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Decaying distillery reborn

The whiskey quit flowing decades ago from a landmark Kentucky distillery housed in a picturesque castle. Nearly a half-century of neglect reduced the one-time tourist draw to a decaying relic.

Now, two newcomers to the whiskey business have resurrected the Old Taylor distillery and renamed it. And along with bourbon and rye, they hope once again to generate tourism.

Will Arvin and Wes Murry saw potential where others perceived only blight. In the past four years they've spent millions to restore the old glory of the castle-like entrance, sunken garden and colonnaded springhouse.

"The spirit of the place really called to us," Arvin said. "The bones of the building were solid. And we could just see through the decay and the brush to know that this place really needed to be brought back and saved as an iconic place."

Renamed Castle & Key Distillery, the facility resumed spirits production in late 2016 — the first year whiskey was produced there since the distillery shuttered in 1972.

On Wednesday, the grounds are reopening to visitors.

Arvin and Murry are following in the footsteps of the distillery's founder, Col. E.H. Taylor. A bourbon giant of his time, he built the Old Taylor distillery in the late 1880s and made it a forerunner of today's bourbon tourism business. Ownership eventually passed to National Distillers, and production ended during a lean time for bourbon producers.

Now bourbon sales are booming again, and the new owners are preparing bourbon and rye whiskey to hit the market under the Castle & Key label. The brown spirits are still maturing in barrels nestled in the distillery's warehouses. Master distiller Marianne Eaves hopes rye can make its debut in about a year, and says the brand's bourbon could be ready in 2021.



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