Touring Our Own Backyard with the Woodford Tourism Commission
I was given the honor to tag along with the Woodford Tourism Commission (WTC) on an outing to Castle and Key and recently Ashford Stud. I believe these “field trips” are very much a sign of change for the WTC under the new leadership of chairperson Maria Bohanan.
These “field trips” are the brain child of Maria, “All we do is sit in a room and TALK about these places. We need to get out and actually experience what we are preaching to come visit!” She then went on to explain that getting out of a small room helps conjure fresh ideas and gets the Woodford spirit flowing.
The Castle and Key visit was exquisite. Will Arvin and Wesley Murry have truly restored something amazing right in the original birthplace of bourbon tourism. It was originally built in 1887 by Colonel Edmund Hayes Taylor who, like Arvin and Murry, saw something unique and had the courage to make difficult decisions despite what everyone was telling them. All of the original architectural and distilling choices were a risk, just like resurrecting over 40 years of decay. They make everything they sell with locally sourced ingredients today, just like Colonel Taylor did back in 1887.
As you walk the property and through the distillery itself, you can actually smell history in the air. The original castle building that greets you at the beginning of the tour sets the mood for the entire experience. The process of restoration must have been extremely tedious because no detail is left un-finished. I can go on and on about this place but the only way to truly experience it…is to go. Go experience something truly courageous by visiting Castle and Key!
We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to visit Ashford Stud. The crisp fall air under blue skies not only made for great pictures but a very pleasant stroll through one of the most prestigious horse farms in the world. That’s right, the world! Right here in Woodford County, this farm houses the only 2 living Triple Crown winners, American Pharaoh and Justify (who is pictured below).
I believe American Pharaoh is away for the winter but Justify is definitely enjoying the crisp Woodford weather. If you enjoy beautiful horse farms, horses in general, professional horse industry or watch the derby every year and literally know nothing else about horses (me) you must absolutely come to Ashford Stud. I promise you will not regret it.
Later I asked Maria, if she could stand on top of a mountain to scream whatever she wanted and that EVERYONE would be able to hear her, what would she want to say about Woodford tourism? “I would want people to know that Woodford is the best place to come to.” “Kentucky derby winners, beautiful bourbon distilleries, world class horse farms, deep Kentucky rooted history,” were just a few highlights she passionately rattled off. You could tell she meant every word. After listening to her undeniable evidence on why Woodford is the place to see, she paused. “We’re pretty amazing,” she finally added, as if she herself was the recipient of her heart felt speech.
Before we parted ways, Ken Kerkhoff called me over, “Cory, you get a shot of this?” I walked over and joined him in photographing the house shown below on the property. Ken is Maria’s predecessor as chairperson. Maria walked over and put her hand on Ken’s shoulder, “None of this would be possible if it weren’t for him.” “Maria is an excellent leader,” he returned. I took it as “a fresh new era of Woodford Tourism built on the successful foundation of the past”.
It really was an honor being invited by Maria to accompany the commission on these visits. If you haven’t been to Castle & Key, you are truly missing out. Seeing Triple Crown winner, Justify, at Ashford Stud was especially amazing. As we strolled through these beautiful Woodford County sites, I could really feel the hype behind the Woodford Tourism Commissions new initiative. Some very exciting things are coming down the pipeline. It will definitely be uniquely Woodford!
I hope you enjoyed Part 1 (and sneak peak of The Woodford Charm!) of this series featuring the Woodford Tourism Commission. I’m thrilled about the first issue and to finally share it soon!