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Old Taylor Distillery: Bourbon’s Reminder of Great to Nothing (Photo Essay)

As bourbon continues to climb onto liquor shelves and spirits companies struggle with meeting demand, we should never forget several Kentucky distilleries are collecting dust, cobwebs and being scrapped out in the junk-part market. When I was granted access to the Old Taylor Distillery, my heart sunk a little.

Colonel E.H. Taylor (1832-1922) was his time’s greatest American whiskey personality. Nearly a century after his death, Buffalo Trace honors his legacy with several beautiful series of whiskey. The Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel is one of my favorite single barrels on the market. To learn more about Taylor, check out EllenJaye.com’s excellent time capsule.

I love whiskey history and taking these photos nearly brought a tear to my eye, but the images made me realize our connection to brands, be it Maker’s Mark or Pappy Van Winkle, can only survive if the brand’s parent company makes smart decisions. Taylor and Crow were once the biggest names in bourbon. I doubt your average bourbon drinker could tell you anything about these two men.

As you look upon these photos, remember: The bourbon you enjoy today may not be here 30 years from now. View the full photo gallery at FredPhoto.net.

The castle of Old Taylor was Kentucky's crown piece of whiskey architecture. Today, it's just a breeding ground for rats and snakes.

The castle of Old Taylor was Kentucky’s crown piece of whiskey architecture. Today, it’s just a breeding ground for rats and snakes.

Colonel Taylor built a spring house to entertain guests.

Colonel Taylor built a spring house to entertain guests.

 

Production papers from the 1970s

Production papers from the 1970s

The Old Crow brand was once the No. 1 American whiskey. Now, it's bottom-shelf cheap liquor.

The Old Crow brand was once the No. 1 American whiskey. Now, it’s bottom-shelf cheap liquor.

The Old Taylor Distillery once stored thousands of barrels. Today, the only barrel left is without whiskey or heads and has weeds growing through it.

The Old Taylor Distillery once stored thousands of barrels. Today, the only barrel left is without whiskey or heads and has weeds growing through it.

After other distilleries took all the parts they needed from Old Taylor, locals nabbed what they wanted. Apparently, nobody wanted this old toilet seat.

After other distilleries took all the parts they needed from Old Taylor, locals nabbed what they wanted. Apparently, nobody wanted this old toilet seat.

 

This room once held the mash tuns. Now, it's nothing but rubble.

This room once held the mash tuns. Now, it’s nothing but rubble.

Just outside the distillery, Glenn's Creek flows. The well house is a dilapidated and covered in funk.

Just outside the distillery, Glenn’s Creek flows. The well house is a dilapidated and covered in funk.

Despite a large fence with barbed-wire over the top, kids still manage to sneak inside to pop off firecrackers.

Despite a large fence with barbed-wire over the top, kids still manage to sneak inside to pop off firecrackers.

 

14 responses to “Old Taylor Distillery: Bourbon’s Reminder of Great to Nothing (Photo Essay)”

  1. Joshie W

    Great pictures Fred. Was it easy to get access?

  2. Joshie W

    I’ve talked with the caretaker a few times when some friends and I have driven by to gawk from the side of the road. He’s an interesting guy. Did he show you the Revolutionary War vet grave marker he erected?

    The whole thing has always had a surreal sadness about it to me. Your photos captured that well. I hope someday that property can get a sugar-daddy who will, if not fully restore it, at least stop the rot.

    I saw the sign for Old Crow, did you get a chance to run around over there too? And did you get a chance to look at “the world’s longest rickhouse” or any of the other warehouses?

  3. Savannah

    Recently I went inside to look around and I was trespassing a bit but its not like I was a delinquint trashing the place. The place is astonishing especially the spring house! We took some modeling pictures there and we were afraid the entire time. People tell stories of the grounds keeper shooting at people to get off his property. The crazy part is they were going to restore it but the owners partner died and they didn’t have the money to do it so it was turned into a peddlers mall for awhile that’s why there are so many strange items there.

  4. Annette

    I was out riding my motorcycle Saturday with friends and we were taken by here. I literally stopped in the middle of the road awestruck. I never expected to a castle out in the middle of nowhere. It is an awesome breath taking site. At the same time it is heart breaking to see this magnificent structure deteriorating. I had heard that it was recently purchased by Jim Beam I hope that it is true and they try and restore it!!

  5. Teresa Davenport

    Fred, I have always thought that if I ever hit the lottery…a really big lottery, I would buy and restore the Old Taylor distillery. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it.
    I have always thought it would be a wonderful bed and breakfast with beautiful weddings and receptions held at the spring house. I recently called the owner to see if they were going ahead with renovations and the secretary told me it was for sell. I haven’t heard back from the owner. I was worried that it had not only fallen into complete ruin but that since the owner was in the refurbished wood business that it had been raped, pillaged and plundered. I guess it has. Your photos were heartbreaking to me and I am deathly scared of rats. Thank you for your interest in this great Kentucky landmark!

  6. Jordan

    I got lost on a back road today and saw this amazing building! I’ve always been a huge history buff and I’ve already started looking this place up, I love old buildings and hearing stories. (Since my major is history) How does someone get ahold of the caretaker to be able to get on the property and take photos? If anyone has contact info that would be great!

  7. Jordan

    How do you get ahold of the caretaker? Please

  8. Sonia Singleton

    Loved the article. I came across a promotion for Old Taylor, Kentucky Straight Bourbon in an August 1967 Ebony magazine and decided to research the company. Very sad to know its demise.

  9. James

    I own an Old Taylor barrel that I got from Craigslist in Ohio. I was just getting ready to resell it. Not sure if anyone familiar with the distillery would be interested or if I should just keep it.

    1. Kara Peterson

      Hi James:
      I am interested in buying the Old Taylor barrel. I live in Atlanta now, but I have family in Paintsville & Ashland, KY. My great-grandfather used to inspect the whiskey at Old Taylor, Old Crow & other distilleries up north. Please let me know if you’d be interested in holding onto it until this summer when I could get up that way… Thank you!

  10. Britt

    May 13, 2014

    Firm To Restore Old Taylor Distillery

    VERSAILLES (AP) – A company is planning to restore and reopen Woodford County’s Old Taylor Distillery.

    Peristyle LLC has announced plans to renovate the 125-year-old facility and distill bourbon. The company plans to invest up to $6.1 million and create 10 full-time jobs.

    Gov. Steve Beshear called the project “the renaissance of one of the state’s most historic and iconic distilleries.”

    Restoration will occur over 18 months on the 83-acre complex.

    The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $200,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The project was also approved for tax benefits up to $50,000 through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act.
    http://www.lex18.com/news/firm-to-restore-old-taylor-distillery

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