Master Distiller Marianne Eaves at Castle & Key | Photo by Sara Havens

Four years ago, Marianne Eaves made a bold career move when she left her position as master taster of Old Forester and Woodford Reserve to take the lead role as master distiller at Castle & Key, located at a long-abandoned site near Frankfort formerly known as the Old Taylor Distillery.

There, she joined Lexington businessmen Will Arvin and Wesley Murry to resurrect the 83-acre distillery that included a castle and the largest rick house in the country. The distillery opened its doors in September of 2018 to much fanfare, but leading up to that moment, Eaves not only built her team from the ground up but also released a vodka and gin and made several bourbons and whiskeys that currently are aging.

Now, Eaves has made the decision to depart Castle & Key for new projects and challenges. According to a news release sent by Eaves, she will be consulting in the bourbon industry and also working on partnerships that could include film and TV projects.

“I am not turning my back on being a master distiller, but I am taking the time I need to bring some of my other goals I’ve set to fruition,” Eaves said in the release. “My time at Castle & Key was a phenomenal experience, and I feel that I’ve left it in a place where the spirits can speak to my vision. It is boldness that got me to the position of master distiller, and it is time for another bold step in my career to continue to make the impact I envision.”

Eaves at Castle & Key in February 2017. | Photo by Sara Havens

Eaves played a major role in the documentary “Neat: The Story of Bourbon,” and she made it a point, along with the founders of Castle & Key, to hire women into upper management roles.

In a separate news release, Castle & Key founding partners Murry and Arvin said Eaves will be missed, but she has set them up for continued success.

“Marianne’s impact at Castle & Key is far-ranging, has many facets and will extend well beyond her time with us,” they wrote. “She will be greatly missed, but we wish her well and know she will be successful in every future venture. We have an amazing team Marianne trained and mentored over the last four years. That team will continue to make the same high-quality spirits.”

“While we’re sad to see Marianne go, we will use her departure as an opportunity to create something new,” they continued. “We look forward to sharing more plans for our team in the coming months.”

Insider reached out to Eaves to ask a few more questions, and while she won’t spill too many beans, she did say that even though future opportunities could take her to places near and far, Kentucky is her home and bourbon is her passion.

“It’s hard to imagine staying away for too long, and as I evaluate opportunities that come my way, I’m excited to have the chance to graze on wider pastures and learn and be inspired by global spirits to return and continue to grow the bourbon industry,” she says.

We also had to ask about Eaves’ fearlessness and penchant to push the envelope to create new paths for her career, as she has demonstrated time and time again.

“For me, the strength to make bold moves has come from believing in my own potential and the desire to build a life and career that I will look back on and be really proud of,” she tells Insider. “I have lots of examples of bold and independent women who have made huge impressions on my life. Over and over we hear you only have one life — so I choose to make the bold step to the next level and a new chapter.”

Sara Havens

Sara Havens

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."