This book is a history on the Matt D'Arcy Irish whiskey brand and other Newry based distilleries. The new Matt D'Arcy Distillery situated on the site of the original distillery in Newry and incorporating some of the original building is due to be completed in 2022.
Book Review; This book is a product of the author’s ambition to revive the Matt. D’Arcy distillery in Newry. Michael McKeown was inspired to do this when he came across a poster for D’Arcy’s whiskey and was so impressed by it that he had to find out more. That striking poster provides the cover for this book. McKeown is not just a successful businessman but also a chronicler of his adopted city. He has already published other books on the history of Newry and so it was to be expected that once he got involved with reviving the D’Arcy distillery, that he would want to delve into its history. In 2020 the relaunched brand won three awards in the prestigious International Whisky Competition. It is an outstanding example of the recent revival in whiskey-distilling in Ireland.
The book itself is a work of art. It is beautifully designed, with lots of colour and black-and-white illustrations. There is a good story to be told here and McKeown tells it well. He follows the vagaries of the history of the D’Arcy and related families through two centuries in a way that draws the reader in. This is not a narrowly focused book, however, as it takes in the Boer War and events across the Atlantic. It is also, in its way, a history of Newry, as the people involved with the distillery also played a key role in local politics and the development of Newry as a commercial centre.
As well as the family and social history, this book tells us a lot about the actual process of distilling and how it developed over the centuries. McKeown manages to make the ostensibly dull subjects of legal requirements and taxation interesting with his conversational style and deft use of anecdotes. He also shows us the international significance of Irish whiskey and gives some examples of clever marketing that would not be out of place today. For example, when the Boer War broke out, another Newry distiller, Thomson, was the first to send whiskey to the British troops, thus gaining a lot of favourable publicity (from all sides when it was discovered that the Boers were drinking it too!). Review by Book Ireland Magazine.