- Associated Press - Saturday, January 16, 2016

RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) - A ‘spirit’ helps preserve the memory of one of Madison County’s finest - Cassius Clay Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

The bottles of eight-year-old, 100-proof straight bourbon whiskey hit the shelves in October 2015 and are helping to educate the Commonwealth about our beloved-yet-eccentric abolitionist, one pour at a time.

The whiskey has three differing labels that each feature a historic tale about the politician who was known to always carry, and occasionally use, a Bowie knife.

“We wanted to honor him in a way that hasn’t been done before - tell people a little about the bad stuff he got into and a lot of the good he did,” said Cary King, owner and founder.

Atop each 750 ml. bottle rests a tiny, metal cannon that has pivoting features and moving wheels. The realistic artillery is meant to represent the small cannons that Clay was known to keep visibly on his front porch and concealed behind the doors of his Lexington abolitionist newspaper, “True American.”



Occasionally, the hot-tempered friend of Abraham Lincoln would fire the cannons to scare whomever got under his skin, King said.

“He would pack them full of old scrap metal and glass and other solid materials he had laying around and keep them loaded,” King said. “Anytime someone he didn’t want around came around, they would have the threat of those. Clay meant business.”

King’s efforts to honor Cassius Clay with a memorable bourbon bottle did not go unnoticed. In December, the company was honored with two distinguished awards by Beverage World Magazine. The New York-based package design competition featured drinks including energy drinks, wine, spirits and beer from across the world.

“The magazine had heard about our bourbon and asked us to enter but I didn’t think I had a chance. I mean, who am I? What is this tiny company compared to Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark? But we gave it a shot anyway and wrapped a bottle up and stuck it in the mail,” King explained.

Not only did the company win first place in its beverage class, it won best in show against all other drink packages entered into the competition.

“My tongue almost fell out of my head when I found out,” King said with a laugh. “I am the kind of guy that tries to take things with humility, but for once I said, ‘Well, we did a pretty good job.’”

The victory was especially significant to King, he said, because he quit his construction management and engineering job to begin his business venture.

A self-proclaimed “Richmond transplant,” the former Bourbon County resident hopes to eventually begin distilling the bourbon within Richmond.

For now, all bottles of the Cassius Clay Straight Bourbon Whiskey are distilled in Tennessee, aged in Louisville and bottled in Bardstown. When the Tennessee batch is depleted, a Kentucky-distilled batch awaits bottling, King said.

“Right now we are mostly administrative in Richmond, but as our business grows and we continue to develop, we are hoping to become a stronger contributor to our local economy and community with a brick and mortar location,” King said.

In terms of distribution, successes of the business appear to suggest that shipments may eventually be capable of making it outside of the Commonwealth, King said.

“Kentucky is the most discriminating bourbon consumer in the world. If it does well in this market, it can make it anywhere,” King said. “So we are trusting Kentucky judgement.”

Regardless of how he is being honored today, one fact about Cassius Marcellus Clay’s past still remains a bit unclear. Did he, or did he not, drink bourbon?

King explained that it is known that Clay’s father, Green Clay, who owned the White Hall estate before his son, had a small distillery. Whether or not Cassius partook in bourbon drinking is not documented, but several other distilleries were documented within the county at the time.

“We believe he did,” King said simply. “It was a local alcohol beverage in this area of Kentucky, so we believe he did.”

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Information from: Richmond Register, https://www.richmondregister.com

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