On the outskirts of Frankfort, on a pastoral stretch of land, the Old Taylor distillery thrived in the late nineteenth century. Then bourbon hit hard times, and the roughly 20 structures that span 113 acres were abandoned in 1972. The distillery laid dormant until two Kentucky natives had the passion to rebuild and the foresight to have hired Marianne Barnes, their former master distiller and the first woman to hold that distinction in the state since Prohibition. Though not yet part of the Bourbon Trail, Castle & Key
has been all the buzz since it opened in 2017, creating vodka, gin, and its first barrels of bourbon, now aging and available in five to ten years. Walk the grounds and buildings on a historical tour, take a cocktail-making class, or snag a bottle of vodka at the new store.
One look at the rickhouses (buildings where bourbon is aged) blackened on the outside from evaporation and you can sense the history of the Wild Turkey distillery, which has been in operation at this same site in Lawrenceburg since 1869 and is a Bourbon Trail favorite. Wild Turkey currently has some 700,000 barrels aging, making it the largest Kentucky distillery on one site. In its newly revamped Visitors Center, on any given weekend, you’re likely to find Jimmy Russell, known locally as the Buddha of Bourbon, sitting at the door – he’s happy to chat about his long career, the ebbs and flows of the bourbon business over the past half century, and his favorite bottles to purchase in the store. “When I started here, bourbon was a Southern gentleman’s drink. Now just as many women are buying a bottle as men,” he says. Don’t forget to ask him to sign your bottle of Russell’s Reserve 10-Year-Old Bourbon on the way out.