Castle & Key Distillery logo in black and white.

Castle & Key Distillery

  • Kentucky
  • 2021 WSWA Brand Battle – Whiskey & Bourbon Category Winner, Bartender Spirits Awards 2023, Denver International Spirits Competition 2023
Phone Number
  • +15023959070
  • 4445 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY 40601, United States

Castle & Key Distillery entrance with restoration banners.

Name: Castle & Key Distillery


History of Castle & Key Distillery

Castle & Key Distillery, nestled in the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon country, stands as a testament to the rich heritage and enduring allure of American whiskey. The distillery’s story is a blend of historical legacy, revival, and modern innovation.

Founding and Early Years

The distillery was originally founded in 1887 by Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. Known for his significant contributions to the bourbon industry, Taylor built this distillery to embody his vision of producing the finest whiskey. The site was chosen for its natural limestone spring, which is crucial for making high-quality bourbon.

Distinctive Architecture

A striking feature of the distillery is its castle-like structure, which lends the distillery its name. This unique architecture, unusual for a bourbon distillery, adds to its historical and visual appeal.

Prohibition and Dormancy

Like many American distilleries, Castle & Key faced challenges during Prohibition in the early 20th century. It was one of the few to obtain a permit to produce medicinal whiskey, but eventually, production ceased, leading to years of dormancy and disrepair.

Revival and Restoration

The distillery saw a resurgence in the 21st century. In 2014, entrepreneurs Will Arvin and Wes Murry, along with Master Distiller Marianne Barnes, the first female master distiller in Kentucky since Prohibition, undertook the task of restoring the distillery. They were driven by a vision to blend tradition with innovation.

Awards Won by Castle & Key Distillery

2021 WSWA Brand Battle – Whiskey & Bourbon Category Winner: Castle & Key Distillery triumphed in the Whiskey & Bourbon category at the 2021 WSWA Brand Battle, a prestigious event organized by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America​​.

Bartender Spirits Awards 2022:

  • Gold Medal: Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (94 Points)
  • Silver Medals:
    • Sacred Springs Vodka (89 Points)
    • Restoration Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (87 Points)
    • Roots of Ruin Gin (85 Points)
    • Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (85 Points)​

Bartender Spirits Awards 2023:

  • Gold Medals:
    • Restoration Rye Whiskey (94 Points)
    • Harvest Seasonal Gin (91 Points)
  • Silver Medals:
    • Small Batch Wheated Bourbon Whiskey (89 Points)
    • Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey (88 Points)
    • Rise Seasonal Gin (85 Points)​

Denver International Spirits Competition 2023: The distillery was awarded a Double Gold, signifying top-tier quality in their spirit offerings​​.

Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2022: Castle & Key received an impressive score of 95 points, demonstrating their commitment to excellence in spirit production​​​​.

San Francisco Spirits Competition 2021: A Gold award was achieved by Castle & Key at this renowned international spirits competition, adding to their accolades​​.

New York International Spirits Competition 2022: The distillery earned the prestigious Double Gold award, marking their products as among the best globally​​.

Castle & Key Distillery Tour Information and Experience

Castle & Key Distillery, nestled in the heart of Kentucky, offers an immersive experience for those interested in distilling. The distillery is known for its rich history and stunning architecture, having been restored from the historic Old Taylor Distillery.

Visitors can explore the grounds, which include beautifully manicured gardens and the unique castle-like structure that gives the distillery its name.

Distillery Tours

Historical Insights and Process Overview

The tours at Castle & Key provide a comprehensive look into the history and the distilling process. Guests begin with a historical overview, learning about the distillery’s origins and restoration. The tour then delves into the details of the distilling process, from mashing to fermentation.

Tasting Experience

A key highlight of the tour is the tasting session. Visitors have the opportunity to sample various spirits crafted at the distillery. This experience is not only about tasting but also learning the nuances of flavour and aroma that make each spirit unique.

Scenic Grounds and Gift Shop

The tour concludes with a walk through the scenic grounds, allowing guests to appreciate the natural beauty surrounding the distillery. The onsite gift shop offers a chance to purchase exclusive Castle & Key products, from spirits to branded merchandise.

Additional Experiences

Cocktail Workshops

For those looking to enhance their visit, Castle & Key offers cocktail workshops. Skilled bartenders lead these sessions and provide insights into crafting the perfect drink. Participants learn about different ingredients and techniques to elevate their cocktail-making skills.

Special Events

Castle & Key frequently hosts special events throughout the year. These events range from seasonal celebrations to exclusive tasting sessions. They provide a unique opportunity to engage with the distillery in a different setting.

Customised Group Tours

Groups can opt for customised tours tailored to their interests. These tours can include more in-depth discussions on specific aspects of distilling or focus more on the historical aspects of the site. It’s an ideal option for those seeking a more personalised experience.

Flask & Barrel Review of Castle & Key Distillery

As a seasoned whiskey collector who’s been on numerous distillery tours, I recently had the chance to visit Castle & Key Distillery, and I’ve got to say, it was quite the experience. I’d rate it a solid 4.7 out of 5.

First off, the setting is just stunning. Nestled in the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon country, the distillery’s unique architecture is a real eye-catcher. The castle-like structure gives it a rare historical charm in the bourbon world. Walking around the grounds felt like stepping back in time, but with a modern twist.

Now, let’s talk about their whiskey. As a collector, I’ve tasted my fair share of spirits, and Castle & Key’s offerings were impressive. Their Small Batch Bourbon was complex and spoke of careful crafting and aging. The notes of caramel and vanilla were balanced just right, not too overpowering. Their Restoration Rye was another standout – the perfect blend of spice and smoothness.

The tour itself was informative and engaging. It’s one thing to taste great whiskey, but understanding the process behind it adds another layer of appreciation. They’ve done a fantastic job of combining the site’s rich history with a modern approach to spirit production. And it’s not just about the whiskey – their gin and vodka are also worth a mention.

But what made the experience for me was the people’s passion there. You could tell that everyone, from the tour guides to the master distiller, cared deeply about what they were doing. That kind of enthusiasm is infectious and made the visit all the more enjoyable.

If I had to nitpick, I’d say the only thing that kept it from being a perfect score was the size of the tasting samples – a bit more generosity would have been nice. But that’s a minor point in an otherwise excellent experience.

What To Do Nearby Castle & Key Distillery

Glenns Creek Distillery (0.7 miles): A small craft distillery offering a unique, more intimate tour experience.

Woodford Reserve Distillery (2.6 miles): One of Kentucky’s oldest and smallest distilleries, known for its premium bourbons and beautiful setting.

New Capitol Building: A significant historic site, the New Capitol Building is an architectural marvel.

Frankfort Cemetery: Offers a peaceful setting with historical significance and impressive views.

Rebecca Ruth Candy Tours & Museum: This attraction offers a delightful tour of the famous Kentucky bourbon chocolates, perfect for those with a sweet tooth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Castle & Key Distillery?

Main Street Diner: It has a rating of 4.5 stars on Google Maps. Their address is 227A W Main St, Frankfort, KY and you can contact them at +15026829195.

Chili’s Grill & Bar: This restaurant has a 4.0-star rating on Google Maps. It is located at 345 Leonardwood Dr, Frankfort, KY, you can contact them at +15022230810.

Cattleman’s Roadhouse: With a rating of 4.3 stars on Google Maps, you can find Cattleman’s Roadhouse at 151 Jett Boulevard, Frankfort, KY, you can contact them at +15028480023.

What hotels are near Castle & Key Distillery?

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Frankfort, an IHG Hotel: It has a rating of 4.2 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +15023524650. Their address is 1000 Vandalay Dr, Frankfort, KY 40601, United States.

Hampton Inn Frankfort: It has a rating of 4.3 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can contact them on their phone at +15022237600. Their address is 1310 US-127, Frankfort, KY 40601, United States.

Capital Plaza Hotel: It has a rating of 4.0 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can contact them on their phone at +15022275100. Their address is 405 Wilkinson Blvd, Frankfort, KY 40601, United States.