This story is getting so old even I’m bored of writing it. An upstart distillery, not ready yet, blah blah and blah. The marketing package, complete with pretty illustrations and so so many fonts, involves an Alabama moonshiner and his various escapades that bear little relevance to the whiskey. It’s worth noting that Clyde May invented “Alabama Style” whiskey (really, moonshine) by adding dried apples to barrels of new make. Conecuh Ridge Distillery Inc. (not a distillery), which owns the brand, also sells an “Alabama Style” version of Clyde May’s, complete with the apple flavor. A quick note on the apple thing: The website calls it “a natural essence of apple” which makes me leery that they’re just adding apple flavoring to the bottles and not aging the whiskey with dried apples, as was the tradition started by their namesake. More research is warranted if you’re interested in that kind of thing.
This review is for the Straight Bourbon (not the Alabama Style), which is sourced whiskey from an undisclosed Kentucky distillery. The Internet suggests Heaven Hill is likely, although KBD (now MGP) sourced the whiskey for the first couple of runs of Conecuh Ridge Alabama Style whiskey, so it’s also possible that Clyde May’s continued that practice when MGP started distilling. The sourced whiskey is aged for 4-5 years (so, 4) in alligator-charred new oak barrels. The liquid is bottled without chill filtration, which isn’t something you normally see on American whiskey labels. Oh, and the company (and bottling plant) is based in Florida, so these whiskeys have literally nothing to do with Alabama. Everything else on the label is pure pseudo-legal marketing bunk and can safely be ignored.
The company also produces the aforementioned apple-infused Alabama Style whiskey (which can’t be called bourbon because of the apples), a 110 proof “Special Reserve” Alabama Style, a 9 year-old Cask Strength Alabama Style, and a Straight Rye.
Nose: A mid-line bourbon with an interesting tart high note. Cherry, light corn and grains, not aggressive.
Palate: Thin body. Woody upfront, with a mild tongue burn. The oak is bold and complex but borders on cardboardy (nope, not a word) and there’s a lot of it, obscuring the more delicate whiskey notes. Edging toward dry, but with just enough (oaky) sweetness to keep balance.
Finish: Medium-long. Nutty, with the oak taking a backseat, contributing only some welcome drying tannins. Some bitterness (probably from all that oak) creeps in at the end. Pleasant, but commonplace.
With Water: A few drops of water make the aroma oddly shy, even after several minutes of rest. The water brings some nuttiness to the palate, and thins the oak enough to bring out complexity. I suggest giving it a good smell before adding the water, which does help make the whiskey coherent on the tongue.
Overall: A decidedly middle-of-the-road bourbon. The cherry notes are nice, but rote, and the palate would be well-balanced if it weren’t for a heavy hand with the oak. For what it’s worth, it also makes a very acceptable (indeed, slightly above-average) Old Fashioned, where those oak notes are welcome and stand up to bitters nicely. I marked this “Try Before Buy” because this is $35 not $20, but if that doesn’t bother you, the bourbon is just fine, and you won’t likely be disappointed.