Conecuh Ridge Straight Bourbon Whiskey Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Conecuh Ridge Straight Bourbon Whiskey Review

In the whiskey world, line extensions can be a rather confusing thing to wrap your head around, at least when approaching the topic from a sufficient distance. When it comes to the average consumer, there are times when perhaps those drinkers aren’t really meant to notice that certain products hail from the same maker at all, or that differing marketing of similar products is meant to appeal to perceived different demographics of consumer. Still, there are times when the line is so fine, it’s hard to see what really differentiates a few bottles, and I find myself asking some of these questions as I look at the newly released Conecuh Ridge Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

This is a product of the similarly named Conecuh Ridge Distillery, which is also the overall entity producing the well known Clyde May’s line of bourbon and rye whiskeys. Clyde May’s has always been conceptually based around Alabama, where the famed moonshiner and bootlegger of the same name was based, but the state’s restrictive laws governing the spirits industry (many lingering from Prohibition) meant that the company has never distilled their own product there. That will finally change this year with the scheduled May opening of the very impressive looking Conecuh Ridge Distillery in Troy, Alabama, which will serve as a major tourist spot and destination distillery. But of course, bourbon has a long lead time: It presumably will be years and years before any spirit distilled and aged in Alabama makes it into any of their bottles.

That means Clyde May’s will remain a sourced brand for the foreseeable future, and the new Conecuh Ridge Straight Bourbon, meant to “commemorate the opening of the new distillery,” is in the same boat. Like bottles of Clyde May’s bourbon, the label notes that this was distilled in Indiana, presumably by the mega producers at MGP of Indiana. It’s a moderately aged, 5-year stated bourbon with a stout ABV of 50.3% (100.6 proof). In a vacuum, that sounds perfectly fine … but what exactly differentiates this from say, Clyde May’s Special Reserve, which carries a 6-year age statement and 110 proof point? They’re both MGP bourbons of similar age and proof. Perhaps they’re drawn from different mash bills? If not, does it not feel rather like splitting hairs?

Regardless, at the end of the day this means we’re tasting some modestly aged MGP bourbon here, so let’s get to it.

On the nose, Conecuh Ridge Straight Bourbon feels on the youthful side, with pleasant impressions of green apple and light caramel candies, along with fresh lumber, a little ginger, pie crust and licorice. There’s a pronounced herbal rye–perhaps this is one of MGP’s many high-rye bourbon mash bills–with hints of mint and black pepper.

On the palate, many of these same notes are echoed: I’m getting caramel apple and pear fruitiness, along with vanilla extract and fresh-sawed woodiness. There’s cinnamon sugar and moderate overall residual sweetness, joined by some peppery heat and tingling chilies that give a hint toward the somewhat elevated proof point. Mild wood tannin is present with a slight drying effect, culminating in a finish of pepper and anise spice.

At the end of the day, this feels very much like a platonic ideal bourbon, perhaps not terribly surprising given how much moderately aged MGP juice there is out there in the world. It feels very familiar to me, walking a line between approachable and a tad hot. There are no obvious flaws to be found, but it’s also arguably lacking a hook to make it more compelling or memorable. More than anything, I think this one probably just needs some more maturation before it potentially turns into a more interesting dram.

With that said, you have to wonder if this profile is just a product of the continued need for the company to source their whiskey, or if it reflects the profile they hope to achieve themselves via their own distillate in the years to come. Unfortunately, it will be years before we can begin answering that particular question.

Distillery: Conecuh Ridge Distillery
City: Troy, AL
Style: Straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 50.3% (100.6 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $50 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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