additional information is made available about the specifics of this whiskey, how it is made, or if the water used to produce is still from springs in Alabama.
Tasting Date/Vessel: May 21, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a few drops of distilled water.
Christian: Before pouring Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey into the Glencairn glass, I take a nice nosing of the spirit in the bottle. The whiskey emits a nice sweetness from the bottle. Warm brown sugar jumps out quickly and is accompanied by a soft essence of oak. My first nosing of the bourbon in my glass reveals the sweet aroma of vanilla and brown sugar. A gentle swirl and return to my nose reveals a hint of cereal grains – in this case it reminds me of Honey Roasted Honey Bunches of Oats. Finally, I note a very vague hint of dark berries. I find the nose on this spirit rather pleasant. The addition of distilled water and a quick swirl allows the vanilla to be joined by a bit of Juicy Fruit chewing gum aroma. This quickly transitions to a warm honey and brown sugar aroma.
Christian: Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey is seriously sweet on the tip of my tongue. This whiskey has a delicate mouthfeel that is not as thin as it appeared in the glass. This pour offers notes of honey, graham crackers, and loads of real leather. As I allow the bourbon to roll down my tongue, I am met with a rush of baking spices. Clove and cinnamon candy ramp up what was a rather docile start to this experience. The distilled water really thins out the mouth feel. The flavors become muted, with honey remaining as the dominant presence.
Christian: Clyde May’s has a medium to long finish that is spicy and dry. My tongue continues to tingle long after the spirit has been swallowed. In addition, a nice warming hug wells up in my chest and lingers a bit. The finish is a little bitter with oak char, cinnamon, and burnt brown sugar leading the way. As I allow the flavors to dissipate, I notice a very light touch of baked green apples hanging around. It arrives very late, but is noticeable on the palate. The distilled water does not take away from the spiciness here. The finish remains unbelievable dry with oak, black pepper, and cinnamon really standing strong.
Christian: Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon whiskey is not a bad sipping whiskey. The pour has a nice nose, enjoyable palate, and noticeably spicy finish that makes for a good spirit to be enjoyed with friends. This whiskey is traditional in bourbon flavors — there is not anything here to really set it apart from others. I believe they really try and push the story of Clyde May as that “it” factor. Unfortunately, as cool as the background story is, it just isn’t going to bring that added pop to really set this bottle apart from other straight bourbon offerings. In addition, I really wish the company relied a little less on the history and a little more on transparency of the product you are drinking. Honestly, we know very little about this product and that is a little concerning to me. Good Sipping whiskey, traditional flavors, reasonable price point. A middle of the road whiskey worth trying.
Rating: 2.50 Rickhouses