Scottish Court & Livery Dinner 2023

The Court and Livery returned to Edinburgh on Thursday 14th September 2023 for a Court meeting in the afternoon followed by the Scottish Dinner in the evening in the splendour of the Signet Library on Parliament Square.

This is thought to be the twelfth Scottish Dinner but certainly the sixth to be held at the Signet Library. Demand for tickets was again at a high level with 217 Liverymen and guests attending. There were more guests than Liverymen attending making it an excellent platform for the Master to tell guests, who are from the distilling industry and ancillary trades, what the Livery does in London and elsewhere.

Prior to dinner guests were welcomed by the Master and Warden in the lower library to a drinks reception where we enjoyed a Caorunn Gin & Tonic, or a Benromach Organic Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky and friends and colleagues were able to catch up and meet new friends. After being called to dinner, we moved upstairs to the impressive upper library where we enjoyed a delicious three course meal with accompanying wines. At the end of dinner, we followed the Master in a toast to Fellowship with a dram of Benromach 21 year old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

And so, to the speeches. Liveryman Marcus Pickering proposed the toast to our guests. Marcus stared by welcoming Mr Drew Mackenzie-Smith who received his Livery at the June Court Meeting; Mr Roger Hall who received Freedom of the Company, Ms Stephanie MacLeod and Mr Niall Mitchell of John Dewars & Sons who were made Corporate Freemen at the Court Meeting prior to dinner. He also introduced the Master’s guests Mr Alan Robertson, Master of the Royal Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh; Mr Mark de Witte of De Kuyper Royal Distillers; Mr Eduard Etter, Past Master, E.E. Zunft zu Rebleuten in Basel and Mr Dominik Etter; and The Master’s guest speaker, The Right Honourable Viscount Thurso. Marcus also talked about attending his first Livery dinner as a guest in 2016 knowing very little about it. He gave a resume of what he has learned about the Company since becoming a Liveryman, concluding

“I like to think that we will all leave this industry in a better state than we found it and a lot of that is thanks to the good folk in this room”

Responding to the toast to the guests fell to The Right Honourable Viscount Thurso. Lord Thurso is well known in the distilling world being a Patron and Past Grand Master of the Keepers of the Quaich, and his involvement in the tourism and hospitality trade for many years where he is the Immediate Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Innholders. He is also currently Chairman of Visit Scotland and Lord Lieutenant of Caithness. Lord Thurso spoke about his time at Visit Scotland, which will soon be at an end as he completes his time as Chairman. His time at Visit Scotland was centred about how they could proudly promote the wealth of incredible features our country has to offer, both to a domestic as well as global audience. Scotch Whisky has a part to play in Scottish Tourism with visitor centres at most distilleries now developing to visitor experiences to a growing number of visiting guests. The success of the Scotch Whisky industry also acts an advert to attract consumers to come to Scotland to see where their favourite dram is made. Coupled with this, is the support by the industry of local communities and he commended the Distillers in their quest to support charities through the Youth Action Fund. In conclusion he was delighted to see the Distillers in good heart and toasted the health of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, root and branch. May it continue to flourish for ever and good health to the Master.

The Master, in responding, thanked Lord Thurso for speaking and presented him with a bottle of his Master’s Cask, a Royal Brackla 15 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky. He continued with highlighting some of his recent and forthcoming visits to Scotland culminating in the Distillers One of One Auction to be held at Hopetoun House on the 5th October. This is an auction of unique items, in cask and bottle with 40 lots from 36 donors to raise funds for the Youth Action Fund to support charities who help young and disadvantaged people make a better start in life. He thanked the donors and sponsors for their support.

The Master also highlighted how well the Livery was doing with approximately 400 members, of which 20% are in Scotland, along with 11 Corporate Freemen. We also have the Gin Guild with its own board and celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. They have 500 members of which 10% are in Scotland.

In addition to charity, the Distillers support Vocational and Training programmes to assist those studying distilling and those in the early stages of their career. There is a mentor scheme which is growing from strength to strength with currently 42 mentees in the programme. With only 47 mentors he made a plea for anyone interested in becoming a mentor to get in touch.

The Master thanked Kenny Mackay, who is standing down as one of the Charity Trustees, for all his endeavours and wished him well for the future, as he leads a group of intrepid cyclists cycling from Madrid to Jerez in the Velo cycling fund raiser.

The Master also thanks the staff at the Signet Library for a delicious meal and service, International Beverage and Gordon & MacPhail for the gin and whisky and Speyside Craft Brewery in Forres for the after-dinner beer, the Scottish Committee and the Assistant Clerk, Kim Lyons, for delivering another memorable evening.

Last of all, The Master presented the Scottish Golf competition prizes: Ewen Mackintosh winning the knockout competition with William Wemyss runner up. Gordon Doctor won the Scottish Plate with Ken Grier runner up.

In closing he thanked everyone for attending and declared the bar open!

Michael Urquhart CBE
Chairman of the Scottish Committee