The story of Clyde May whiskey started out like many American whiskey stories. Clyde May was a farmer. After returning home from WWII he needed to make some extra money to help make ends meet for his family. That extra money came in the way of moonshine starting back in 1946. Clyde May himself never made a single drop of taxed spirits. In other words, for his entire life he was a bootlegger. And as many bootleggers go, he spent some time in the penitentiary for the pleasure of making his whiskey.
He served eight months of an 18 month sentence. After he got out of prison he went back to his craft mashing, distilling, and bottling (little chance for barreling but he did do some) and selling his Alabama style moonshine.
Unlike most moonshiners who simply sell white dog off the still, May did do some barreling of his whiskey. The way his Grandson Lewis Clyde ‘LC’ May II tells the story, “He actually took the time to age a lot of his moonshine into whiskey which was something that not a lot of moonshiners did because when you age something and you let it sit there, you are sitting on 53 gallons of evidence.”
Clyde May’s aged whiskey became so famous around Pike County, Alabama that in 2004 his ‘Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey’ became the official whiskey of the state of Alabama. There are only two states in the nation that have an official state spirit as of this writing. And if you are trying to guess the other state, we’ll tell you that it is not Kentucky or Tennessee. You can get that full story of how it became the official state spirit of Alabama here.
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About a decade after Clyde May passed away his son Kenny May decided he would take the family business legal. That business changed hands a few times and eventually ended up with Conecuh Brands out of Garden City, New York in 2016. Lead by President & CEO Roy Danis the Clyde May’s Whiskey brand has expanded to where it is now sold in all 50 states and internationally. The one thing the brand never had was its own distillery.
Danis shared that they work with MGP Ingredients today to source their whiskey using their own unique Clyde May bourbon and rye whiskey recipes. The whiskey is made and aged 5-6 years in Indiana but with this latest groundbreaking that will soon change.
Clyde May’s Whiskey Breaks Ground on $18 Million Distillery & Destination
Conecuh Brands has been working for several years to build their own distillery. After fighting through the pandemic and various delays that day has finally arrived and construction on the Conecuh Ridge Distillery in Troy, Alabama, the future home of Clyde May’s Whiskey has begun. Many are calling this a homecoming since this will be the first time in many years that their Alabama Style Whiskey will actually be made in Alabama.
“This groundbreaking permanently establishes the brand’s home in Troy, Alabama,” said Danis. “Clyde May, the man, a WW II war hero, a family man and expert whiskey maker got his start in this part of the country. Our distillery preserves his legacy for generations to come.”
“I am so proud that my grandfather’s legacy will go on,” said Clyde May’s Ambassador and Grandson of Clyde May ‘LC’ May II. “Clyde May’s is the official spirit of the state of Alabama and the first official state spirit. The fact that Clyde May’s is coming home is exciting for me and my family.”
“It’s great to welcome Conecuh Ridge Distillery, the maker of Alabama’s official state spirit, back to Troy, Alabama,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “This project is going to be a great addition to the City of Troy and the Pike County community as a whole, and I’m incredibly excited to see the distillery upon completion.”
Distillery, Restaurant, Rickhouse, Tasting Room, Amphitheater, Apple Orchard and more
The distillery and destination are being built on 76 acres and will include the distillery, a 10,000 barrel rickhouse, a gift shop, amphitheater, restaurant and tasting room.
The project was designed by Luckett & Farley of Louisville, Kentucky. “This is an extraordinary project to be a part of,” said Luckett & Farley Architect Dana Zausch. “It’s a rare opportunity to design a distillery from scratch, especially for a brand with such an established reputation and storied history. Capturing Clyde’s spirit meant creating a familiar yet modern aesthetic that respond to the rural Alabama vernacular.”
The distillery will include a road named after Clyde, Clyde May Way, as a permanent honor to the man who created the brand. The architecture was inspired by the legacy of Clyde May. One of the features of the distillery is an immersive experience that will capture the local tradition and Clyde’s trailblazing ingenuity. The tenets of ‘an authentic experience’ guided the design process with guests in mind. The distillery grounds will include a mill, still house, rick houses, and bottling line with a restaurant, museum, gift shop, apple orchard, and amphitheater.
Renderings of Conecuh Ridge Distillery – The Future Home to Clyde May's Whiskey
Conecuh Ridge Distillery
Home to Clyde May's Whiskey
The distillery will feature a Vendome Copper & Brass Works 24-inch by 40-foot copper column still with room for a second column right next to it for future expansion. On a side note, Danis said the city has a building height limit of 35’. That meant the design for the distillery and placement of the column had to be lowered into the ground to meet local building code requirements.
They will start out with three 6,000 stainless steel fermentation tanks with room to add up to seven more as needed. Distilling consulting services are provided by John Hargrove of North Pointe Consulting LLC. Hargrove has worked with Bardstown Bourbon Company and Sazerac brands like Barton 1792 Distillery.
Hargrove said the initial build out will allow Coneuch to distill about 20 barrels a day with one full-time shift working an eight-hour day five days a week. The distillery design will allow them to ramp up to 60 to 65 barrels a day as demand grows.
“The City of Troy is excited to begin the next phase of the Clyde May Distillery project as we celebrate the beginning of construction,” said Troy Mayor Jason A. Reeves. “This addition to our community will provide economic impact and tourist opportunities very unique for our State. This will be the start of a development that will provide an experience and a product Troy, Alabama will be proud to share with people from across our Country.”
The distillery is expected to be completed in Spring of 2023. Once the rickhouse is completed the barrels of bourbon and rye aging in Indiana will make the trip to Alabama for additional aging and bottling. The first Conecuh Ridge Distillery Alabama Fine Whiskey produced from this facility is projected for release in 2027.
Photo Credit: Hal Yeager
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Councilman Greg Meeks, Councilwoman Wanda Moultry, Mayor for Troy, Alabama Jason A. Reeves, Clyde May’s Grandson and Brand Ambassador Lewis Clyde “LC” May II, Chairman of Conecuh Brands James Ammeen, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, President and CEO of Conecuh Brands Roy Danis, Board Member Conecuh Brands Bill Bocra, Board Member Conecuh Brands Michael Cheek, Councilwoman Stephanie Baker, Councilwoman Sharon McSwain Holland, Council President Marcus Paramore (Left to Right).