On Friday 14th October 2022, we celebrated our annual Banquet at Mansion House. This, however, was no ordinary affair. For the first time since 1845, the incumbent – and our guest of honour – The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor, was a Distiller – and a proud Irish one at that: our very own Court Assistant, Alderman Vincent Keaveny!
The evening started in the Salon with a champagne and cocktail reception, with the Master and Mistress Distiller welcoming the assembled throng from the splendour of their respective golden thrones. A trumpet fanfare then heralded the arrival of the Mayoral and Shrieval party, dinner was announced and official photographs followed. Our stand-in Beadle, Ted Prior, managed to get everyone into the correct formation and then led the procession into the famous Egyptian Hall for dinner, to the accompaniment of Scipio. The Honorary Chaplain proceeded to say grace (slighty sotto voce, as for some reason he had decided to turn the microphone off!) and then the important business of eating and drinking commenced.
We were treated to a thrilling 4-course menu, as follows:
For the pescatarians/omnivores: red cabbage cured sea trout, set buttermilk & dill puree, compressed granny smith, cucumber, red cabbage gazpacho gel, fennel, pumpernickel bread
For the vegetarians: broccoli, goat cheese & pecan nuts double baked souffle, wilted red card, roasted pumpkins, Madeira Beurre Blanc
Accompanied by Pouilly Fuissé Aux Chailloux Domaine Jean Pierre Sève 2019
For the carnivores/omnivores: Braised Ox cheek, pearl barley & parsley gremolata risotto, glazed baby heritage carrot, caramelised shallot, crispy black cabbage, Bourguignonne sauce
For the vegetarians: Wild mushroom persillade Vol Au vent, duck poached egg, tarragon Hollandaise sauce, roasted plum tomato, tender stern broccoli, wilted spinach, king oyster mushroom
Accompanied by Château Pique Caillou Pessac-Léognan 2015
Crispy Cotswold brie, caramelised apple, rocket micro herbs
Margarita Baba with passion fruit & lime mascarpone cream, compressed pineapple, roasted white chocolate, passion fruit & vanilla layered jelly
Accompanied by Domaine Langlois-Château Coteaux du Layon 2020
The Master then introduced our latest variation of the Loving Cup ceremony. The instructions were really quite simple, and involved pouring the contents of a Hayman’s miniature of London Sloe Gin into the tumbler of the person immediately to the left and then joining in a toast: “to Fellowship”. It’s amazing how many people still managed to get it wrong, however, so we may need to simplify it even further in future…!
We were then treated to that most traditional of musical “conversations” – or, more accurately, “competitions” – the Post Horn gallop, which was performed by two trumpeters from the London Banqueting Ensemble from opposing galleries, and concluded with the customary raspberry, followed by fanfare. Pure theatre – and thoroughly enjoyable, as always.
The Royal Toast to our new King, Charles III, followed, with a rousing rendition of the first verse of the National Anthem (with everyone being very careful to get the new words right!), which preceded the toast to Other Members of the Royal Family and then the Lord Mayor himself. The Lord Mayor responded with a witty and lively speech, before offering a toast to the Company, root and branch, and good health to the Master. The Master replied with a fulsome account of everything that has been going on in his year – celebrating, in particular, our 350th anniversary in conjunction with the Lord Mayor’s own year, and other recent triumphs such as the first One of One Auction in Scotland in 2021 (which raised over £2.5 million for charity) and our successful mentoring programme. He concluded by presenting the Lord Mayor with a bottle of whisky and a specially designed brochure commemorating our 350th anniversary. Liveryman Karen Betts OBE, Chief Executive of the Food & Drink Federation, ex-CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association and a Former diplomat, concluded the speeches, focussing on the issue of diversity and inclusion which she is leading on internally, via a working group that has recently been set up.
Finally, breaking with tradition, 3 Liverymen (the Clerk, Ed Macey-Dare; Honorary Assistant Ian Harris; and Liveryman Andrew Cox) together with Susan Cox and soloist Joanna Forbes L’Estrange, formed a semi-circle in front of the doors and sang The Parting Glass, a traditional Celtic ballad. The Lord Mayor was visibly moved by what he heard and, following the procession out, loitered longer than usual in the Salon for what became an unofficial stirrup cup.
All in all, a most memorable evening and one which will live long in the memory of all those who attended.