In May 2014, it was widely reported that Peristyle LLC had plans to purchase, renovate, and resume operations in the Old Taylor Distillery in Woodford County. The property, abandoned for more than 40 years, had be reclaimed by the elements and years of neglect. Initially, plans were to reopen after 18 months of restorations. Now, going on 3 years after that announcement, that goal is becoming more of a reality. After a legal battle with Sazerac over the use of the Old Taylor name, the distillery was renamed Castle & Key, referring to the iconic castle-like building and the key hole-shaped pool where limestone-rich water bubbles up from the ground and fills it twice a day.
Recently, the staff from Frankfort/Franklin County Tourism got a behind the scenes look at the progress and plans of the Castle & Key Distillery thanks to resident historian Brett Connors. From still untouched buildings, to a sunken garden once thought long gone coming back to life, the distillery is alive with activity and progress can be seen at every corner. This distillery is very different from others in the area. There is an “energy” and it’s clear that there is a long term plan for the facility in the people that they have hired. They have broken from the “good ole boys club” and have hired youthful faces with passion and knowledge. They even hired the first female master distiller since Prohibition in Marianne Barnes. At only 28 years old, it has been said that she is “an overachiever” but has definitely earned the position she now occupies by working under Woodford Reserve’s Master Distiller Chris Morris. With her passion and nose, Castle and Key will begin distilling their first spirits within the next few weeks.
Even though they will not be giving public tours until the Spring of 2017, it is clear that they are not sitting idly by. They have been steadily revamping parts of the property to accommodate weddings by restoring such things as the sunken garden and the “bridal suite”. After a $1 million roof was put on the longest ricketed warehouse in the world at nearly two football fields long, it is currently leasing some of it’s 31,000 barrel capacity to other distilleries in the area. Connors explains that many distilleries have symbiotic working relationships and this practice is not uncommon. Not only will this distillery eventually be producing spirits such as vodka, gin, and bourbon, but it will be a destination with a restaurant, and even a micro hotel. The day these images were taken, concrete was being poured in what will be their visitors center and gift shop. Much work remains to be done. But with the plan and the energy surrounding their staff already in place, it’s clear that this “passion project” will be a crown jewel in the bourbon industry in the very near future.