Old Taylor Distillery

Old Taylor Distillery is a formerly abandoned distillery along Glenn’s Creek near Frankfort, Kentucky. The complex is currently being restored for Castle & Key, an upstart distillery.


Colonel Edmund H. Taylor acquired property along Glenn’s Creek and Versailles Pike in Woodford County and established Old Taylor Distillery in 1887. 1 4 7 Taylor, a descendant of two presidents, James Madison, and Zachary Taylor, benefitted from his political connections in Frankfort, where he had served as mayor for 16 years and as a state representative and senator. 2

As a politician, Taylor spent time revitalizing an industry that had little confidence from consumers due to product quality, passing laws that would ensure a higher standard. He worked to pass the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, a federal subsidy via a tax abatement for products produced under particular government standards that also ensured that what the distiller said was in the bottle matched its contents. 6 7

From its iteration, Old Taylor Distillery was designed to be a showcase for bourbon, a departure from earlier distilleries that were ramshackle operations with little regard for aesthetics. 1 2 Drawing heavily from his travels through Scotland, England, Ireland, and elsewhere in 1869, Tylor designed his 82-acre distillery complex with buildings that sported thick walls composed of local limestone from Tyrone, battlements at the roof line, and round corner towers. 4 6 14 Inside the plant’s walls were gardens and rooms where Taylor entertained guests, state officials, and dignitaries. 2 3

Old Taylor was as much a tourist attraction as a distillery. Visitors arrived on the Richmond, Nicholasville, Irvine & Beattyville Railroad, or the “Riney-B,” where they would be given a tour of the facility. Each was given miniature bottles of Old Taylor whiskey as a souvenir. 9 The proximity of 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

The passage of prohibition, a nationwide constitutional law that strictly prohibited the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages, caused Old Taylor Distillery to close in 1920. 15 The facility remained in local control after Taylor died in 1922. 6

National Distillers, formed out of a merger in 1924, 12 acquired Old Taylor Distillery in 1935, 4 6 9 and operated the distillery under the Old Taylor name until 1972. 4 6 9 12

In 1987, National Distillers sold the plant to American Brands. 4 6 9 The James B. Beam Distillery then used its warehouses for storage. A portion of the Old Taylor campus, including the bottling plant and some warehouses, was declared surplus and abandoned. American Brands sold the Old Taylor brand to Sazerac in 2009. 12

Cecil Withrow, a former employee of National Distillers, and his business partner, Robert Sims, purchased the former Old Taylor Distillery site for $400,000 and incorporated Stone Castle Properties to renovate some of the buildings. 1 4 The goal was to operate an artisan “mall” in the former bottling house, bottle natural spring water from the Bird’s Eye limestone spring, and start up a bourbon whiskey distillery under the Stone Castle Whiskey brand by 1999. 4

Renovations to the bottling plant began in late 1996 and the artisan “mall” opened on February 1, 1997. 4 Financing issues forced the abandonment of the spring water bottling plant and the bourbon whiskey distillery plans. The artisan mall closed not long after it opened.

The Old Taylor Distillery site was sold to Scott Brady in May 2005, who began to tear down several warehouses. 5 The wood salvaged was resold under the Heart Pine Reserve brand.

Castle & Key Distillery

In 2012, Will Arvin discovered photographs of the abandoned Old Taylor Distillery. 15 Seeing its potential, Arvin partnered with Wes Murry and acquired the facility in May 2014 for $950,000. 9 13 They announced plans to renovate the dila[odated complex and begin distilling operations on the site with ten employees by the fall of 2015 at the cost of $6.1 million. 7 8 9 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, the company announced that Marianne Barnes would become the master distiller at the new distillery. 10 Barnes, a former master taster at Brown-Forman and an assistant at Old Forester, became the first female master distiller since Prohibition. 10 13 A new copper column still from Vendome Copper & Brass Works of Louisville was installed in October. 11

The company also worked with famed fine gardener Jon Carloftis to restore the historic sunken gardens. 14

A nod to the castle-like architecture of the buildings and the key-shaped appearance of the spring house, Arvin and Murry named the new bourbon distillery Castle & Key in February 2016. 11 Production of Castle & Key’s bottled-in-bond bourbon began in the summer.

The Castle & Key Distillery complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. 14 The company released its first clear spirit in April 2018, and in September, the distillery held a grand opening ceremony. 15 It was awarded the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Historic Preservation Project Award in 2019 for the company’s dedication to historic preservation. 14

Castle & Key’s first aged spirit, Restoration Rye, was released in December 2020. 15 In March 2022, the distillery released Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, the first bourbon distillate that had been produced at the historic Old Taylor Distillery site in nearly five decades.


Further Reading


  1. Lipman, John F. “The GHOSTS of WHISKIES PAST.” 1999. 14 July 2005 Article.
  2. Cowdery, Charles K. “Distillery Destruction — Saving Kentucky’s Heritage.” 7 Apr. 2005. The Cultured Traveler. 14 July 2005 Article.
  3. Hogan, Meghan. “Low Spirits in Kentucky.” 23 June 2005. Preservation Online. 14 July 2005 Article.
  4. Jones, Amos. “Old Taylor Distillery coming alive with renovation plans.” Herald-Leader (Lexington), Jan. 7, 1997. March 28, 2007.
  5. Brady, Scott. Interview.
  6. “History of the Old Taylor Distillery.” Heart Pine Reserve 2006. 8 April 2010 Article.
  7. Richardson, Kerri and Terry Sebastian. “Peristyle LLC to Reopen Old Taylor Distillery in Millville.” Kentucky.gov 8 May 2014. Web. 19 May 2014. Article.
  8. “Peristyle LLC to reopen Old Taylor Distillery in Woodford County.” Lane Report [Louisville] 8 May 2014. Web. 19 May 2014. Article.
  9. Patton, Janet. “Old Taylor Distillery’s owners resurrecting its castle, gardens.” Herald-Leader [Lexington] 14 Jun. 2014. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.
  10. Minnick, Fred. “FORMER OLD TAYLOR DISTILLERY TO NAME WOMAN ITS BOURBON MASTER DISTILLER.” Fred Minnick 21 Feb. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. Article.
  11. Patton, Janet. “Old Taylor distillery in Woodford County renamed Castle & Key” Herald-Leader [Lexington] 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 Mar. 2016. Article.
  12. “Timelines: National Distillers.” Whiskey ID. Article.
  13. “Story.” Castle & Key. Article.
  14. The Grounds.” Castle & Key Distillery, 2022.
  15. A Brief History.” Castle & Key Distillery, 2022.


Add Yours →

We inherited a bottle from a friend’s deceased relative because they don’t drink and the bottle was half enjoyed but we are very curious about the age of it. Is there a site that you can put in the seal label number and find out? It was a 4 year old bourbon whiskey at the point it was bottled.

I served aboard the USS Yorktown CVS-10 1967-1968 and will be going to the ships reunion this week. I will share this article with his former shipmates. Rest in peace……Withrow
Bill Hatt

Anyone know the current status of the location? I’ve found news articles from last year about its renovation, but nothing current. Thanks,

I have a Old Taylor Distillery Company Decanter. It’s empty, still has the cork in tact and the bottle is in PERFECT condition. It also has a number on the bottom #D1-185-68. Would anyone know the value or would be interested in purchasing it from me? Please contact me by e-mail fostermegan70@yahoo.com

I have a full color, full page CJ ad of Tinsley-Mayer art of the Old Taylor Distillery showing a girl on a hill overlooking the distillery property. She is holding a stalk of corn in one arm and in the other, a bunch of grain. Any interest?

This advertising artwork sounds interesting. I’m wondering if there may be some indication of the date published or created? Does it appear to be preprohibition era? In other words before 1920 the distillery was owned and run by E.H. Taylor, Jr. & Sons. During national prohibition of alcohol 1920-33 American Medicinal Spirits owned the rights to the brand as well as creating and recycling others such as Old Grand Dad; after 1936 National Distillers Corp. Which evolved out of AMS owned the plant and brand along with other former Taylor family properties and some not even making Bourbon in Kentucky for example Old Crow, Grand Dad, Kenner Taylor, Mount Vernon Straight Rye, Old Overholt Rye, etc. I don’t think I have seen a piece like the one you mentioned but if it is in line with Old Crow advertising which was branded by E.H. Taylor, Jr. after the end of the Civil War when he acquired it from the will of Oscar Pepper proprietor of what is now Woodford Reserve Distillery where the Scotsman Dr. James Crow further refined, measured and recorded the basis of what is now known as the “Sour Mash” Method. Col. Taylor acquired what remained of the Fine Kentucky Bourbon Dr. Crow made from the mid 1820s until his sudden death at work in 1856 & created possibly the most prestigious brand of whiskey in the U.S. from what was some of the finest in quality and purity ever barreled. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (as well as some C.S.A. Generals), Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, statesman Daniel Webster, and many more since heralded it as their favorite whiskey. In the original advertisements of Old Crow the Crow is holding barley stalks in its talons. My guess is the girl is holding corn in one hand and barley malt in the other.

Would they allow people to metal detector? It would be cool to see what history lays in the ground there 🙂

I have an OLD TAYLOR crock with S? Taylor Jr & Sons stamped in script. Underneath that it has DISTILLERS, FRANKFORT, KY. Have any idea of age, value? It is approximately 9″ tall and 3″ in diameter. Also, still has a cork.

I have a crock with “OLD TAYLOR” stamped on it. Also, S? Taylor Jr & Sons written in script with Distillers, Frankfort, Ky. It is 9″ tall and about 3″ in diameter. It was given to me about 40 years ago by a very dear old lady. Can you tell me anything about it? Age value, etc. Thank you

David, I have a bottle of Old Taylor 86 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that, I was told, was bought in 1947 here in Alabama. Has the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Board sticker on it, never been opened. Would like to know the estimated value of this Whiskey. Do you know of any collectors of Old Taylor Whiskeys?
I am making a trip to Cumberland Lake in late September and would love our group of 7 to be able to tour the ruins. Who would I get in touch with to make arrangements. Thanks for all your help and thanks for your interest in The Old Taylor Distillery Company. Joan

Back in the 60s, Old Taylor used the slogan, “If your distillery looks like a castle, your whiskey should be fit for a king”.

I am the Distiller that helped Tito Beveridge start Tito's Vodka. I won the Double Gold at the World's Spirits Festival with Vodka I produced in 2001. I am looking for a new place to make liquor. If someone is interested in starting a distillery, contact me. JeffThurmon.com

Just viewed property tonight. It is available. If you are interested in purchasing, please call me at 502-664-4446.

I belong to a photo group that part of deals with urban explorers. They generate publicity about abandon buildings set for demo if you would be interested in setting up a scheduled shoot we would love to help you out. Bob

Stone Castle Properties had two partners – Robert Sims and Cecil Withrow. I don't know about finance issues stopping their progress, but I do know that Mr. Withrow passed away and project ended there and 30 acres of the property was given to Withrows Son and the rest of the property was put up for sale.

Mr. Sims was the finance and business brains behind this and Mr. Withrow was the vision and driving force. Without withrow who was employed at Old Crow for 10 years and knew the industry of Bourbon, there was nobody else to fill the spot.

I am seeking investors right now to start up the project again.

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