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Old Taylor Distiller


The Bourbon Guys, in conjunction with a number of our brown water blogger friends, were treated to a wonderful tour of the former Old Taylor distillery,  which is currently under renovation. Marianne Barnes, the new master distiller of the newly named Castle & Key Distillery, led the group throughout the entire facility, describing where all of the various stages will take place in the in the new Castle & Key distilling process.

Marianne Barnes Hosting Tour

Marianne Barnes Hosting Tour

Walking through this historic venue, it was hard not to be swept away to the 1887. In their first visits, founding partners Will Arvin and Wesley Murry had to blaze a trail through overgrowth and trees to try to gain some vision into what remained of this beautiful old site. Of course, the castle was built to last, with 26 inch walls in some places. Much of that structure was still intact. Many of the outbuildings that were added later had suffered great deterioration from the elements and Mother Nature. It was exciting to see the garden, the pond, and many of the buildings coming back to life. Many of the original equipment sites will be reused, though with some very modern updates.


Old Taylor Distillery

Strolling through the grounds, we were surrounded by the history of the place, and the excitement of an impending spirits launch. Fresh copper, still wrapped in plastic, towered above us from the first floor to the fifth. Growing many of the botanicals on property, this slice of Kentucky history newly name Castle & Key will begin producing its very own gin by July, 2016. In 2018 they also plan on introducing a rye whiskey.


Learning about the new spirits coming to Castle & Key

 Of course, that is not our greatest point of interest. Rather, we were very excited to learn that a new brand of bourbon from Castle & Key will be flowing from those walls as soon as 4 years from now. It’s also exciting to hear that the bourbon will be Bottled-in-Bond in the spirit of Colonel Taylor. Congratulations and best of luck to Marianne Barnes and the team at the new Castle & Key Distillery! We look forward to getting our hands on some of these fine spirits as they arrive in the not too distant future!

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Celebrating the future of a new distillery with Marianne Barnes

See Castle & Key Press Release Below:

Check out Castle & Key online at or on Twitter @castleandkey



From the Historic site of Old Taylor Distillery Under Restoration By Partners 

Including Marianne Barnes, The First Female Master Distiller of Bourbon In KY 

 Millville, KY, February, 2016—Inside the walls of a 19th century limestone castle in the heart of bourbon country, history is being honored–and made. Master Distiller Marianne Barnes and her team are painstakingly resurrecting the historic site of the former Old Taylor Distillery to produce their Castle & Key brand bourbon and gin.  Production of Castle & Key’s flagship bottled-in-bond bourbon is planned to begin this summer. As Barnes puts it, “The core of Colonel Taylor’s vision with bottled-in-bond was building a relationship of trust with his consumer, providing a literal guarantee of bourbon’s authenticity and, by extension, quality.  Our goal is to embrace and enhance that vision, creating products and sharing the story from the plow to the bottling line.” Castle & Key plans to introduce a KY native botanical recipe gin this year, rye whiskey by 2018, and, then, traditional style Bottled-in-Bond bourbon to honor the Colonel’s legacy.

When founding partners, Will Arvin and Wesley Murry, first saw the 1887 distillery, it had sat decaying for over 40 years.  Despite decades of neglect, Arvin and Murry recognized the potential of the site with much of the existing buildings and equipment in a salvageable condition. “Under the rubble and overgrowth, there were 100 year old buildings that were still structurally sound and architecturally astounding, and while a number of people seemed to have passed on this hidden treasure, we knew it could be revived to make great spirits,” notes Arvin.  

Combining vision, passion and talent, the team is bringing the distillery back to life using existing, new and repurposed equipment and materials.  State of the art distillation equipment manufactured by Vendome Copper & Brass Works has recently been installed positioning Castle & Key to begin production this summer with an annual capacity of 12,000 barrels per year.  In addition to distillation capabilities, the facility has two barrel storage buildings one of which is the longest bourbon rick house in the world measuring almost two football fields in length.

With this same uncompromising respect for both tradition and innovation, Barnes is crafting recipes using timehonored traditions and methods to create distinctive Bourbon and gin.  Grains will be sourced from a local Kentucky farmer who is helping Barnes resurrect a strain similar to what would have been used during the prime of Colonel Taylor’s era. 

“We’re very excited to be part of the revitalization of something important in the history of Kentucky bourbon whiskey, and integral in the momentum of the Bourbon Trail,” says Brook Smith, the investment partner who, among his many successes, created the iconic restaurant, 610 Magnolia.  

Over a century before the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Col. E.H. Taylor, Jr. had the vision to create a distillery that would be a destination for visitors, a notion far ahead of its time.  The Castle & Key team is picking up where Taylor left off by carefully resurrecting the property and bringing it forward into the twenty-first century.  From the renovation of the glorious grounds and structures, to the bourbon production, they are taking bourbon tourism to the next level.  “It’s so encouraging to see how much people want to know about the bourbon they drink, who made it, where and how it’s made,” says Barnes. “Castle & Key is a destination that encourages people to be our guest, taste, see and enjoy a step back into bourbon history.” 

The original 1887 formal sunken garden has been revived beyond its original splendor by world-renowned Kentucky fine gardener Jon Carloftis. Located at the foot of the towering castle, it features a koi pond with benches surrounded by greenery, southern magnolia and hydrangea. Carloftis also designed a quarter-mile botanical garden path from which Barnes will source botanicals for her gins.

A key to true Kentucky bourbon is the water.  Castle & Key’s clear, limestone-rich source water bubbles up from the ground and fills a key hole-shaped pool under the restored 19th century springhouse. Facing the springhouse is a charming red brick train station—where guests arrived in private rail cars for Taylor’s famous Derby parties— that is planned to be transformed into a full-service restaurant.   With Carloftis’ creative touch other outbuildings will also be transformed into appealing event spaces for tastings, cocktail parties, weddings and private events.  Bourbon aficionados and day-trippers will enjoy a Napa Valley experience at Castle & Key.  Curated tours of the site, engaging tastings, leisurely strolls through the botanical garden, picnicking on the banks of Glenn’s Creek, or shopping inside a renovated boiler house are all experiences guests can expect and enjoy. A number of interactive distillery experience itineraries will be available when the distillery plans to open to the public late summer of 2016. Follow our progress –

About Marianne Barnes

As a student at the University of Louisville, Marianne wasn’t exactly sure how she would utilize her chemical engineering degree. In a stroke of fate, she accepted an auspicious internship at Brown-Forman, where she rose to the position of Master Taster in an unheard of five years. “Being mentored by Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  Learning from him really brought all of my studies and hard work together,” says Barnes. She holds the remarkable distinction of being the first woman to earn the title of Master Distiller of KY bourbon since Prohibition. With her technical knowledge, hands-on experience and a specialized palate, Barnes is destined to produce exceptional products at Castle & Key.

CASTLE & KEY, Kentucky-Bred Bourbon

4445 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY/859.873.2481

MEDIA CONTACT: Philip Ruskin, Ruskin International

Communications 212.749.5511/                

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