“The history of Conecuh Ridge Whiskey begins with Clyde May, a legendary Alabama moonshiner and bootlegger,” according to an informational pamphlet distributed at a press conference. “He was a moonshiner by trade but a craftsman by heart.”
Wade Hall’s book, “Water of Life from Conecuh Ridge: The Clyde May Story,” outlines the life of Clyde May, who died in 1990, and describes the whiskey he made while in Bullock County, located southeast of Montgomery, near Union Springs.
“Conecuh Ridge runs from northern Pike County through the western end of Bullock County at High Ridge all the way to Union Springs, coming down by the country club and then out the Peachburg Road along Chunnenuggee Ridge, where the Conecuh River is sourced by Springs of Conecuh,” according to the book.
According to David Kirby, lecturer in the Hall School of Journalism, Bullock County was known for its whiskey.
“We went up into Bullock County because that was where you could go to get moonshine,” Kirby said. “We would go into grocery stores and people would say, ‘You see that place over there? They sold ‘shine.’
“Most of the little mom-and-pop grocery stores/gas stations, they all sold it.”
“Some of the older fellows in Bullock County still have a few bottles of Daddy’s whiskey hidden away,” Kenny May stated in the book.
In 2001, Clyde’s son, Kenny May, took over the whiskey business, and in the memoir, Kenny May discussed his plans for the future.
“I plan to distill and market a superior brand of of whiskey patterned on the ingredients, techniques and standards that he (Clyde May) used to make moonshine,” the memoir stated.
“The difference is that this time it will be legal.”
When producing moonshine was illegal, Clyde May was arrested, put on trial and found guilty for making moonshine, so he spent eight months at the federal penitentiary at Maxwell Field in Montgomery in 1973, according to the book.
As the official spirit of Alabama, Clyde May’s incorporates the state flavors into its whiskey.
“Today we honor Clyde’s legacy with a blend of five- and six-year old bourbon, finished in that one-of-a-kind Alabama Style,” according to the brand’s website.
Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey is a “unique blend” of oven-dried apples added to the whiskey barrel that produces hints of green apple and cinnamon, according to the brand’s website.
Local ingredients, distilled and aged for five to six years in charred American oak barrels, juice extracted from apples and natural apple essence gently folded into aged bourbon are key traits and characteristics of Clyde May’s Whiskey.
“It’s the fresh, pure water of these springs and the small branches and streams that feed into the Conecuh River as it meanders slowly and sluggishly southward—all filtered by the sandy soil of the ridgelands—that produces the main and vital ingredient for good moonshine whiskey,” the book states.
“Real whiskey drinkers love the taste of it before they feel any of the effects, before they get a buzz or a glow or a high,” according to the book. “People like to drink whiskey to relax, to unwind, to get rid of tension, to sleep better.
“Good whiskey is truly ‘the waters of life,’ which is what the world whiskey means in Gaelic.”
Currently, Clyde May’s Whiskey is sold in over 200 stores in Alabama.
“If they make it (the whiskey) in Pike County, surely all the places around here that sell alcoholic beverages will sell it, and they will dispense it in bars and restaurants around here,” Kirby said.