28-year-old Marianne Barnes, a bourbon wunderkind who was recently profiled by Forbes 30 Under 30: Food and Wine, has taken one more step toward whiskey immortality. She is leaving her position as Master Taster at Brown-Forman's Woodford Reserve to join Old Taylor Reserve as Master Distiller.
According to The Spirits Business, Barnes will join fellow Kentuckians Will Arvin and Wesley Murry in cleaning up and reopening Old Taylor Distillery, a once-majestic whiskey operation that has since fallen into disrepair. The whiskey they produce will be sold under a new name, which has not yet been decided upon.
Writer Fred Minnick notes that Barnes, who has a background in chemical engineering, will be the first female head distiller in Kentucky since Prohibition. He also writes, "She joins Maker's Mark's Victoria MacRae-Samuels, VP of Operations, and Michter's Pamela Heilmann, VP of production, as the highest-ranking ladies in bourbon production."
The distillery, which resembles an old gothic castle, complete with turrets, battlements and gardens, fell into disuse in the 1970s after over 100 years in business. "The opportunity of resurrecting Old Taylor, I just thought it was once-in-a- lifetime and couldn't pass it up," Barnes told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "I'm young enough to take a few risks... It really felt like the right thing to do. I'm getting to follow my entrepreneurial spirit."