If there was one thing bourbon legend Col. E.H. Taylor was not, it was humble.
After all, Taylor built a massive bourbon distillery that resembled a castle in Millville, Ky., in 1887 and, naturally, named it after himself. This would be one of many distilleries Taylor constructed in his lifetime, and his goal, other than to make damn fine bourbon, was to roll out the red carpet and welcome guests.
The latest project has been to restore Taylorton Station, an old train depot near the distillery that Taylor, of course, named after himself and used to greet and entertain guests as they arrived. He actually had to pay for the railroad to extend its tracks seven miles so he could get people from the nearby Frankfort line to the castle.
The train depot, which was built in 1910, is now fully renovated and includes a full bar on one side, which will be used as a tasting room/cocktail-making experience, and a walk-up bar called Counter 17 on the other, along with restrooms.
And as of Wednesday, March 20, those looking to check out the new structure can book the Taylorton Station Curated Cocktail Experience, which includes a mini-tour of the castle and distillery, plus a history lesson and a chance to learn more about — and sample — Castle & Key’s Restoration Release gin.
Insider stopped by Tuesday during a press preview and was guided around the grounds by friendly and informative staff.
The event began with a few words from Master Distiller Marianne Eaves and Brand Director Caroline Cassin, who explained that the Curated Cocktail Experience was for those who might not be up for a full, 90-minute tour of Castle & Key and who might want to learn more about cocktails.
Also, Eaves added, the Counter 17 bar is open whenever the distillery is, so guests also can choose to just stop in for a drink or snack and either sit by the springhouse near Glenns Creek or walk the quarter-mile botanical trail without paying admission.
There’s also a corn hole board nearby, and the bar serves not only Castle & Key spirits and cocktails but beer and wine, as well as cheese and charcuterie boards.
After a quick romp through the castle with a guide and mixologist, Abigail Belknap, we were taken into the 10-person bar area inside Taylorton Station and given a sample of the gin so we could start identifying its eight specific herbs and botanicals. We were then handed an extensive drink menu, broken down by botanical, and asked to pick our two favorites.
We’re a sucker for pineapple and honey, so we first chose Rosemary No. 2 — made with gin, rosemary and pineapple — and then Chamomile No. 1 — made with gin, chamomile, lemon and local honey. Both were absolutely delicious and well-balanced, and several people noted, as they sipped their own cocktails, that they never realized they could enjoy gin.
We’re assuming the Curated Cocktail Experience will change as the distillery releases new products — its bourbon and rye whiskeys currently are aging — but with a professional and talented crew behind the bar, it’ll most likely always be top-notch.
The full Taylorton Station Curated Cocktail Experience is 45 minutes and costs $20, and guests get two cocktails, a sample of the gin and collectible glass. Counter 17’s hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Here are more photos from our preview tour: