Not going to lie: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Original Alabama Style Whiskey from Clyde May’s. What could that even mean? But I found it surprisingly mellow with a burnished nose of fruit and campfire smoke—a winner, and a welcome reminder that the current renaissance in American whiskey-making is a nationwide phenomenon.
Clyde May’s Whiskey is both the official state spirit and the official whiskey of the Talladega Superspeedway. Distilling since 1946 (legally only since 2001; apparently Clyde was a notorious moonshiner after World War II), the May’s team has managed to assemble a portfolio through the years that includes whiskey, bourbon, and rye. The label put out four new expressions toward the end of last year.
This latest batch of releases introduced a 5-year-old Single Barrel Straight Bourbon (102 Proof; $50), a 6-year-old Special Reserve Straight Bourbon (110 Proof; $60, and a Double Gold Medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition), a 13-year Cask-Strength Alabama Style Whiskey (120 proof; $ 140), and a 15-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon (112 Proof; $200).
Of the easier-to-find bottles we sampled, the Straight Bourbon Whiskey tingles the nose with honey and honeysuckle. Hot on the tongue at first, it hits the palate with brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon hard candy before fading into a medium-long finish. An ice cube or a splash of water tames the heavy alcohol enough to allow the more subtle notes of the expression to come forward.
The aforementioned Alabama Style was the keeper of this pair. Caramel and green apple flavors come through on tasting, rounded out by toasty buttered cornbread and just a whisper of peppery spice. Smooth enough to enjoy neat, but also nice in a highball, on any sweet southern night.