Now that hundreds of new whiskey releases hit our desks every year, you’d probably be surprised to learn that one of the brands we get most excited about is Clyde May’s Alabama-Style Whiskey. But the new 9-Year-Old Cask Strength release is a new high on an upward trajectory for a brand you should keep an eye on, because if nothing else, it’s making flavored whiskey a quality product.
You might wonder what Alabama could possibly do that Kentucky and Tennessee can’t do better. But Clyde May’s Alabama-Style Whiskey doesn’t try to compete with bourbon: It transforms it.
All the Clyde May’s products start with sourced bourbon. From there, the distiller infuses or flavors the whiskey with just a hint of dried green apple — that’s the “Alabama” part, a method popularized by Clyde May, a moonshiner, in the ’50s — to give the whiskey its distinctive flavor.
Don’t do a spit-take over the word “flavored” just yet — we aren’t talking marshmallow vodka here. In contrast to the heavy-handed flavoring of Fireball and other whiskey, this offers a subtle, barely there effect that, in many ways, isn’t much different than what you’d get from finishing whiskey in a wine barrel, or using sugar maple charcoal, a method used to make Tennessee whiskeys.
It’s important to understand all of that, because Clyde May’s doesn’t deserve the stigma some other brands get for such moves; they’re open and honest about what’s going on with their whiskey (previous releases had “distilled in Kentucky” on the bottle). And though they may not distill, age, finish, and bottle in house, they turn out a really good product.
Clyde May’s 9-Year-Old Cask Strength is, thus far, the culmination of those efforts: it’s a bright, syrupy whiskey, heavy on vanilla and burnt sugar notes with just a hint of oak. The flavoring is far more subtle than in previous releases, and more integrated. At cask strength, it’s insistently drinkable, but with a few drops of water it really shows off. The finish was quite brief, but pleasantly warm with just a tiny bit of green apple tartness.
At $100, it’s versatile, unique, and drinkable, and priced fairly. If nothing else, it will change the way you look at flavoring. After an initial release in June, the bottle’s expanding to more markets in the next few months, with 3,000 bottles total. It shouldn’t be a difficult bottle to track down, but it will definitely be worth the effort.