A busy month. My German is non-existent, so giving a speech in German sets the pulse racing. That is what I had to do at the annual banquet of our affiliate the Zunft zu Rebleuten in Basel, Switzerland. Nicola Riley very kindly helped on the phonetics. The Rebleuten guild is 700 years old and they are the vine owners and wine makers from around Basel, hence our connection. Their Master, Edi Etter, is one of our liverymen and he is stepping down as the Rebleuten’s Master after 15 years. The banquet is like a men-only, livery company with many speeches and singing. New members have to drink half a bottle of white wine from a wolf statue. Sounds like an idea we could replicate in the Distillers!
The Mansion House Banquet is always a special moment in our calendar. I was proud to be able to present the Lord Mayor with a cheque for £50,000. This is part of the proceeds from our charity whisky auction and is being used to support the Onside Youth Zone being built in a deprived part of Dagenham. Hopefully liverymen will get a chance to see this amazing new youth club in the New Year.
I have been pleased how our military affiliations have prospered this year. We entertained the London Scottish Regiment to a whisky tasting tutored brilliantly by Kenny Mackay. The London Jocks seemed to enjoy themselves. We were reciprocated with an invite to their Hallowe’en Dinner, which commemorates the regiment’s brave stand at Messines in the First World War, when they were given the wrong ammunition.
Other livery company invites this month included the Vintage Festival service at St James Garlickhythe, followed by lunch at Vintners’ Hall. It is a nice way to celebrate the harvest with the other drink liveries (Vintners and Brewers). The Musician’s Company Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral sees a fantastic turnout from the livery world and it is an enjoyable evening. The Painter Stainers’ Company had an art exhibition, from predominantly their liverymen, and the standard was high.
There was the normal round of internal Committee meetings. The Charity Committee focussed on an initiative for us to reinvigorate our support for vocational education within the spirits industry. The Industry Committee continues to concentrate on how we recruit and work with the thriving spirits industry. The Master & Wardens’ Committee runs through the nuts and bolts of how we run the Company and how we are currently recruiting a Development Director.
Finally the Master and Wardens carried out the age old tradition of inspecting a London Distillery. It had to be Beefeater at Montford Place. I am pleased to say they passed their inspection and so can continue to produce 3 million cases of gin a year. Passing the inspection probably made it easier for our host, liveryman Desmond Payne, to entertain 30 liverymen and their guests to a gin tasting.