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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Clyde May's Straight Bourbon

The bourbon industry is filled with fanciful stories of "handed down recipes" or bear a family name attributed to craft distilling at a backwoods still. Few, though, can actually share that their bourbon story is true. Here's the story of the man behind the whiskey - Clyde May.

Read and Run! The story of Clyde May's whiskey begins with an actual man - Clyde May - a native of Bullock County along the Conecuh Ridge. The tale goes that Clyde produced more than 300 gallons of moonshine corn liquor weekly at his still deep in the Alabama backwoods where he posted signs that read, "Read and run". Clyde was born to a single mother before the Great Depression. He served with distinction in World War 2, earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He returned home to his hardscrabble life and began providing for his family the best way he could - by making great moonshine.

May passed away in 1990 and his son, Kenny May, wanted to reproduce his father's liquor as a tribute. Kentucky Bourbon Distillers produced some of Clyde's recipe in the early 2000s, utilizing the family recipe and water from the Conecuh Ridge spring. It wasn't long before the Alabama state legislature decreed the Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey as the state's official spirit. In 2017, plans were made to establish the Conecuh Ridge Distillery in Troy, Alabama, not far from where Clyde made his original products illegally. The flagship product is an Alabama-style whiskey. While Mays offered unaged moonshine for sale, he sometimes held some of the best distilled products back to be aged in oak barrels to which he added some dried apples to smooth the whiskey, resulting in this regional-inspired spirit. The Tasting Clyde Mays Straight Bourbon, though, is a straight bourbon, indicating it adheres to the standards of bourbon (at least 51% corn and aged in new oak barrels). While the mash bill is undisclosed, it's believed to be a mix of 78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. No age statement is present on the bottle, but from the website, we learn that this has been aged 4-5 years in 53-gallon oak barrels. This is one of the more colorful bottles on the market, and is adorned with photographs of Clyde and a multi-color parchment label. While the distillery produces a number of Alabama style whiskeys, the label indicates that this product is distilled in Kentucky at an undisclosed location, is non-chill filtered, and bottled at 92 proof. Eye: Dark amber.

Nose: Delightful with a host of vanilla, caramel, and buttered corn bread. Palate: Thick on the palate with a chewy mouthfeel laced with vanilla, oak, clove, cinnamon, and berries. Finish: Medium-long and dry, with oak char and pepper spice. Overall: We were in Alabama avoiding the Midwestern winter and thought I should try some of the local brands. Imagine my surprise when I read the fine print that this bourbon was actually distilled in Kentucky. The bourbon typically sells for a mid-$30 price for a 750ml bottle, though in a controlled state like Alabama, I paid nearly that much for a 375ml bottle. Overall, not a bad bourbon, but not an outstanding one, either. I do enjoy the savoriness offered by a non-chill filtered bourbon. The finished product had traditional bourbon notes in addition to some fruitier ones. It was fine, however, the real life story might just be better than bourbon. At MSRP, this was fine - but certainly not at the 100% markup presented on the Gulf coast.

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