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Old Taylor Revival

Old Taylor Distillery, located near Frankfort, Kentucky, has been in a rough patch for several decades. But a new startup is destined to change that.

Old Taylor Distillery, located near Frankfort, Kentucky, has been in a rough patch for several decades. Constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr. in 1887, the distillery was known for being the first to produce one million cases of straight bourbon whiskey.

The complex was as much as a tourist attraction as the capitol building in the late 19th century. 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. The close proximity of the Old Crow Distillery was a boom to both distilleries, as both shared warehouses and some production machinery.

Old Taylor Distillery
Former “Riney-B” station.

National Distilleries purchased Old Taylor in 1935, although it later fell under the control of Jim Beam by the time it closed in 1972. The condition of the buildings steadily deteriorated further with each passing year until 1999, when Cecil Withrow, a former employee of the distillery, purchased the property with the goal to renovate the complex into a natural spring bottling operation and a whiskey distilling operation. An arts and craft mall was slated for the bottling house.

While the arts and craft mall was open for a short time, the rest of the plan never materialized. In May 2005, the property was sold to Scott Brady, whose 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.

And from there on, the future of Old Taylor remained ever more unclear. Portions of the complex were collapsing while others were in severe disrepair. It was destined for the landfill.

But on May 8, 2014, a new startup, Peristyle, announced plans to restore and reopen the former Old Taylor Distillery. The company proposed to invest up to $6.1 million and create 10 full-time jobs. 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.

Under the timeline, portions of the 83-acre complex would be rehabilitated and be operational by the fall of 2015.

With the nearby Woodford Reserve and the adjoining (and pending) renovation of Old Crow – and the success of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, chances are that this Old Taylor revival will be successful.

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