A Visit to Castle & Key: A Photo Essay, pt 2

Last week, I posted part 1 of my photos of the Castle & Key distillery, FKA The Old Taylor Distillery. The photos were of the World’s Longest Rickhouse and some other buildings on the site that were not yet restored. This week, the photos will be of the distillery itself (and associated buildings), the springhouse and the the dam.

For further reading on this building and Castle & Key check out what friend-of-the-blog Chuck Cowdery has had to say about Old Taylor/Castle & Key here, and posts on Old Taylor’s sister distillery, Old Crow here and here.

Other friend-of-the-blog Fred Minnick takes better pictures than I do. He’s been to OT/C&K several times. Here’s his visits from 2015,  and 2013, just before the current owners purchased the property.

Also check out the Lipmans’ piece about Old Taylor and Old Crow from 1999 (with a 2015 update).

Without further ado…

 

20170429_121841
The iconic springhouse. 
20170429_121324
Columns holding up the springhouse roof. All of the springhouse is original, except for that roof, which has been replaced.
20170429_120856
The iconic view of the iconic key hole shaped springhouse. The pool is ten feet deep. The water looks murky but is perfectly clear when drawn out. Minimal filtration is needed for use. The water is high in calcium and magnesium. The benches now placed around the pool were found inside it!
20170429_121344
The top of the key with the new roof visable. The springhouse is popular for wedding, prom and other photos.
20170429_121807
The well house between the springhouse and the dam on Glenn’s Creek.

I took a short video of the dam and the well house too.

20170429_121929
Entering the boiler building.
20170429_122405
New skylight in boiler building, to eventually become a visitor’s center. The roof was repaired with materials recovered from other buildings on the campus.
20170429_122009
Where the boilers was.
20170429_122530
The front entrance to the distillery building, aka the castle.
20170429_122621
The tower by the main gate, for defensive purposes, obviously.
20170429_122609
The front door.
20170429_123225
Original hardwood floor inside the entrance.
20170429_123400
Fermentation room. White corn is used for the bourbon.
20170429_123254
Heating coils inside the fermenter.
20170429_123604
The still column behind our guide. They’re distilling a lot already about 20 barrels worth a day. They have capacity to go up to 60 a day. They’re doing a lot of contract distilling too. According to our guide, 70% of their output is contract, 30% for themselves. He said it was “no secrets” contract distilling, at least on their end.
20170429_123538
The pot still, thumper, doubler, whatever it’s called. The second part of the still. Their bourbon enters the barrel at 107 proof, rye at 118 proof. I should have mentioned it earlier but they will be using barrels from the Speyside Cooperage in Jackson, Ohio. They swear by them. Laser cut, never leak, apparently. They use numbers 3 and 4 char.
20170429_125716
Distillery building on the right, on the left is the building that was the lab, now serves as an office (upstairs) for Master Distiller Marianne Barnes and a bride’s room (downstairs).
20170429_124424
Walkways from the distillery building to the old lab.
20170429_124454
Second floor walkway to old lab, with Old Taylor stone.
20170429_124526
Same stone as above, from a different angle. Construction began on the distillery building in 1887 and it took twelve years or so to complete, according to our guide. That stone is visible from the road, but before the restoration, it was overgown with vines. I have a picture of this somewhere, but I haven’t been able to track it down.
20170429_125946
Panoramic photo of the beautifully sunken garden behi
20170429_131058
View from the garden looking back at the castle and the old lab.
20170429_130321
Opposite view with Warehouse E on the left.
20170429_130048
The fish pond at the center of the garden.
20170429_131123
Closer view of the pond. When the sunkern garden was being restored, the pond was called “the snakepit”. It was meant literally.
20170429_122556
View of the old office building across McCracken Pike. The roof has collapsed entirely. Eventually, Castle & Key hopes to restore this building too. Hope you enjoyed the photos! Peace.

St. Julian Riesling, 2013

Maker: St. Julien, Paw Paw, Michigan, USA20170703_202437

Place of origin: Magnificent Mile Vineyard, Baroda, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Medium dry.

ABV: 12%

Purchased for $12 (Meijer)

Appearance: Pale gold.

Nose: Ripe peach, flint, orange thyme, canned pineapple.

Palate: Fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh red pear, meyer lemon.

Finish: Mineral with a squirt of citrus.

Parting words: The old saying is that familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t think that’s true in most cases, but I think it does happen to St. Julian sometimes. St. Julian’s Heron series of sweet, plonky wines are best sellers in Michigan and elsewhere. Their tasting rooms are located in touristy areas and interstate exits. This could lead a person to dismiss St. Julian as an unserious winemaker only interested in trapping tourists or resting on its laurels as Michigian’s oldest and biggest winery.

Who thinks like this? Well, sometimes I do and that’s led to me unfairly ignore St. Julian’s wines. I’m hoping to rectify that with this review and some that will be coming later this year.

2013 St. Julian Riesling is a very enjoyable semi dry wine at a wonderful price. It does a nice job of representing both the grape and LMS terroir. It’s crisp, as a Riesling of this style should be, but as it warms a tropical fruit and a hint of petroleum appear. Nothing unpleasant, though. It pairs well with just about anything. $12 is a steal for a tasty, single vineyard Riesling from a good producer. St. Julian Riesling 2013 is recommended.

A Visit to Castle & Key: A Photo Essay, pt. 1

Back when I first started going on annual/semi-annual pilgrimages to Kentucky, I heard tale of two abandoned distilleries on McCracken Pike, near Frankfort Kentucky and even nearer to the Woodford Reserve (aka Labrot & Graham, aka Oscar Pepper) distillery. To get there, you turned left out of the Woodford reserve parking lot and kept going until you thought you were lost in the woods and needed to turn around. Then you went around a bend and a giant castle-like building virtually lept out of the woods at you. That was the Old Taylor Distillery (shuttered in 1972). Just a little down the road was the Old Crow distillery which was also interesting in its own right, but not nearly as impressive as the Castle, as it was called. You could park across the road at the collapsed office building if you wanted to take a look at the castle, but you had to look out for The Guy in the Red Truck, who was guarding the place. The Guy in the Red Truck was not a monster, though, and you could reason with him and he might let you get close and take pictures. He would also show you the grave of a Revolutionary soldier that he preserved nearby.

The Castle was wild looking and a little sad and occasionally spooky like in this picture I25784_422752045399_76845_n took on a rainy day in 2010. “Legit” whiskey bloggers (i.e. actual journalists) would occasionally get a chance to wander around and take pictures. At the time, we bourbon lovers all wondered what it would take to restore the building. The conventional wisdom was that the building would be too expensive to ever restore, let alone reuse.

We were wrong. The Old Taylor Castle is now being restored, thanks to the partners who own what is now called the Castle and Key (after the key shaped spring house) Distillery. In 2014 it was purchased for less than a million dollars from an Atlanta investor group that was selling the distillery buildings for scrap. The destruction was stopped and restoration was begun. The invester group managed to snag Marianne Barnes, rising star at Brown-Forman (makers of Old Forester, Early Times, Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels), to be their master distiller. The intention is to produce gin, vodka, rye and bourbon. The Bourbon, at least, is going to be released as a mature, bottled-in-bond product.

In late April of this year (2017) a group of folks from StraightBourbon.com including yours truly, Mrs. Sipology Blog and friends of the blog Amy and Pete were graciously allowed a tour of the campus, even though it’s not open to the public yet. Here are some pictures I took. I hope you like them.

For a concise, illustrated history of the property check out http://www.distillerytrail.com/blog/castle-key-distillery-rising-ruins-old-taylor-distillery-narrowly-escaped-wrecking-ball/

20170429_105317-4
Botanical garden for gin on the site of a collapsed rickhouse near the parking lot at the back gate.
IMG_20170429_105551_236
Other side of the botanical garden. “World’s Longest Rickhouse” in background.
20170429_112321
Walking over to to World’s Longest Rickhouse (WLR), completed in 1917 with a capacity of 32,000 barrels (quite large for a rickhouse). It’s their main warehouse at present. Currently mostly occupied by other people’s whiskey (the rickhouse is highly regarded and a source of income for them), but C & K is now aging their whiskey in there too.
20170429_112742-1
The front tower of the WLR with tracks for rolling barrels around.
20170429_112848
My wife Liz peaking into the WLR at one of the 13,000 barrels currently stored there.
20170429_113303
Looking up at the WLR.
20170429_114335
Walking down the broad pathway flanked by old buildings over to Warehouse E (center right) and the distillery building (center).
20170429_114427
My friend Brian and I snuck off into one of the buildings on the side and discovered this picture of the castle.
20170429_114454
Same building as above. Strange but cool green glass panels.
20170429_114839
Building with barrel tracks going over the road. According to our guide, locals tell of when barrels would pop off the track onto the road for enterprising folks to recover.
20170429_114535
Toward Warehouse E
20170429_115217-1
The concrete monster that is Warehouse E.
20170429_115333
Inside the entrence to Warehouse E, which I dubbed “World’s Creepiest Warehouse”. Cave-like enviroment. Looks like a set out of one of the Blade movies.
20170609_212107
Taylor used brass bands for his barrels so Castle & Key sometimes use them for special ones.
20170429_120555
Walking over to the distillery building under the crenellated water tower.
20170429_120614
Had no idea my ex worked here! But seriously folks, more pics, including the castle itself, the springhouse, sunken garden and more next week!

 

Peninsula Cellars Manigold Vineyard Gewürztraminer, 2013

Maker: Peninsula Cellars, Traverse City, Michigan, USA20170627_155041

Place of origin: Manigold Vineyard, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Syle: Dry (Semi-dry)

ABV: 12%

Price: $20 (winery)

Appearance: Medium gold with tiny still bubbles.

Nose: Lychee, limestone, pineapple sage, apple juice.

Palate: Meduim bodied and juicey. Peach, mango, pink peppercorn, raw ginger, thyme, mineral water.

Finish: Fruity but with a lot of spice on the back end.

Parting words: Manigold is one of my favorite vineyards on Old Mission. It’s known best for Gewürztraminer and also has Chardonnay vines. The vineyard is only two acres in size but its wines are big. Gewürz’s spicy character is in full effect here but there is also loads of tropical fruit making for a complex, aromatic, flavorful wine. I could gush over this for a few more paragraphs, but I’ll spare you. Hard to find a better Gewürz at this price from Michigan or anywhere. Peninsula Cellars 2013 Manigold Vineyard Gewürztraminer is highly recommended.

 

 

Uncle John’s Fruit House Apple Brandy

Maker: Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, St. John’s, Michigan, USA20170627_154846

Distiller: Red Cedar, East Lansing, Michigan, USA (From Uncle John’s own cider)

Age: NAS (2-6 y/o)

ABV: 45%

Price: Don’t remember/375 ml. Only available at the winery. Complimentary bottle.

Appearance: Bright copper.

Nose: Apple cider, cola, caramel, leather.

Palate: Sweet and medium bodied. Salted caramel, candy apple, alcohol.

Finish: Lavender, raisins, toasted oak. Long.

Mixed: I tried this brandy in two cocktails, both of which put the brandy front and center. The first was the classic Jack Rose (with lime juice and grenadine). It was good. The second was the Marconi Wireless (basically an apple brandy Manhattan). It was just OK. The pungent sweet vermouth I used overwhelmed the brandy.

Parting words: From my “A Visit to Uncle John’s“: “We then moved on to the really good stuff, apple brandy. They have twelve barrels aging at the Cider Mill. They have two different types of barrels to age their brandy. Some is aged in toasted French oak (in barrels intended for Calvados) and some in Michigan oak barrels, also toasted. The Michigan oak barrels were sourced by St. Julien’s to be distributed to wineries across the state. Mike prefers the French oak barrels but again credits St. Julien’s with doing a good thing for wineries in the state by facilitating the use of home grown wood in wine and spirits production. It’s a cool thing for a Michigan producer to be able to say that [its] product has been aged in Michigan oak.”

Uncle John’s Apple Brandy was fine mixed, but it’s really a back porch neat sipping brandy. I don’t remember the price but I don’t remember it being unreasonable for a half sized bottle. It’s made in very limited quantities (currently sold out) so get some if you’re ever in the Lansing area. Uncle John’s Apple Brandy is recommended.

Grand Macnish, 150th Anniversary ed

Maker: Macduff International, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.20170616_193341

Distillers: Unknown (Seems to be Highland-centric, though)

Style: Blended Scotch whisky

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $19

Appearance: Pale copper.

Nose: Sweet malt, apricot, old leather.

Palate: Medium bodied and light. Saltwater taffy, clotted cream.

Finish: Malt, vanilla, oak, burn.

Mixed: Good with club soda, on the rocks and in everything else I tried it in: Rob Roy (sweet and dry), rusty nail, Scotch Orange Fix.

Parting words: Grand Macnish was founded in 1863 by a man named Robert Mcnish (the a was added to aid in pronunciation). McNish is a sept of the MacGregor clan which explains why the MacGregor motto, forti nihil difficile*, appears on the cap. Corby purchased the brand in 1927. Grand Macnighs has been owned by Macduff International (owner of Lauder’s and Islay Mist) since 1991. Three other iterations of Grand Macnish are available in Michigan, the standard, bottom shelf Macnish ($9), the 12 y/o ($25) and the smoky black edition ($35). The 150th (released in 2013) and the 12 y/o are the most highly regarded among the four, which is not saying a lot, it must be said.

There’s nothing too interesting happening in this bottle but there’s nothing offensive either. It’s much better than similarly priced blends from Dewars, Cutty Sark or J & B, but it’s not quite as much of a value as Grant’s. What it has in common with Grant’s is a weird bottle that draws attention to itself on the bar. $19 is a good price for “inoffensive” so Grand Macnish 150th anniversary edition is recommended.

*To the strong, nothing is difficult.” This was also Benjamin Disraeli’s motto for some reason.

Bilberry Black Hearts

Maker: Journeyman, Three Oaks, Michigan, USA20170613_212324

Style: Dry gin made with bilberries (a European cousin to blueberries).

ABV: 45%

Michigan State Minimum: $35

Notes: MOSA certified organic. Made via maceration.

Appearance: Crystal clear.

Nose: Alcohol, juniper, vanilla bean, cocoa bean hulls, candied orange, fresh blueberries.

Palate: Sweet, full bodied, fruity.

Finish: Plum, orange hard candy, cherry juice.

Mixed: Fine with tonic and in a Tom Collins. Fruitiness took some getting used to but once I did I liked it. In snootier cocktails like martinis, perfect martinis, negronis and Princetons it did well and never got lost thanks to the titular bilberries.

Parting words: I went through a period of time when I had given up on “craft” gins because they all tasted the same. I’m glad I am over that, because this is a uniquely tasty gin. The reason is the bilberries, scientific name Vaccinium myrtillus (high bush blueberries are Vaccinium corymbosum). The taste is very similar to blueberries but maybe with a little cherry thrown in. Their influence makes this gin worth the relatively steep $35 price tag. Journeyman is doing some stuff. Bilberry Black Hearts is recommended.

 

Wölffer Estate Rosé, 2015

Maker: Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Mattituck, NY20170516_082230

Grapes: 49% Merlot, 30% Chardonnay, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Riesling (2016 vintage)

Place of origin: Wölffer estate vineyards, Long Island AVA, New York, USA

ABV: 11.9%

Purchased for $18 (Glen’s Garden Market, Dupont Square, Washington DC)

Appearance: Pale pink, almost orange.

Nose: Very light. Mineral water, strawberry, straw.

Palate: Medium bodied and austere. Limestone dust, woodruff, underripe peach, orange peel.

Finish: A little more fruit in the finish but still very dry for a rosé.

Parting words: This is the first Long Island wine I’ve ever purchased or maybe even tried. I picked it up while in DC visiting friend of the Wölffer Estate is located near Bridgehampton on the eastern end of Long Island. They make a wide range of wines including at least two other rosés and of course ciders. This wine itself is made from a wide range of grapes, as seen above. It is not a blend of reds and whites, though. None of the juice had contact with skins for any length of time.

Wölffer Estate Rosé isn’t particularly flavorful, but it is a great summertime lunch or dinner on the patio wine. Very good with grilled pork or chicken but at its best with hot dogs. I’m officially against austerity, but it feels natural here, not imposed. Wölffer Estate Rosé is recommended.

Water Fire Riesling, 2013

Maker: Water Fire Vineyards, Kewadin, Michigan, USA20170516_082046

Place of origin: Water Fire estate, Antrim County, Michigan, USA

Style: Medium dry.

ABV: 11%

Purchased for $18 (Holiday Market)

Appearance: Light gold.

Nose: Mandarin orange, meyer lemon, lychee, woodruff.

Palate: Lemonade, mineral water, navel orange.

Finish: Pineapple, lemon thyme.

 

Parting words: The Water Fire winery is located in Northwest Michigan, on the isthmus between Torch Lake and Grand Traverse Bay, opposite Old Mission Peninsula. It’s not within the bounds of any of the Northern Michigan AVAs but it is close to all of them. Antrim County is one of the county appellations that were grandfathered in when the new AVA system was rolled out in the 1980s.

Chantal Lefebvre, owner and winemaker of Water Fire does not have natural, organic or biodynamic certification for her wines, but she is firmly committed to growing grapes and making wine in a way that is in harmony with the natural world. I had a fairly long conversation with her about that topic at the 2016 Michigan Wine Showcase in Detroit. Water Fire wines are estate grown and limited production but are some of the best wines Michigan has to offer. They currently produce Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.

2013 was a banner year for white wines in Michigan as you, the attentive Sipology reader, know. 2013 Water Fire Riesling ranks near the very top of great Michigan Rieslings in a year full of them. This wine’s minerality and herbal aromas provide the perfect foundation for the gothic cathedral of acidity that rises up through the palate. I love this wine and this winery. Water Fire deserves to be a household name, and their wines deserve a place at your table. 2013 Water Fire Riesling is highly recommended.

 

 

Wyncroft Avonlea Chardonnay 2011

Maker: Wyncroft/Marland, Pullman, Michigan, USA20170502_111830

Place of origin: Avonlea vineyard, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan, USA

ABV: Unknown.

Price: $35 (Michigan by the Bottle, Auburn Hills)

Appearance: Medium gold with a thin robe.

Nose: Rancio, golden raisins.

Palate: Full bodied and medium sweet. Sherry, gruyere cheese, sweet butter, hint of oak.

Finish: Sweet. Apricot, croissants.

Parting words: Wyncroft/Marland is a very limited production, estate winery in the Southwestern Michigan co-owned by winemaker Jim Lester. Jim was one of the earliest boutique winemakers in Michigan, as he frequently reminds people. He’s one of the rare big talkers who lives up to his own hype, though.  The Wyncroft label is used for limited production estate wines with Marland used for their line of more affordable wines from vineyards they don’t own. I’m very fond of his reds, but I haven’t always liked his whites. It’s not that they’re inconsistent, it’s that I haven’t always enjoyed the style in which they’ve been made. No accounting for taste, as they say.

Avonlea vineyard is Wyncroft’s flagship, planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling. Avonlea was hit hard by the Polar Vortex in 2014 with substantial loss of Chardonnay vines, according to Wyncroft’s website. The surviving Chardonnay vines had their fruit devoured by a murder of crows shortly before harvest. The damaged area has been replanted. In the meantime the 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages are available.

This heavy, buttery style of chardonnay is not my favorite, especially not when from Michigan. Avonlea Chardonnay was pleasant but heavy handed  when first opened. As it opened up, it became even more unbalanced and took on unpleasant oxidized and burnt butter flavors. Even Mrs. Sipology, who normally enjoys oaky chards, didn’t like it. I can’t say I liked it either. I don’t know if this wine is flawed or tainted (I don’t think it’s the latter) or what, but I really can’t recommend it, especially not at $35.