On 23rd November 2023, 153 Distillers and their guests attended the Installation dinner at Vintners’ Hall in honour of the new Master, Lorne Mackillop – who, together with the Upper Warden Nick Carr and Middle Warden Dan Szor, had been sworn in that afternoon.
At the reception, we were treated to a choice of Henriot Brut Champagne NV or No. 3 London Dry Gin, before our new Beadle, Jeremy Smith, gavelled up for dinner. The newly minted Master, Wardens and principal guests then processed into the Hall (the long way round!), after which the Immediate Past Master Chris Searle gave a toast in whisky (Grants Triple Wood Blended) acclaiming the new Master. This being his swansong, it was particularly poignant to hear our retiring Honorary Chaplain, the Rev. Canon David Parrott, say grace for the final time. And then the feast commenced.
We were treated to a starter of salmon – cured, appropriately, in Searcy’s own gin – accompanied by St Aubin Murgers des Dents de Chien, Gérard Thomas et Filles 2016. The main course itself was a real winter warmer: Braised ox cheeks, horseradish mashed potato, glazed parsnips, sprout tops and red wine jus, accompanied by a deliciously full-bodied Crozes Hermitage Les Fées Brunes, Jean-Luc Colombo 2020; this was followed by a savoury of Montgomery cheddar welsh rarebit with onion jam. The meal was rounded off by a zesty pudding comprising Lemon mousse, lemon curd, blueberry, pistachio, shortbread crumb, accompanied by the wonderful Château Laville, Sauternes 2016.
The beadle then gavelled and we all enjoyed the recently reintroduced Loving Cup ceremony – with real sloe gin in the cups; and daggers drawn! – followed by the toasts. Clearly, the Clerk’s instruction of: “3 gavels; ‘the King’; piano chord; sing” had been misunderstood by the new Master, because upon the assembled throng rising to their feet, a very pregnant pause followed, thus forcing the Clerk to nudge Honorary Assistant Ian Harris – who was standing next to him at the piano, ready to lead the singing – to make the toast himself; and off we went with the first verse of the National Anthem.
The Loyal and Civic Toasts followed; and then we were into the speeches (just ahead of schedule!). Liveryman Clive Bairsto CBE welcomed the guests, to include members of the Master’s immediate family and no less than 17 new Liverymen – which is a record!
The Master’s guest speaker, Liveryman Duncan Baldwin, replied and gave a fascinating insight into the Master’s career, which had seen him progress from an undergraduate at Queen Mary College London; to working in the wine business and becoming the youngest ever Master of Wine; to changing tack and joining Angus Dundee, where he became a Master Blender and spent the rest of his working life travelling pretty much the length and breadth of the globe before retiring earlier this year.
The Master’s speech concluded the formal part of the evening and, after an enjoyable stirrup cup in the drawing room, our (very) contented diners collected their coats in an orderly fashion and slipped away into the night.