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On April 8, 2004 the Clerk of the House certified the actions of the Alabama Legislature and House Resolution No. 100 was assigned as Act No. 2004-97 which made Clyde May's family recipe for "special Christmas whiskey", known as Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whisky the Alabama's Official State Spirit.
The designation was made because "the bourbon, Conecuh Ridge, is produced using pure Alabama water and embodies family pride, independence, entrepreneurial drive, innovation, and respect for the tradition and craftsmanship which is evident in this family tradition.".
The History of Conecuh Ridge Whiskey begins with Clyde May, a legendary Alabama moonshiner and bootlegger. From the 1950s to the 1980s Clyde managed to produce around 300 gallons a week in a still of his own design in the woods near Almeria, Alabama in Bullock County, southeast of Montgomery. His product was known for its high quality relative to typical moonshine. According to his son, Kenny, the reason was his painstaking insistence on using the best equipment he could fabricate and taking extra steps during production to maintain the purity and quality of the product. While much of it was sold, unaged, as corn liquor, a certain amount would be casked in charred barrels with a couple of dried apples for flavor. This would be aged for about 1 year. Clyde claimed that the hot Alabama summers accelereated the effect of aging, requiring only one year instead of the minimum of two given to Kentucky Bourbons. This would be bottled and given to friends and valued customers as "Christmas Whiskey". Always operating outside the state liquor laws, Clyde May served an 18-month sentence at Maxwell Air Force Base in 1973. He gave up his cell to the man who convicted him, Attorney General John N. Mitchell, who was convicted in 1974 on charges from the Watergate scandal.
When Clyde May died in 1990 his son Kenny began looking for a way to honor his father's memory by producing legal whiskey from his recipe. Careful planning led to a production run of 4000 bottles of Conecuh Ridge in 2002. Though Conecuh Brands' offices were in Union Springs, the actual distiller for the first batches was Kentucky Bourbon Distillery of Bardstown, Kentucky, overseen by master distiller Even Kulsveen. Under contract from Conecuh Brands they produced the mash using Conecuh Ridge spring water trucked in from Alabama and distilled the product in oak barrels before bottling and returning it to Alabama for distribution.
In April 2004, both houses of the Alabama legislature voted to override the veto of Governor Bob Riley and adopted a resolution, now known as Act of Alabama 2004-97 naming "Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey" the "official state spirit". For a few months it was sold in Alabama's 147 ABC State Liquor Stores and privately-owned package stores in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. During 2004, citing distribution difficulties and limited demand for the boutique-priced liquor, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board stopped stocking Conecuh Ridge in its stores, but would still take special-orders for customers who requested it.
In December 2004, state liquor agents charged Kenny May with misdemeanor violations in two counties. He pled guilty to charges of selling liquor without a license, possessing excessive quantities of liquor in a dry county, and selling alcohol to a minor. The Control Board immediately moved to revoke Conecuh Ridge's distribution licence, meaning that once stores sold out of their existing stock, the state's official spirit could no longer be sold in Alabama. It is presumed that when the legislature begins its next session, that the "State Spirit" resolution will also be repealed.
May's stock is being held in trust pending the outcome of his trial. The company, now headed by attorney Alva Lambert, may choose to reorganize and resume business with a new license. As of July 2005, no such plans have been announced.
ENROLLED, House Joint Resolution,
DESIGNATING CONECUH RIDGE ALABAMA FINE WHISKEY THE OFFICIAL STATE SPIRIT OF ALABAMA.
WHEREAS, after serving his country with pride and patriotism during World War II, Clyde May returned home from the jungles of the South Pacific to his home in Bullock County, Alabama, and focused his attention on making a finely crafted bourbon, Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey; and
WHEREAS, the resulting 90 proof bourbon was Mr. May's "special Christmas whiskey," which was fashioned from a carefully guarded secret recipe, aged to perfection in charred oak barrels to a caramel amber hue, made from only the finest ingredients, and given to family and friends as a cherished token of his warmth and tireless devotion to his newly found craft; and
WHEREAS, Mr. May's son, Kenny May, has continued the family legacy by producing a small batch of hand-crafted bourbon based on the same techniques, standards, and recipes that his father used; and
WHEREAS, the bourbon, Conecuh Ridge, is produced using pure Alabama water and embodies family pride, independence, entrepreneurial drive, innovation, and respect for the tradition and craftsmanship which is evident in this family tradition; now therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, That we hereby designate Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey as Alabama's Official State Spirit and direct that a copy of this resolution be provided as a memento of this designation by the Alabama Legislature.
Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey was approved by House Joint Resolution No. 100, Act No. 2004-97, of the 2004 Alabama State Legislature, overriding a veto by Governor Bob Riley, and is not listed in the The Code of Alabama 1975.