On a crisp and clear November evening in the City of London, the Installation Dinner for the new Master was held in what has been another interesting year for the Distillers’ Company.
With the evenings continuing to draw in at pace, it was already dark when the clocks at Vintners’ Hall chimed in the 18th hour of the day to a packed room of Liverymen, assembled there to witness the annual change of office holders.
The preceding hour, as is usual, saw a number of new Liverymen taken their final steps to joining the Distillers, and their first taste of life in the Livery was to enjoy a thoroughly entertaining yet wonderfully historic ceremony, which saw (now Past) Master Jonathan Driver hand over duties to the incumbent, our new Master, Chris Porter. The ceremony also welcomed the Master’s wife, Alison, as the new Mistress Distiller.
Jonathan Driver, as the new Immediate Past Master, watched on as Chris Searle, Lorne Mackillop and Nick Carr were installed as Upper, Middle and Renter Warden respectively.
The Immediate Past Master’s year was summed up in an entertaining speech by Past Master and Father of the Court, Charles Minoprio, which managed to stay lighthearted while highlighting the incredible work done in a very difficult year. Rarely does a speaker manage to fit in references to both C.B. Fry and Henry V’s adventures at Agincourt, but such was the dexterity of the speech from the Father of the Court that at times it raised more than a titter from the assembled crowd, while having a heart of weighty appreciation for the Immediate Past Master’s contribution to the Company, both fiscally and structurally. The Immediate Past Master’s efforts were rightly rewarded with rapturous applause from the assembled gathering.
In his own speech, the Immediate Past Master summed up his time as Master, referring to a year like no other as the first ever Master to be appointed at a virtual ceremony.
This was followed by our new Master making a short speech about his aims while in post, much more of which you’ll hear about in these pages and beyond. It is sure to be an exciting year under the stewardship of Master Porter. Three cheers (and one for luck) were called, and adhered to with gusto by all in the room. Onward to the dinner!
Pre-dinner distilled drinks (Dockyard Gin and Tonic, Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch) or a glass of undistllled and sparkling Pol Roger gave an opportunity for Liverymen new and old to become acquainted and for guests to sample the Distillers’ warm welcome.
Having taken our places at dinner, the meal was preceded by the ceremonial toast to the new Master, given by his immediate predecessor. A wonderful grace followed from our Learned Clerk, Edward Macey-Dare (standing in for the sadly absent Honorary Chaplain) who noted, to great laughter, that we needed to be careful whilst feasting to drink plenty of water, as we no longer had a Driver, but only a Porter!
With the taste of Macallan 10 Year Old Single Malt fresh on the palate, it was time for our culinary journey through smoked salmon, rump of lamb, a Welsh rarebit savory, vanilla cheesecake and coffee. The wine pairings were exceptional and, of course, it was back to distilled spirits at the end with a Benromach 15 Year Old Malt.
There then followed the Loyal Toast to the Queen (with a rousing rendition of the first verse of the National Anthem, accompanied on the piano by the Learned Clerk), the Royal Toast (to the other members of the Royal Family) and a toast to the newly minted Lord Mayor, our very own Honorary Liveryman and Court Assistant Vincent Keaveny.
We enjoyed excellent speeches from Liveryman Andrew Cox as our Company Speaker, and Liveryman Nicholas Abell responding on behalf of the guests. Whilst it is unusual to a hear speeches from two Liverymen, it was a great pleasure nonetheless.
As is the usual custom following the dinner, Liverymen and guests retired for the Stirrup Cup with the Master, and more of the Company’s warm hospitality. What a pleasure it was to be back together again for dinner.