Conecuh Ridge Whiskey
Conecuh Ridge is described as an “Alabama Style Tippling Whiskey”, a rather imprecise designation which basically means that it is patterned after the spirits that would have been available at informal “tippling houses”. Clyde May used spring water from Southern Alabama and added oven-dried apples to his barrels. The resulting hints of green apple and cinnamon not only made it smoother than other whiskeys—they’re what made it Alabama Style. It is then aged for five to six years in heavy-toast charred white oak barrels.
Conecuh Ridge Whiskey is a type of whiskey produced and officially marketed as “Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey” by Conecuh Ridge Distillery Inc. It is marketed as a high-quality aged moonshine whiskey which was produced illegally in Alabama during the mid to late 20th century. The brand was legalized by the moonshiner’s son Kenny May.
In 2004 it was designated the official “State Spirit” of Alabama by legislative resolution. Later the same year the brand’s founder Kenny May was charged with several violations of Alabama liquor laws, to which he pleaded guilty. After a 15-month period during which the whiskey was unavailable for purchase, the brand ownership was restructured and production resumed.
The History of Conecuh Ridge Whiskey begins with Clyde May, a legendary Alabama moonshiner and bootlegger. From the 1950s to the 1980s Clyde managed to produce around 300 gallons a week in a still of his own design in the woods near Almeria, Alabama in Bullock County, southeast of Montgomery. His product 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 in charred barrels with a couple of dried apples for flavor. This would be aged for about one year. 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”. Always operating outside the state liquor laws, Clyde May served an 18-month sentence at Maxwell Air Force Base in 1973. He gave up his cell to the man who convicted him, Attorney General John N. Mitchell, who was convicted in 1974 on charges from the Watergate scandal.