Old Taylor Distillery, located south of Frankfort, Kentucky along Glenn’s Creek, was constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr. in 1887.1 4 7 Old Taylor was known for being the first to produce one million cases of straight bourbon whiskey. The complex is currently being restored for Castle & Key, an upstart distillery.
Taylor was known as a leader in the whiskey industry in the commonwealth, although he had pursued banking and political interests early on. A descendant of two U.S. presidents, James Madison and Zachary Taylor, Taylor had connections to Frankfort that benefited his self-interests. He later served as a long-time, 16-year mayor of Frankfort and as a state representative and senator.2
Taylor was responsible for revitalizing an industry that had little to no confidence from consumers due to product quality, passing laws that would ensure a higher standard. One such instance was the passage of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, a federal subsidy via a tax abatement for products produced under particular government standards.6 7
Old Taylor Distillery was considered a showcase of bourbon making in the entire state.1 2 A peristyle spring house, sunken gardens, stone bridges, gazebos and castle-like buildings adorned with turrets surrounded the 82-acre property,6 giving it a charming and imposing feeling. The main offices and plant were constructed entirely of Tyrone, Kentucky limestone,4 giving the complex a castle-like appearance. Inside the buildings were gardens and rooms were Colonel Taylor would entertain guests and important officials from the state capital.2 3
In the early 19th century, Old Taylor was as much as a tourist attraction as the capitol building. Visitors arrived on the “Riney-B,” or the Richmond, Nicholasville, Irvine & Beattyville Railroad, where they would be given a tour of the facility. Each were given miniature bottles of Old Taylor whiskey.9 The close proximity of the Old Crow Distillery was a boom to both distilleries, as both shared warehouses and some production machinery.
Old Taylor was the first distillery to reach one million U.S. Government certified cases of straight bourbon whiskey.6 7
Taylor passed away in 1922.6 National Distilleries purchased Old Taylor Distillery in 1935 and operated the facility until 1972, when it was under the control of the Jim Beam Corporation.4 6 9 Jim Bean stored and aged bourbon whiskey in the warehouses until 1994 until the space was declared surplus.
Afterwards, Cecil Withrow, a former employee of National Distilleries, and his business partner, Robert Sims, purchased the property for $400,000 and incorporated it under Stone Castle Properties.1 4 Their goal was to renovate the buildings into a mixed-business operation. An arts and craft mall was slated for the former bottling house, a natural spring bottling operation from the adjacent Bird’s Eye Limestone Spring, and a whiskey distilling business in the “castle” by 1999.
The whiskey, which would have been aged in white oak barrels for four years, was part of a grand vision by Stone Castle who was trying to cash in on the super-premium bourbon market that was increasing at a high rate. The initial production was 5,000 cases of whiskey per year under the brand Stone Castle Whiskey.4
Renovations began on 1.5 million sq. ft. of the facility in late-1996. The arts and craft mall opened in February 1, 1997,4 but financing issues forced the abandonment of the natural spring bottling plant and the premium whiskey facility. The arts and craft mall closed shortly after it had opened.
In May of 2005, the property was sold to Scott Brady.5 Brady’s reuse plan called for the selective demolition of several warehouses that were in various stages of collapse or decay. Wood and other materials from the warehouses were being marketed under Heart Pine Reserve until the company was declared insolvent.
On May 8, 2014, Peristyle announced plans to restore and reopen the former Old Taylor Distillery.7 8 It acquired the 83-acre property for $950,000 9 and proposed to invest up to $6.1 million and create 10 full-time jobs. Under the timeline, portions of the 83-acre complex would be rehabilitated and be working by fall 2015. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority tentatively approved the distillery for up to $200,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Business Investment program and for up to $50,000 in tax benefits through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act.
In February 2015, Peristyle announced that Marianne Barnes will become the master distiller at the new distillery and will likely be the first female master distiller since Prohibition.10 Barnes was formally the master taster at Brown-Forman and assisted with blending Old Forester. In October, a new still from Vendome Copper and Brass Works of Louisville, with a 12,000 barrel per year capacity, was installed.11
Playing off the castle-like structures at the distillery, Peristyle announced in February 2016 that the distillery will be named Castle & Key in February 2016.11 Production of Castle & Key’s bottled-in-bond bourbon is set to begin by the summer. A botanical gin, flavored with plants native to Kentucky, will be released by 2018. Additionally, the former Riney-B train station is set to be rehabilitated into a restaurant.