• John McGary, Woodford Sun News Editor

‘This is remarkable, it really is’, Castle & Key opens to public

GOV. MATT BEVIN headlined the grand opening of Castle & Key Distillery Wednesday, Sept. 19, saying, “What an incredible, incredible place.” From left, cofounder Will Arvin, master distillery Marianne Eaves, cofounder Wes Murry, Bevin, and Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle. (Photo by John McGary)

After a preview the week before, Castle & Key Distillery’s grand opening Wednesday, Sept. 19, was attended by more than a hundred people and headlined by Gov. Matt Bevin.

After helping cut the ribbon provided by the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, Bevin spoke of the extensive and expensive renovation that transformed the long-neglected Old Taylor Distillery property.

“Anytime you can cut a ribbon, it’s enjoyable. But when it’s involving the resuscitation of something so historic, not only for an industry that is really hitting new, all-time highs, but also just for this community and this city itself…” Bevin said.

The governor traced the history of the Old Taylor Distillery property and pointed out that Col. Edmund Taylor was not only a distiller, but also served as mayor of Frankfort.

“To have seen this over the course of about… 60, 70, 80, 90 years, almost, before it was shut down in the early 70s –… to have it fall in such a state of dilapidated condition, and then to sit vacant, and nothing that sits vacant for 40 years tends to do well, (or) is rarely ever brought back to life. And for Will and Wes and Marianne (cofounders Will Arvin and Wes Murry and master distiller Marianne Eaves) to look at this, to have the passion and the vision for this, and to just be dedicated, just speaks volumes about not only their willingness to give back to this community, but also just their confidence that they could make it work. And this is remarkable, it really is. What an incredible, incredible place,” Bevin said.

Bevin, noting that he and Arvin attended the University of Kentucky at the same time 30-plus years ago, joked, “I can just tell right now… nobody would have bet either one of us would have been standing here today.”

A few minutes later, Arvin thanked Bevin and said, “We’ve probably got some old stories we can tell, but won’t.”

Arvin also praised Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle, who’d said they’d “turned an eyesore into a showplace,” for his support during the four-plus years since he and Murry bought the property.

“I’d like to give a big shout-out and kudos to our whole team here at Castle & Key… We’ve got a great team. This has been a collective effort. We couldn’t have done this – bring this back – without a great group of talented, creative, inspired, wonderful people,” Arvin said. Arvin said when the team began peeling back the layers of the property, they discovered things like railroad tracks buried under asphalt, which can be seen just inside the entrance.

Murry said, “It’s a pretty exciting moment to be standing here at the front doors of something that opened up over 100 years ago.” He recalled sitting at a Mexican restaurant with Arvin a little more than five years ago and looking at a real estate brochure showing the Old Taylor property.

“I thought he was pretty crazy,” Murry said. “I agreed to visit him down here on a Saturday afternoon, and I joined him in the craziness.” Murry said while the long-abandoned property had environmental concerns and was covered in brush, trees and other debris, the decision to purchase and rehabilitate it was an easy one.

“Four-and-a-half years later, to be here, to be at a point where we were able to take something that I think pretty much everybody didn’t think we could accomplish, and do it, is a really amazing feeling,” Murry said.

“It’s been a long time that we’ve been a little bit greedy and kept it to ourselves, but we’re excited to let people in and share all the progress that we’ve made…” said Eaves, the state’s first female master distiller since Prohibition. “It’s not been easy and it’s not been a short process, but I think what we’ve accomplished in the past four-and-a-half years has been pretty incredible. Let’s do it!”

Before Bevin spoke, Chamber of Commerce Executive Don Vizi echoed the thoughts of elected officials and business owners in Woodford County excited about the opening of the county’s second distillery.

“We can’t wait to get all the tourists who are going to come here,” Vizi said.

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