Melrose Rye was a brand of Maryland Rye Whiskey. It has a very interesting heritage and the brand has been revived by J.W. Kelly & Co. of Chattanooga, Tennessee. It all started with the Goldsborough family who first settled in Maryland in 1669. In the latter half of the 19th century, Harry Goldsborough went to Texas and made a large sum of money there, got married and returned to Maryland with his bride. Upon returning to Baltimore, Harry Goldsborough invested his money in the firm of Records, Mathews and Company, Rectifiers, Distillers and Wholesalers of Whiskey. Within a year, Goldsborough purchased Mathews’ share of the firm and the name was changed to Records and Goldsborough. In 1883 they created the brand Melrose Pure Rye Whiskey.
Like other producers of Maryland Rye Whiskey of the day, the firm of Records and Goldsborough believed that straight whiskey was too concentrated in flavor and needed to be rectified and reduced to 90 proof. They acknowledged that straight whiskey when done correctly could be an excellent drink and preferred by some people, but their lower proof product would appeal to everybody for its balance of flavors. They used five different rye whiskeys to make their blend for Melrose.
In the year 1897, Records and Goldsborough purchased the Canton Distillery, located in the Canton suburb of Baltimore. The distillery was known for the quality of its rye whiskeys and had been a source for the Melrose blend. Felix Vincent Goldsborough and his brother William Yerbury joined the firm when they reached an age of employment. By this time Records had passed away and the firm was 100% in the hands of Harry Goldsborough. The brothers learned every aspect of the business and William had a talent for blending whiskey. Harry Goldsborough died in 1917 and the sons inherited the business. Unfortunately, Prohibition was on the horizon and they were forced to close their business at the end of 1919. Felix and William struggled with other businesses during this period and in spite of their advanced age, they decided to restart their business upon the repeal of Prohibition in December 1933.
Once again, the Goldsborough brothers started blending whiskey. The Great Depression made this task more difficult as the brothers started the business. By this time the third generation of Goldsboroughs were entering the business. They struggled to build the business and were rewarded with success. They not only opened a distillery in Maryland, but also acquired the Pebbleford Distillery in Ekron, Kentucky. They managed to keep the business open even during the years of the Second World War when beverage alcohol production was shut down in favor of industrial alcohol for the war effort. In 1948, the family decided to sell the company, the distilleries and the Melrose brand to Schenley.
Like all of Schenley’s distilleries, the Melrose distilleries over produced whiskey during the first few years of the 1950s. Schenley believed the Korean War would expand into another world war and they would be forced to make industrial alcohol for the war. That never happened and Schenley found itself with a glut of whiskey in their warehouses. They began to shut down production at distilleries and eventually started to sell the distilleries. As whiskey lost market shares in the 1960s and 70s, Schenley stopped supporting advertisement of brands and then stopped producing brands. This became the fate of the Melrose brand. By 1980 the brand was no longer being produced.
The Melrose Rye brand was a well known Maryland Rye blend in its day. The brand is no longer in Maryland, but it is back on the market. Another fine whiskey heritage rescued from the dustbin of history.
Photos courtesy of Rosemary Miller and from the archives of Michael Veach