April 18 (Thursday)

Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey
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Alabama is the only state with an official spirit, Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey (though Kentucky recognizes an official Bourbon Festival).

According to the Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, “House Joint Resolution 100 of the 2004 Legislative Session designated Clyde May’s family recipe for ‘special Christmas whiskey,’ known as Conecuh Ridge Alabama Fine Whiskey . . . 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 resolution wasn’t without controversy; the legislature overrode a veto by Governor Bob Riley, and the Senate later snubbed the House of Representatives’ attempted repeal. Shortly after the new symbol was signed into law, the brand’s founder, Kenny May, was convicted of several violations of Alabama liquor laws. The infamous whiskey was then unavailable for purchase until the brand ownership was restructured and production resumed.

Perhaps the state spirit can be viewed as a symbol of Alabamians’ rebellious spirit.

In fact, Conecuh Ridge Whiskey “is marketed as a recreation of a high-quality aged moonshine whiskey which was produced illegally in Alabama during the mid to late 20th century,” according to Wikipedia. The moonshiner it honors is Clyde May, Kenny May’s father.

After World War II, Clyde returned home to Alabama to farm his land and raise his family. Not terribly successful at farming, he turned to the illegal whiskey-making trade (“branch-farming,” as he liked to call it). Clyde spent much of his life developing what came to be known as “Mr. Clyde’s Special Reserve.”

Always dodging the law, Clyde May served an 18-month sentence at Maxwell Air Force Base in 1973. After his release, the facility gained an even more prestigious inmate — former Attorney General John Mitchell, who served time on charges from the Watergate scandal. Thus, it has been said that May was released to make room for the very man who convicted him (Mitchell), who slept in his very bed.

I gained a new respect for Alabama’s high-quality official moonshine after reading that little nugget.