Bourbon & culture return to the Old Taylor Distillery in the form of Castle & Key, Children’s Charity of the Bluegrass supports the work of dozens of charities, Doug tours charming La Grange in Oldham County, and the first American “Best Dressed Woman in the World” Mona Bismarck is celebrated again in Louisville.
Castle & Key Distillery
Frankfort’s Castle & Key is a new brand at a location with a long history. The site was once home to Old Taylor Distillery, established in the late 1800s by Col. Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr.
“[Col. Taylor] built what I think is the distillery he always wanted to build,” says Wesley Murry, founding partner of Castle & Key. “A true showpiece. Something that was the first distillery designed from the tourist perspective or the consumer’s perspective.”
Col. Taylor and his sons ran the distillery until the 1930s when they sold it to Nashville Distillers, later owned by Jim Beam. But operations ceased at the location in the 1970s, and the historic buildings sat abandoned for 40 years.
“They didn’t tell people that they didn’t plan to reopen it,” says Castle & Keys’ master distiller, Marianne Barnes. “It was really sad for all the people that worked here. They just let it go. It looked like a post-apocalyptic war zone. All the windows were broken. Nearly every roof was starting to cave in.”
Murry and his business partner, Will Arvin, acquired the property and set out on the daunting task of bringing it back to its former glory and status as a functioning distillery. They recruited Barnes as their master distiller to handle the business of creating bourbons befitting the historic setting.
“My experience as a master distiller is very different from others in the industry,” says Barnes. “I didn’t take over the reins from another very storied master distiller. I’m not just creating the same recipes that someone else developed hundreds of years ago. I had to start from the ground up and rebuild the distillery that had been operational, but not in almost a half century.”
One of the inspirations for the new recipes came from a pre-Prohibition bottle of Old Taylor bourbon found in a liquor cabinet at a nearby horse farm.
“I had tasted lots of historic styles of whiskey, so I didn’t have real high hopes,” says Barnes. “Most older, historic whiskies have this same kind of earthy, musty, antique furniture kind of [flavor]. We opened it up and it was a metal screw top, and almost shed blood trying to get into this thing. But it was so worth it. It was like butterscotch and caramel, really sweet, very oaky but also balanced. That was really the start of it. That was our inspiration in going back and trying to decode what Col. Taylor was producing.”
The Castle & Key team is working toward producing bourbons using 100 percent Kentucky-grown grains. They’re working with local farmers to produce the ingredients needed for their four current bourbon recipes.
“I didn’t go back and try and replicate what Col. Taylor was producing exactly,” says Barnes. “I still wanted us to have our own fingerprint on the bottle. Our whole team is just incredible. If there’s anything really unique about this place I think aside from what Col. Taylor left for us it’s the team and the culture that we’re trying to create.”
Children’s Charity Classic
Each June, golfers, celebrities, and volunteers come to Lexington for a weeklong golf tournament that is much more than just a competitive outing. The Children’s Charity Classic is a fundraiser that supports dozens of organizations around central Kentucky.
“Our mission is to provide financial assistance for several different charities,” says Jeff Anderson, chairman of the board of directors for Children’s Charity of the Bluegrass. “They all have a deep need for funding now and the need grows deeper every year. Our mission is to provide as much financial assistance as we can for these charities to impact as many children as possible. This year we’re going to be supporting 37 different agencies across central Kentucky.”
The 2018 event kicks off with the check presentations to the supported charities on Monday, June 18. On Tuesday, a children’s jamboree takes place, where kids from the affiliated charities enjoy a day of fun.
The tournament itself takes place on Friday and Saturday. Friday night’s bid party, complete with celebrity guests, is where the tournament raises most of its money for charities. This year’s special guests include UK Hoops coach Matthew Mitchell, former Cincinnati Reds player Johnny Bench, UK alum and former NFL player Art Still, and Kentucky Life’s own Doug Flynn.
Among the charities benefitting from the Classic are Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass, Lexington Hearing and Speech, Ronald McDonald House, and Junior Achievement.
“Everyone thinks we’re this great golf tournament,” says Anderson. “We are a great golf tournament. But we’re even a greater charity. People who want to get involved outside of the golf tournament, they can call us, they can email us, they can find out how they can get involved. That’s our mission right now – to evolve from people thinking we’re this golf tournament to being this wonderful charity.”
Downtown La Grange
La Grange is one of many Kentucky cities participating in the Kentucky Main Street Program. The initiative aims to preserve the historically significant parts of downtown areas while encouraging new businesses and bringing more citizens to city centers. But La Grange already has a downtown feature that’s entirely unique.
“We have the train,” says Karen Eldridge, executive director of La Grange’s Main Street Program. “We average 20 [trains] a day. It’s a main line between Louisville and Cincinnati. It runs right down Main Street. We’re the only town now that has street running – that’s what it’s called when the trains actually share the street with the cars.”
Eldridge says that La Grange’s Main Street has 20 businesses, including art galleries, gift shops, and clothing shops. The county courthouse and police station are located on Main Street, too. The city also has a variety of dining options for all tastes.
Lea Cockrell and her husband own LaGrange Coffee Roasters on Main Street.
“It’s been a home roasting business that outgrew our house,” she says. “It’s a hobby of my husband’s. We started building a customer base just through home, and so we built a retail space just to get the coffee roaster out of our house. It’s been really good. We live in town, we can walk to our house, so it’s convenient for us and we like it a lot.”
The focus of the business is specialty coffee, but customers can enjoy a homemade scone, too. And on occasion, local musicians come to the space to participate in a bluegrass jam.
“Bluegrass and coffee, it brings people together,” says Cockrell.
She was a fashion icon with roots in Louisville, but few Kentuckians know about Mona Bismarck. A current exhibit at the Frazier History Museum aims to bring people into the glamorous world she inhabited.
“I think that Mona’s life is such a great Kentucky Cinderella story,” says Penelope Peavler, CEO of the Frazier History Museum. “Mona was born right across the street from Churchill Downs and her father was a horse trainer at Churchill Downs. Her grandfather was a manager of a horse farm in Lexington called Fairlane Farm. That farm has become very famous because it later became Calumet.”
Bismarck was the first American to be named “Best-Dressed Woman in the World.” The exhibit at the Frazier Museum offers a look not just at her fashion, but the social life she inhabited.
“Based on the most iconic cast of characters who wrote her letters that appear in the Filson (Historical Society), we’ve created a 1930s inspired dinner party tableau,” says Scott Rogers, Curator of the “Magnificent Mona Bismarck.” Guests at this dinner party include the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, actor and designer Elsie de Wolfe, photographer Cecil Beaton, songwriter Cole Porter, and artist Salvador Dali.
“This particular show has 50 pieces from Mona’s personal wardrobe spanning 50 years from her golden era of the 1930s through around 1976,” says Rogers.
“The exhibition is organized much like a fashion show,” says Peavler. “First up is the daywear and these beautiful day suits and hats. Then you come into cocktail dresses and into jewelry and shoes: 24 pair of beautiful Roger Vivier custom-made shoes in a rainbow of colors. And then you end in evening wear.”
Mona’s life wasn’t all about fashion, and the exhibit reflects that.
“As you come through evening wear, the exhibition finishes in the gallery about Mona’s loves,” says Peavler. “She also had this love of gardening. For forty years, she tended her garden on the island of Capri and she had a lot of dogs as her pets. She was a real dog lover.”
“I think the thing that I hope a lot of people take away from this exhibition is that it’s not just about the fashion,” says Stephanie Wood, curator at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. “She was obviously held up as this incredible style icon. But I think what you get a sense of through her letters and through these incredible relationships she developed is this sense of her as a person. She is from Louisville and that I’m not sure how many people know that she’s a Kentucky-born style icon. She’s known throughout the world for being this incredible woman. I think it’s really important and it’s really exciting that we can celebrate it here where she was born.”