We are lucky in Columbus to be so close to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and its many stops. Last month we visited a few distilleries before spending the weekend in Louisville with friends. And easily one of the highlights of the trip was visiting Castle & Key Distillery outside of Frankfurt.
Beth had been to Castle & Key a few years ago, and she was excited to do it all over again. The distillery and its estate enjoy one of the richest histories in a region that is full of great stories.
Parking across the street and walking towards the store, you’ll immediately notice the eclectic mix of buildings that sometimes line ruins, the random sets of train tracks, and the richly landscaped grounds.
The grounds, including the bottle shop and store, as well as a small cocktail bar/snack-shop, are open to the public, but if you want the full experience, it is highly recommended that you book your visit at advance. The standard tour lasts approximately one hour and is offered several times a day from Thursday to Sunday.
Tours start just outside the main store. If you’re lucky, you’ll have Rich as your guide. He is the perfect combination of expert historian and comedian, with an enthusiasm that sometimes borders on that of a fiery Baptist preacher.
I won’t share the full story of Castle & Key, but the short version is that it opened as Colonel EH Taylor’s distillery in 1887. He built the land to include dozens of buildings, creating a complete experience for customers with gardens, parties, music and more great features. He even succeeded in extending the railway from Frankfurt to his distillery.
Eventually the distillery changed hands before becoming National Distillers, resisting prohibition and falling into disrepair. It was finally abandoned in 1972 and salvaged for scrap over the next 40 years, before a new couple of owners recognized its value and in 2012 bought the 113-acre site and its 27 buildings for $950,000. .
They began the slow process of restoring buildings one by one, uncovering Colonel Taylor’s Gardens and other infrastructure, restoring a working distillery, and hiring Kentucky’s first female Master Distiller, Marianne Eaves (who has since moved on).
You’ll need to book a tour to get the full story, but here are some photo highlights!
The tour ends in a speakeasy, where your guide will lead you through a tasting. We sampled their Restoration Rye, a gin and tonic using their Harvest Gin and a gin mule.
Be sure to take time to explore the gift shop in the old boiler room.
The former Taylorton station, arrival point for trains from Frankfurt, is now a snack bar and cocktail bar.
You can get an adult drink, coffee, snacks and more. If the weather is nice, you can find places to sit or walk around the grounds. This is the perfect stop to end the tour!
To book a visit to Castle & Key go here: castleandkey.com/visit-the-distillery/experience-calendar
Key Castle and Distillery
4445 McCracken Pike
Frankfurt, Kentucky 40601
FB: Castle and key