350th Anniversary Banquet at The Guildhall

What an evening we had at The Guildhall to celebrate and mark the 350th Anniversary of the granting of our Livery by the Alderman of the Corporation of London in 1672.

When our Royal Charter was granted in 1638, giving the Company control of distilling within a 21-mile radius of the cities of London and Westminster, there was some opposition from other Livery Companies to the creation of such a monopoly. In those troubled times of Civil War, regicide, and a puritan Cromwellian government, this opposition delayed the enrolment of the Charter until 1658. Following the successful development of the Company after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, however, the Court of Aldermen relented and granted us the Livery by Order dated 21st October 1672, thus firmly establishing the Company’s status in the City.

2022 therefore marks the 350th anniversary of the conferment of Livery status on our Company. To commemorate this most significant event in our history, we are celebrating this evening with a Banquet at Guildhall, in the presence of The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor Alderman Vincent Keaveny (who is an Honorary Liveryman and Court Assistant of the Company, and the first Distiller to be elected to the Mayoralty since John Johnson in 1845), Alderman and Sheriff Nicholas Lyons, Masters from the Cask Group and other associated Livery Companies, and their respective consorts.

It gave me great pride in seeing so many Liverymen, consorts, honoured guests from our military affiliates, Masters from other Liveries and, of course, the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and the Shrieval Party.

Proceedings begun at 5pm, with a wonderful service at the church of St Vedast, Foster Lane, attended by the Lord Mayor, Mr Sheriff, the Master and Wardens, other Masters and 100 Liverymen.

We were delighted that it was conducted by our Honorary Chaplain, the Reverend Canon David Parrott. Full order of service (PDF)

The Master, Lord Mayor, Mr Sheriff, Wardens, Beadle, Clerk and Consorts on the steps of St. Vedast

Those who had attended the service gathered outside to bid a temporary farewell to the Lord Mayor and Sheriff.

The wait was worth it, for we then had the great honour, and somewhat surreal experience, of processing from the church to the Guildhall by Pipe Sergeant Andy Parsons from London Scottish Pipes and Drums, much to the entertainment and bewilderment of the gathered City folk going about their daily routine, only to be greeted by our grand, piped procession! I don’t know how many people’s phones we ended up on but many more members of the public will know about the Worshipful Company of Distillers as a result!

On arrival at the Guildhall, we were met by the Pikemen of the Honourable Artillery Company, there to give support, gravitas and a nudge to anyone who might be slow to go through to dinner!

I was very pleased, together with; Upper Warden, Chris Searle; Middle Warden, Lorne MacKillop and Renter Warden, Nick Carr, to have met and welcomed all our guests on arrival to the receiving line who then proceeded through into the Reception in the Livery Room where they enjoyed Pol Roger champagne and Pimm’s No1 Cup, Platinum Jubilee Edition.

Our most grateful thanks go to our Corporate Freeman, Dan Mobley and Liveryman Karen Bennett, for the most generous donation of Pimm’s and the Johnnie Walker Black Label Royal Warrant Holders Special Reserve that we enjoyed at the Reception and at the Dinner. Thanks too to James Simpson and Pol Roger UK for most generous terms on a plentiful supply of Reception champagne!

Shortly before 7.30pm, our Beadle, John Cash, gave notice that dinner was served.

The Company felt that it was most to identify each table, not with numbers, but names of selected Past Master’s dating back to our founding. We wished especially to remember those Masters who had died in recent years, in our living memory, by remembering them by way of this tribute.

We meet tonight in this fine hall,
Distillers Livery one and all,
Tradition, when with our Lord Mayor,
Is that we pause and start our meal in prayer,
Praise God for all that has been done,
In charity and Livery fun,
We’ll take some spirits and some wine,
To celebrate our history fine,
And so, to future work we slip,
For ever with a flask at hip.

Grace – Reverend Canon David Parrott

Shortly after another inimitable Grace from the Reverend Parrott and before dining commenced, the Master read out a letter of greeting and good wishes for our celebration dinner from HM the Queen, a particularly proud moment and highlight for me from the evening.

The menu, prepared by Mark Grove and his team at The Cook and the Butler, was truly exceptional and we congratulate our very own Liveryman, Jean Deillon for his skill in producing outstanding quality and flavour. The selection of wines from our cellar, carefully selected to match each course by our Spirit and Wine Committee of Past Master’ Allan Cheeseman, Terry Barr and Honorary Steward, David Hunter all showed extremely well.

Thank you to all these people who made a menu of which we were very proud and received plenty of enthusiasm during and after the event!

Immediate Past Master, Jonathan Driver, was tasked with introduced the newly reconstructed idea for the Loving Cup. Whilst, thanks to ongoing COVID precautions, we bemoan the loss of a great Livery Institution, the Loving Cup lives on! Hayman’s Gin had generously provided us with miniature bottles of their Sloe Gin, to be poured into a neighbour’s glass (to the left) and then, on the word, turn to each other and toast – the Loving Cup for the future in born! Thank you Hayman’s!

The Loyal Toasts followed shortly, accompanied with fine Taylor’s 20yo Tawny port.

The Lord Mayor, himself an Honorary Liveryman, delivered a speech which recognised the value of the Distiller’s contribution to Livery life, his year and especially the charitable work which his Lord Mayor’s Appeal is delivering. He concluded by proposing the health of the Company, root and branch. Lord Mayor’s speech (PDF)

The Lord Mayor speaking on behalf of the guests

The Master then spoke thank everyone who had contributed in making the evening such a success, welcoming our honoured guests, celebrating the successes of our military affiliates, our Livery honours, the progress we have made with the Distillers Charity and our strategy on Diversity and Inclusivity – before asking Livery members to rise and toast the health of our guests. The Master’s full speech (PDF)

The culmination of this speech was a very special surprise for the Lord Mayor as he was presented with a one bottle, from a cask very generously donated to us by Irish Distillers specifically for this event. The cask produced 187 bottles of Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey.

The Master toasting to health of the guests
L–R: Commodore Robert Bellfield CBE ADC Royal Navy, Rear Admiral James Parkin CBE, Squadron Leader Derek Read, Commander High Saltonstall Royal Navy, Commodore Richard Harris Royal Navy, Court Assistant James Higgins, PM David Raines, Steward Matt Gammell, Commander Claire Thompson Royal Navy, Liveryman Simon Collins, Captain Katharine Armstrong Royal Navy, Court Assistant Alex Parker, Liveryman Jamie Barklem, Lieutenant Commander Neil Dockerty, Steward Matthew Russell, Major Monty D’Iverno

The Worshipful Company of Distillers owe a huge debt of thanks to Irish Distillers, who not only funded the cask but the shipping and forwarding costs too), their agents, Pernod Ricard UK, and NUDE Brand Creation who designed the label. Thank you all!

The Master was honoured to finally be able to unveil the surprise to Vincent Keaveny, a very special commemorative bottle of single malt Irish Whiskey, the label of which stated:

Bottled by Irish Distillers for The Worshipful Company of Distillers to present to its Honorary Liveryman, the Rt. Hon. Vincent Keaveny, 693rd Lord Mayor of London, on the occasion of the Company’s Banquet at Guildhall on 15th June 2022 celebrating 350 years since the enrolment of its Livery

The bottle is intended for fund-raising, along with the other 186 bottles, for however the Lord Mayor’s Appeal Team may see fit, during the remainder of his Mayoral year, to help boost and fulfil his Charitable ambition.

The Master presented the Lord Mayor with a bottle from a cask of Jameson Black Barrel whiskey

Finally, a response and entertaining presentation from Liveryman Jared Brown and his wife, Anistatia Miller, authors of, among many other essays, books and theses, The Distiller of London, the book which captured the life, times and recipes of our founder, Sir Theodore de Mayerne. Jared & Anistatia’s full speech (PDF)

Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller entertain the guests after dinner

A warm feeling pervaded throughout, the evening and the room was filled with a pride as our Livery celebrated this milestone in our history and our future.

The day had started, at the church, in celebration and with reference to our Founder and his colleagues from 1672. The evening was closed by once again name-checking this extraordinary man. The events of the five hours in between will live long in the memory.

Chris Porter
Master 2021-2022