Old Taylor Distillery

Old Taylor Distillery

Old Taylor Distillery

Old Taylor Distillery is a defunct distillery located south of Frankfort, Kentucky. Constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr. in 1887, Old Taylor was known for a fine, quality product that was the first to produce one million cases of straight bourbon whiskey.

Taylor was involved in financial and political interests for the commonwealth, and was politically well connected. He was a descendant of James Madison and Zachary Taylor, two U.S. presidents, and as a result of this, he served as for 16-years as mayor of Frankfort and as a state representative and senator.

Taylor was essentially responsible for revitalizing the liquor industry that had little to no confidence from consumers due to product quality. He passed laws that would ensure quality, such as the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which was a federal subsidy via a tax abatement for products produced under particular government standards.

When the Old Taylor Distillery was constructed, it was considered a showcase of bourbon making in the entire state. The complex included a peristyle spring house, sunken gardens and gazebos. The main office and plant were constructed entirely of Tyrone, Kentucky limestone. Inside were gardens and rooms where Taylor entertained guests and politicians. Visitors arrived on the “Riney-B,” or the Richmond, Nicholasville, Irvine & Beattyville Railroad, where they would be given a tour of the facility.

Old Taylor was the first distillery to reach one million U.S. Government certified cases of straight bourbon whiskey. Times were great, to the extent that National Distilleries purchased Old Taylor Distillery in 1935. National Distilleries operated the plant for years before it passed to the Jim Bean Corporation. All production ceased in 1972. Jim Bean stored and aged bourbon whiskey in the warehouses until 1994, when the space was declared surplus.

Various proposals have been floated to revitalize the distillery complex. Cecil Withrow, a former employee of National Distilleries, along with Robert Sims, his business partner, purchased the property and incorporated Stone Castle Properties. Renovations began in 1996 at Old Taylor and in 1997, an arts and craft mall opened in the former bottling house. Withrow planned on including a natural spring bottling operation and a whiskey distilling business by 1999, but those plans failed due to financial ills.

In May of 2005, the property was sold to Scott Brady, who has been completing selective demolition of several warehouses that are in various stages of collapse or decay, and to renovate existing buildings. Wood and other materials from the warehouses are being marketed under Heart Pine Reserve.

The photographs presented are the first published photographs of the interior since the facility ceased operations in 1972. If you are able to identify any particular rooms or can clue in on particular functions, please feel free to call or e-mail. Be sure to click through to Old Taylor Distillery for more photographs of the facility!

7Comments

  • Thaddeus / 5 September 2010 8:06

    Some friends and I actually went and visited this place today. It was absolutely amazing. walking through the crumbling buildings you could just imagine the production that used to go on. There is also a fall-out shelter in the basement of one building that still has boxes of emergency rations dated 1963. In the distilling area there are instruments with graphs dating from the end of January 1972 from the last time someone had changed them for another day of production before they shut down. We did get promptly kicked off the property after being discovered, because a lot of people go out there and like to smash things up which is very sad.

  • Bill Dishart / 22 November 2010 8:06

    We happended upon the distillery by accident today. We were driving on our way to Wild Turkey and made a wrong turn. We were amazed at the site and the structures. We spent an hour walking around and taking pictures. We imagined what the distillery must have been during its prime. The springhouse was incredible. It's a shame most of the property is in ruins. We appreciated reading about its history.

  • jtarheel / 18 September 2011 3:06

    The decanter shaped like entrance was my first introduction to Old Taylor. My Dad said there were only 100 released in celebration of 100 years since the founding of the distillery. Looking at the dates here, I think he was told wrong. I have the decanter, now.

  • Jim Risch / 25 October 2011 11:54

    Glad I found this site. Laura and I were cycling out of Versailles, headed toward the Kentucky River as it winds it's way through horse country and happened upon the old grounds. It was a beautiful day for cycling and to find such a place was almost surreal. I guess it took 15 minutes of riding along with our mouth's hanging open in awe to pass the entire series of buildings. We saw some Jim Bean trailers backed up to docks which made us think something must still (no pun intended ) be going on. Saw some other vehicles about but no souls. Thanks for the little bit of history. We will be back, if only to show our "bourbon drinking" cyclist friends.

    • Mark Gillespie / 12 March 2012 6:33

      Jim, what you saw was the Old Crow Distillery about a mile down the road from Old Taylor. Beam owns the property and still uses some of the warehouses for maturing whiskey.

  • Tre / 28 July 2012 8:21

    I have inherited an unopened bottle of Old Taylor Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that belonged to my grandfather, W.A. Taylor (no relationship to the distillery that I'm aware of). It says its contents were "Made in 1937" and "Bottled in 1941". I found it in his liquor "travel case". It appears some of the liquid has evaporated as the bottle was stored upright and I suspect the cork bottle stopper may no longer be "air tight". I figure it's got to be worth at least several hundred dollars to a collector, if not more. But, I have no sense how to market it. Any suggestions would be welcome. Thank you.

  • Anon / 12 November 2012 7:14

    You seen the show Abandoned on National Geographic? Apparently they are looking for buildings and objects like Old Taylor. They buy, fix up, and sell things they can salvage from abandoned buildings. Of course they contact the owners first and buy what they’re willing to part from. The hosts wife stays back wherever they are based and looks up people like you that they get leads on and tries to buy things like that. Might even get on tv…

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