Old Taylor Distillery
April 8, 2010 Explorations 7 Comments

Old Taylor Distillery is a defunct distillery located south of Frankfort, Kentucky. Constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr. in 1887, Old Taylor was known for a fine, quality product that was the first to produce one million cases of straight bourbon whiskey.

Taylor was involved in financial and political interests for the commonwealth, and was politically well connected. He was a descendant of James Madison and Zachary Taylor, two U.S. presidents, and as a result of this, he served as for 16-years as mayor of Frankfort and as a state representative and senator.

Taylor was essentially responsible for revitalizing the liquor industry that had little to no confidence from consumers due to product quality. He passed laws that would ensure quality, such as the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which was a federal subsidy via a tax abatement for products produced under particular government standards.

When the Old Taylor Distillery was constructed, it was considered a showcase of bourbon making in the entire state. The complex included a peristyle spring house, sunken gardens and gazebos. The main office and plant were constructed entirely of Tyrone, Kentucky limestone. Inside were gardens and rooms where Taylor entertained guests and politicians. Visitors arrived on the “Riney-B,” or the Richmond, Nicholasville, Irvine & Beattyville Railroad, where they would be given a tour of the facility.

Old Taylor was the first distillery to reach one million U.S. Government certified cases of straight bourbon whiskey. Times were great, to the extent that National Distilleries purchased Old Taylor Distillery in 1935. National Distilleries operated the plant for years before it passed to the Jim Bean Corporation. All production ceased in 1972. Jim Bean stored and aged bourbon whiskey in the warehouses until 1994, when the space was declared surplus.

Various proposals have been floated to revitalize the distillery complex. Cecil Withrow, a former employee of National Distilleries, along with Robert Sims, his business partner, purchased the property and incorporated Stone Castle Properties. Renovations began in 1996 at Old Taylor and in 1997, an arts and craft mall opened in the former bottling house. Withrow planned on including a natural spring bottling operation and a whiskey distilling business by 1999, but those plans failed due to financial ills.

In May of 2005, the property was sold to Scott Brady, who has been completing selective demolition of several warehouses that are in various stages of collapse or decay, and to renovate existing buildings. Wood and other materials from the warehouses are being marketed under Heart Pine Reserve.

The photographs presented are the first published photographs of the interior since the facility ceased operations in 1972. If you are able to identify any particular rooms or can clue in on particular functions, please feel free to call or e-mail. Be sure to click through to Old Taylor Distillery for more photographs of the facility!

Written by Sherman Cahal
Sherman Cahal is a photographer who has specialized in abandonments and historical structures for over 15 years.