GALLERY: Alabama’s first bourbon distillery experience opens in 2024

Published 2:58 pm Monday, December 4, 2023

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Written by Josh Boutwell, Troy Messenger

It’s been a long road but Alabama’s very first legal bourbon whiskey distillery attraction, Conecuh Ridge Distillery, is planning for a May 2024 opening as the complex in Troy nears completion.

Conecuh Ridge Distillery will produce the official state spirit of Alabama, Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey. The moonshine whiskey was made famous by former moonshiner Clyde May, a native of Alabama.

After proudly serving his country in the Army’s 77th Infantry in World War II – earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart – Clyde May returned home to Alabama and became known as one of the “most wanted” moonshiners in the state. His original still was set up close to Pike County in nearby Bullock County.

While Clyde May passed away in 1990, his son, Kenny May, launched the legal Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey in 2001 and it became the official state spirit of Alabama in 2004.

While Conecuh Ridge Distillery has bottled and produced its products outside of Clyde May’s home state of Alabama over the years, it will now return to Troy, Ala., when it opens in 2024.

Conecuh Ridge Distillery will produce numerous products, including Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey, Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon, Clyde May’s Cask Strength, Clyde May’s Straight Rye Whiskey and Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

The facility will feature not only the distillery but also a bottling plant, a restaurant and bar, tasting rooms, a retail shop, and a barrelhouse to age barrels of whisky. All of that will be part of tours that will be featured at Conecuh Ridge Distillery.

The Distillery will create approximately 50 new jobs in Pike County once its fully up to capacity.

Steve May (no relation to Clyde May) serves as Vice President and General Manager of the Conecuh Ridge Distillery. Prior to joining Conecuh Ridge, May served as Director of Marketing Operations for the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Tennessee.

During his tenure there, he oversaw significant growth in the distillery’s retail sales and annual guest count, which grew from 191,000 to over 300,000 annually. That growth also added to the economic growth of the area. During his tenure, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery invested more than $25 million in capital improvements at the site, as well.

“I was responsible for marketing operations for the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, one of the largest tourist attractions in Tennessee,” May said. “Before the pandemic, we had over 300,000 people a year taking tours there and 190 employees just in marketing. It had an enormous economic impact on the area and it’s our hope that we can do similar things in Troy.”

The distillery will offer five different types of tours when it opens with prices ranging from $20 to $45. Tours will begin at the Clyde 240, Clyde May’s original moonshine still, which was named so because it took $240 worth of copper to make the still. After learning the history of May and Conecuh Ridge Distillery, tourists will get to tour the entire distillery facility and process.

“We will be very family friendly. If you bring your children you can take a tour that doesn’t include any alcohol,” May said. “We have a little bit of everything going on here. We are not just a tourist attraction but a full-fledged distillery with a bottling plant that will produce Clyde May’s Whiskey and Conecuh Ridge Whiskey.”

May concluded, “We’ll be buying local grain grown in Alabama. Our corn will come from farms right here in this area. We’ll sell our spent grain, which is very nutritious, to local cattle farmers.”

Troy Mayor Jason Reeves said that he believed the distillery would bring a unique tourist experience to Troy.

“The Conecuh Ridge Distillery will provide a quality tourism destination and investment on the North Side of Troy,” Reeves said. “It will be a unique opportunity for those traveling through Troy as well as those within a few hours who would like to take a weekend or even a day trip to see our community and the Clyde May Brands’ process. I have no doubt it will be a distinctly fun experience.”

Steve May said that the distillery is planning for a May 2024 opening, but weather and other issues may push that back. Regardless, Summer 2024 looks like it will see the opening of Alabama’s first whiskey distillery that will be located off Highway 231 where 3 million cars travel annually.