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The Commonwealth of Kentucky is synonymous with the bourbon whiskey industry. The location of the Old Taylor Distillery just south of the Kentucky Capital in Frankfort is a reminder of the role Kentucky statesmen and businessmen played in the early years of the whiskey industry. Colonel E.H Taylor, Jr., a Kentucky politician and entrepreneur, oversaw the construction of this magnificent complex in 1887. The complex has seen a recent revitalization as Peristyle LLC has purposed to restore the 125-year-old facility as Castle and Key Distillery. Castle and Key has already begun bourbon production and has product currently in the aging process.

  • A snippet of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 that was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland on March 3rd - the day before he left office. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The aging process for ‘straight bourbon’ is at least 2 years.  Castle and Key Distillery follows federal standards for making straight bourbon.  Under current regulations, distilleries can sell unaged whiskey; but, the whiskey aficionado recognizes the importance of the aging process and the significance of bourbon making traditions under bottle-in-bond standards.  It was Col. Taylor who led the charge for passage of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 which he believed protected consumers and manufacturers from inferior “knock-off” whiskey production.  Though the major distillers of the time were seeking to protect their business interests, the Bottled-in-Bond Act was a landmark in consumer protection legislation and gave validity to some of the voices in the debates of more inclusive food and beverage legislation such as the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.

Though it is unclear what occurred during Prohibition at the Old Taylor Distillery, many distilleries in the area reported theft of bourbon reserves.  It is believed that the thefts were actually orchestrated by distillery ownership in an effort to sell liquor on the black market.  The accusations against the ownership was never met with legal action, however, other regulatory actions were taken.  After several occurrences of "theft" at the distilleries' warehouses, federal agents were sent to guard the liquor reserves until the end of Prohibition.

The legacy of this distillery also lies in the vast production of whiskey that it has given birth to.  Old Taylor is recorded to be the first distillery to bottle over one million cases of straight bourbon.  Boasting one of the largest stills in the world and biggest warehouses in the bourbon industry, Old Taylor came under the control of Jim Beam Company after E.H. Taylor, Jr.’s death in 1922.  Though bourbon stills ceased operations in the historic facility in 1972, Jim Beam continued to use the warehouse facilities until 1994. 

The distillery saw attempts in both the mid-1990’s and 2005 to be revived by entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the up-turn in the bourbon industry.  Both of those efforts failed.  On May 8, 2014, the Kentucky Governor’s office shared a news release announcing Peristyle had been offered state tax incentives for their plans to restore the distillery and resume bourbon production after more than 40 years of dormancy.

Lipman, John F. “The GHOSTS of WHISKIES PAST.” 1999. 14 July 2005 

“History of the Old Taylor Distillery.” Heart Pine Reserve 2006. 8 April 2010 Article.