Continuing our Bourbon Fortnight…In the little town of Millville, Kentucky, there is a castle complete with springhouse and sunken gardens. It may not seem like the most obvious place for to make Whiskey, but here we find Castle and Key Distillery.
Legendary Beginnings at Castle and Key Distillery
The castle distillery began life as the Old Taylor Distillery and was opened in 1887 by Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr.
He had long dreamt of running a distillery that would attract tourists and become a spectacle. It was the beginning of “Bourbon Tourism” that would eventually see the creation of attractions like the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky or Whiskey Row in Nashville.
Taylor was a banker and politician who was well known throughout the state. Unfortunately he fell into financial difficulties. Both of the distilleries that he already owned, Old Fire Copper Distillery and Carlisle Distillery, were sold on to George T. Stagg.
Stagg as gracious however and employed Taylor to continue running the distilleries. After a few years, he was able to set up another distillery, and the Old Taylor Distillery was born.
It was architectural and conceptual different from other distilleries at the time. Taylor didn’t just want to make great Bourbon, he wanted to share the process with the masses.
He created a tourist attraction and was so successful at it that in 1917, he was awarded “The Degree of Master of Hospitality” by the American Association of the Collegiate Registrars.
The Fall and Rise of the Castle and Key Distillery
Like many of his counterparts, Taylor was unable to sustain his distillery through the prohibition years. Only six distilleries were given a license to remain open during this period. That was for the creation of medicinal spirits.
The castle distillery was forced to close in 1917. It was bought by American Medicinal Spirits, who took control of it and any remaining inventory.
Time wore on and prohibition eventually came to an end. American Medicinal Spirits, who had become National Distillers, re-opened the Old Taylor Distillery.
Taylor himself had been at the forefront of Whiskey production in America at the time and had one of the most modern distillers of the time.
When Old Taylor re-opened, this modernisation continued and the brand boomed.
By the 1960s they were producing around 400 to 1000 barrels of Whiskey a day, which is an astonishing amount for the time.
The Second Fall and Rise of the Castle
All good things must come to an end, and Whiskey saw a dramatic loss of interest in the 1970s.
People just weren’t buying it anymore, and as such, in 1972, Old Taylor was forced to close once again.
It was later sold to Jim Beam in 1987 and then to a group of investors. The investors decided to salvage what they could, since most of the distillery had fallen into disrepair.
They sold a lot of the materials online, right up until 2008. Then the economic crash made salvaging almost obsolete. They abandoned the distillery, and once again, it was left to fall apart.
That was until 2013, when it was rescued by Peristyle LLC. The group who wanted to restore the distillery and give it another chance to create some amazing Whiskey.
Headed up by the first female Master Distiller in Kentucky, Marianne Barnes, the distillery, now known as Castle and Key, has risen one more time.
The group had originally aimed for 2015, but things were much worse than they expected.
Now, it is set to re-open on September 19th 2018 after a lot of work was done to restore it to its former glory.
The distillery is a legend of its day and with such an exciting team behind it, there is no doubt that it will once again be one of the most important distilleries in Kentucky.