We’ve checked in with Alabama’s Clyde May’s Whiskey on numerous occasions dating back to 2013, and recently we received a passel of samples from the brand, including fresh bottlings of the three whiskeys that comprise its core — rye, bourbon, and Alabama style whiskey — plus a pair of much older, limited edition releases.
Let’s dig into the collection of five and see what’s changed in the core lineup — turns out plenty has changed in a very short time — and how the new offerings acquit themselves.
Clyde May’s Straight Rye Whiskey (2022) – Indiana-born MGP stock. This now carries a 4 year old age statement instead of a 3 year one. There’s more refinement here than in the original, but not much. It’s still aggressively grainy and rustic, a heavy punch of dried herbs taking things in an even more savory direction. I get less spice, more oak on the nose, though there’s a certain potpourri character that endures. Peppery and toasty from midpalate to finish, again I find the whiskey crying out for some sweetness — though perhaps it’s hinted at (very) late in the game. Still my least favorite in the Clyde May’s lineup. 94 proof. B / $43 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY] [BUY IT NOW FROM FROOTBAT]
Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey (2022) – This was formerly a 5 year old Kentucky bourbon, now it’s Indiana stock with no age statement but a “4 to 5 year old” notice on the website. Arguably it’s better. There’s lots of char on the slightly hot nose, but also lots of fruit. Apples, cinnamon, sultry vanilla, and some cocoa powder are all in attendance, making for a simple but fully enjoyable entrée to the experience. The palate’s a bit rough around the edges but approachable with its cinnamon toast and apple crumble character, fading to a vanilla-laced milk chocolate character as things fade out on the slightly sweet finish. It’s good enough at this price level, though nothing that will blow your mind. My tasting notes have virtually no resemblance to those in 2017 (though they are quality-wise about equal). Considering the new sourcing, I guess that’s what one should expect. Check the label carefully if you’re interested in one vs. the other. 92 proof. B+ / $38 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey (2022) – We’ve reviewed this twice before, in 2013 (under a different name) and 2018. It has changed again since our last outing, reverting from a 6+ year old bottling back to a 4 year old, as it was in 2013. It’s Indiana stock, made — as is the Alabama style — with some apple chips in the barrel. Imagine a fruitier version of the bourbon and you’re about on target here: The spice level is about the same, but there’s a stronger punch of fresh apples and brown butter, giving the whiskey a more rounded body and, of course, more sweetness. Much the same on the palate, with some cloves and mint pairing well with the apple-heavy body. That this arrives at a considerably lower abv than the bourbon helps to make for a more approachable experience, though the flipside of that is that it lacks any significant amount of gravitas. Still, as whiskey goes, this is about as easy at it gets. 85 proof. B+ / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Clyde May’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 15 Years Old (2022) – Wholly different stock than the rack bourbon, but it still carries some of Clyde’s DNA. Fruity and woodsy in equal proportions, with a slug of chocolate evident, there’s plenty to like directly from the start, though a little chimney soot tempers the proceedings. Full of vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, and a layer of spice on the palate, this whiskey doesn’t come across as old or austere at all, with red fruit and baking spice eventually dominating as the finish comes into focus. Sweet and fruity but balanced and invariably engaging, I really found nothing to complain about with this experience — though it doesn’t wholly challenge expectations. Warm but not altogether hot, I found it approachable at bottle strength but certainly worth exploring in more depth with a splash of water. 112 proof. A / $195
Clyde May’s Cask Strength Alabama Style Whiskey 13 Years Old (2022) – We’ve seen younger expressions of this in the past, all part of the ongoing “continuity series” that began when the whiskey was just 8 years old. (We last encountered it at age 10.) Now it’s up to 13 years of age, and things are getting… intense. Bold aromas of oxidized wine and overripe fruit are punctuated with well-charred wood, black tea, and asphalt notes. Biting and tannic on the palate, the barrel is fully having its way with this whiskey at this point, and no amount of apple chip infusion at the end of the process is going to change that. It takes some time for this whiskey to settle down and allow its flavors to coalesce, which it does fitfully. Dried banana and apple notes really get slapped around by the wood here, leading to a finish that is both super-sweet and heavily oaky. Water helps but less than you’d think, dulling the heat of the whiskey a bit while allowing more tea leaf notes to show through. Best to pull this series from the cask now before things really start to get crazy. 120 proof. B / $180