On what seemed like the first dry evening in an otherwise very wet November, we gathered at Vintners’ Hall to witness the installation of our 307th Master of The Worshipful Company of Distillers. While we gathered in the lobby greeting old friends and chatting, 12 new members were welcomed into the Livery – illustrating the continued health and appeal of our Company.
At 6.00pm we were ushered into the Court Room, which is one of the oldest continuously used meeting rooms in the City of London. We squeezed in, certainly exceeding the room’s theoretical capacity, in order to witness the Installation of our new Master Chris Searle.
Christopher Porter was stripped of his robe and chain and then he and his wife, Alison, were presented with their new badges of office as Immediate Past Master & Mistress. Chris Searle, wearing the Master’s gown, Chain and Badge, took the Oath of Allegiance to the Company. Chris’s wife, Sue, was also presented with her badge of office. The changing of the guard continued with the swearing in of Lorne Mackillop, Nicholas Carr and Daniel Szor as Upper, Middle and Renter Wardens respectively.
In his peroration, Charles Minoprio, Past Master & Father of the Court, recounted some the highlights of Christopher Porter’s year as Master, which included attendance at 102 events, the 350th Anniversary dinner at Guildhall in June and the outstanding success of the Distillers One of One auction which raised over £2.4m, plus the 350th Anniversary Appeal which raised over £100,000. Christopher, Charles said, had been a great communicator and team leader, ably supported by Immediate Past Mistress Alison and, as a result, our Livery continues to punch well above its weight. Having toasted the health of the New and Immediate Past Masters, those assembled enthusiastically applauded and gave three rousing cheers (plus one for good luck) to complete the ceremony.
We then repaired to the Drawing Room – having first been greeted by our New Master and Wardens in the Receiving Line – where we enjoyed a glass of Hambledon Classic Cuvee, a Bombay Sapphire or, for the first time, a mocktail, Martini Vibrante – giving us a clue as to where our new Master had spent some of his distinguished career.
On, then, to dinner in the Livery Hall: this splendid room is almost exactly the same age as our Livery and was packed with 144 diners. The ceremonial procession and customary toast to the New Master was followed by grace from our honorary Chaplain, the Reverend Canon David Parrott who had a relatively easy task this year – weaving pearl, swirl and whirl into his grace to rhyme with Searle. A delicious meal of smoked salmon & crab, lamb rump, mushroom & stilton tart and amaretto cheesecake, beautifully matched with a crisp white burgundy, a robust montepulciano and a lush Sicilian muscat, followed.
Then came the Loving Cup ceremony, understandably truncated post Covid, with only the Master, Immediate Past Master, Wardens and Clerk participating and toasting the assembled throng “In Fellowship”. Hopefully it will not be too long before the full ceremony is restored.
We proceeded to toast the health of the new King, with Honorary Assistant Ian Harris leading the singing of the first verse of The National Anthem, accompanied by the Clerk on the piano. Further toasts followed to other members of the Royal Family and The Lord Mayor. The guests were then welcomed by Liveryman Iain Kennedy. Chris Mason responded and regaled us with memories of his 40-year friendship with the Master, whose stellar career at IDV, URM and Bacardi Martini was summed up in a quote from our new Mistress: “Chris works hard plays hard and just gets on with it”. He concluded by proposing the toast to The Worshipful Company and the Master.
In his response, the Master urged us to engage and celebrate Livery Life, emphasising that fellowship is at our very core. He committed to continue the work to promote diversity and inclusion and to push forward our programme of excellent vocational training and mentoring. He noted that our One of One auction has propelled us into the top 10 of fundraising Livery Companies and he has high hopes for the second One of One to be held next October at Hopetoun House in Edinburgh. With over 50 applications in the pipeline for membership, our Livery continues to prosper and develop.
An excellent evening was brought to an end with a Stirrup Cup and a further opportunity to catch up with friends old and new.