Distillers’ Awards presented to top performing WSET Spirits students

Distillers’ Awards presented to top performing WSET Spirits students

As part of the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust’s yearly graduation ceremony at Guildhall on 24 April 2024, the livery was delighted to present two of the top performing students with awards celebrating their achievements in the WSET Level 3 Spirits course.

This year’s recipients of The Worshipful Company of Distillers’ awards were drinks educator Timothy Powers who studied at the Commonwealth Wine School in the USA and journalist Laurent Cuvier (who couldn’t be there in person) who studied at WiSP in France.

Timothy gave a speech at the graduation, and the Master and VTEC chair Chris Pitcher grabbed him for a few words afterwards:

“I am truly honoured to have received this prize, and I am grateful to both Commonwealth Wine School and WSET for the opportunity to have successfully completed my course of study. I hope to be able to use this opportunity to dive further into my love of spirits and spirits producing regions by visiting these regions and getting to meet the individuals, families, and organisations who have been producing these beverages for countless years.”

We would also like to congratulate spirits ambassador Nathan Shearer, who took home the The Incorporation of Coopers of Glasgow Earl of Forfar Scholarship for his Level 3 Spirits results.

The Distillers’ awards go to a student from the Americas and one from Europe, the middle east or Africa, and come with a bursary to be used to further the student’s exploration of a spirit producing region. Previous winners include celebrated Australian distiller Dave Withers, who will be using his bursary to further expand his knowledge of spirits production in Japan later this year.

The livery has been a supporter of the WSET since its earliest days and contributes a trustee to its board. The Vocational Training and Education Committee works with the WSET through the year to provide scholarships to help those involved in the drinks industry to study its courses, as well as bursaries and mentorship for the top performing students. We will be welcoming Timothy Powers to our mentorship program this May.

Billy Abbot

ICBD 2024 Annual Talk – English Whisky – The Cotswold Distillery

“Would You Adam and Eve It…?”

The Annual WCD/ICBD Talk took place in Edinburgh on the evening of 22 January, at the home of 603 Squadron RAuxAF, our military affiliates.

Around 25 Heriot Watt ICBD students and staff enjoyed a taste of Cotswold Signature Single Malt English whisky on arrival. Before the main talk a short welcome (and recruiting pitch!) was delivered by Squadron Leader Derek Read, Officer Commanding 603 Squadron and recently installed Liveryman by Presentation.

Michael Urquhart, Chairman of the Distillers Scottish Committee, officiated and introduced Morag Garden, former head of sustainability and innovation at the Scotch Whisky Association and now CEO of the English Whisky Guild. Morag described the formation, scope and development of the Guild and its progress in seeking to establish a Geographical Indicator (GI) for the English whisky industry.

Michael then introduced the main speaker, Nick Franchino, Master Blender at The Cotswold Distillery, who delivered an entertaining ‘nuts and bolts’ talk on the development of English whisky and the trials, tribulations (and pleasures) of its production in a relatively small-scale distillery. With examples and imagery, Nick successfully emphasised the need for a very much ‘all hands on deck’ philosophy.

Finally Jerry Riley of the Scottish Committee, and on behalf of the Distillers VTEC, advertised to the students the forthcoming Business of Spirits session, taking place at Heriot Watt on 22 February, as well as the opportunity to apply for the WCD Entrepreneurship Award.

The evening was rounded off by sampling the Cotswold Distillery’s Sherry Cask and Founder’s Choice bottles together with an opportunity to see a little of 603 Squadron’s fine HQ in the former 19th century home of Arthur Sanderson of that ilk.

A huge thanks to Nick for travelling north in the aftermath of Storm Isha and delivering such an excellent insight into English (and especially Cotswold) whisky production. Thanks too to Morag for highlighting the development of the English Whisky Guild. And of course thanks to 603 Squadron for their ubiquitous support in hosting this series of talk.

Jerry Riley

Memory of the Industry – An Update

The Memory of the Industry project has been a twinkle in the eye of the livery for many years now, an acknowledgement of the unparalleled depth of knowledge that resides within the members of the livery, not to mention a network that is virtually unparalleled. Whilst individual companies have undertaken similar projects these are, by their nature focussed only on activities, brands and personalities of the company in question, the Memory of the Industry project has the ability to range across businesses and take an industry category view.

It has always been felt that the audience for project is potentially very wide, from the interested amateur to a more academic observer seeking a fly on the wall view of the some of our industry’s key moments. With the launch of the Business of Spirits Course however the Memory of the Industry project has the ability to offer our own WCD content to support this popular course.

Having been run aground somewhat by COVID we have now filmed two interviews, one with Past Master Martin Riley on the story of Jamesons, highlighting our ability to focus on an individual brand story and also one with Liveryman Steve Wilson on Innovation in the Spirits Industry demonstrating our ability to take a wider point of view.  Both videos took the format of a one-to-one interview with Development Director Clive Bairsto taking on the “Paxman” role. These videos are now with the Marketing Committee who are reviewing the best way to utilise this unique content.

A still from Steve Wilson’s Memory of the Industry video

Our next stage is to develop the project into a podcast format to enable us to deliver more “stories” more quickly and build a unique library of interviews with witnesses and indeed prime movers in some of our industry’s most important developments over the last 50 years. We currently have a list of around 50 topics to record however this is clearly not exhaustive so if you have a story to tell please get in touch through the Clerk’s Office: office@distillers.org.uk, we would be delighted to add you to our future recordings.

Allen Gibbons

Joint Distillers Marketors Panel Event On Tequila

The JOINT DISTILLERS MARKETORS PANEL EVENT (JDME) took place on the eve of 1st November 23 at HMS President, just off St Katherine’s dock, adjacent to the brightly-lit Tower Bridge, and beside a dark and appropriately ruffled River Thames.

Tower Bridge as viewed from the bar of HMS President

The subject of deliberation was the present-day USA market great disruptor ‘Tequila in the Spotlight’. With a highly-charged panel of Nuno Teles (Diageo MD UK), Marina Santos (white spirits, Campari UK), David Haigh (Marketor), and David Elmer (Marketor, and one-time resident for many decades in South America) the scene was set. Overseeing all and posing questions was once again, our house Moderator David Wethey of Agency Assessments.

The evening got underway with a warm welcome to the hundred-plus Distiller and Marketor Liverymen and guests, and a few tequila anecdotes, from Master Distiller Chris Searle – with an intro to a philanthropic moment from Reverend Canon Dr Alison Joyce of St Brides. For those of slim tequila knowledge (many in fact), Past Master Martin Riley then swiftly gave a 4-5 minute treatise on the origins and nature of tequila, before handing over to the panel.

From thereon, the audience were treated to a fast-paced analysis on the successes and challenges facing tequila – such as supply for an 8-year production cycle, protection of the integrity of the brand, and production origin. Much discussion centred on the emergence of celebrity endorsement, the phenomenal growth of the brand in USA, the parallel positioning of mezcal, all rounding off with panellists briefly describing their preferred cocktail and mixers of choice (for Nuno Teles of Diageo this turned out to be soda and lime, particularly so as not to break his keto-diet!)

Turning to audience questions, like the growing Storm Ciarán outside, David Wethey as moderator was battered with energetic engagement from an array of directions to direct to the panel including LO/NO (alcohol), culinary matching, more on celebrity-styling, and was tequila out in front on endorsement (likened to perfumery) ahead of the other alcohol categories?

All too soon, it was time for the panel to ‘draw stumps’ and introduce top mixologist Daniele Umoette from Brown-Forman who described with zeal the “sipping table” he had organised in the Wardroom next door, together with the wide range of cocktails to try all freshly-made and beautifully served from Campari, Diageo and Brown-Forman – accompanied by  stupendously delicious Mexican canapés in the warm glow of the lights of a brooding Tower Bridge.

By 10pm, Liverymen collected their rain-wear, and fortified by cocktails various made for Tower Hill tube with a most-heightened understanding of an interesting spirit that has already broken records and was forecast, like Ciarán, to continue its storming passage!

Clive Bairsto
Development Director

Mentoring: A European First

I am delighted to share with you a video from Sofie Masson who is now a great Ambassador for our mentoring programme.

When we started the Business of Spirits (BOS) initiative with our education partners the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD), Heriot Watt (ICBD) and the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) the aim was to share the incredible depth of knowledge and experience of our membership with the next generation of young distillers and industry entrepreneurs. The course is a full day seminar packed with industry insights and learnings.

In parallel, our Vocational Training and Education team (VT&E) also introduced our personal one-on-one mentoring programme. In two short years this has gone from strength to strength with now 40 mentees being matched to and guided by 40 of our volunteer mentors.

Sofie Masson is one such mentee. Hailing from The Black Forest in Germany she has a family farming business.  Discovering an old still in one of their barns, Sofie believed there may be an opportunity to expand into the international whisky market and innovate the family spirits portfolio. The business is called BRANDHAUS7. To this end, in 2022 she enrolled with the IBD in London to learn how to create a German Whisky and also distil craft Fruit Spirits, a category already popular in Germany.

Having met our BOS team at the seminar in London Sofie then joined our mentor programme.

Matching the needs of the mentee with the skills and experience of our mentors is a priority and carefully considered by our Livery team.

I would like to thank, in this case Liveryman Steve Wilson for so generously agreeing to give his time and knowledge over the last year since November 2022 and make such a difference to Sofie.

Please do watch the video and get a sense of the difference that YOU could possibly make.

Thank you also to all our mentors and the VT&E mentoring team led by Richard Watling, Clive Bairsto, Edward Bates and Nick Carr.

We are keen to find mentors to support our growing programme. If anyone is interested in helping with this great initiative, please contact Clive Bairsto: clive.bairsto@distillers.org.uk

Chris Searle
Master 2022-23

Business of Spirits – Hits the Spot

The Livery Vocational Training and Education team delivered a stellar day of insights to students of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling on Wednesday 11th Oct, using the 4th Floor venue at WSET in Bermondsey. The day’s module of “Business of Spirits” is just that – it brings alive the business aspects of the distilling business to those who only have a technical understanding of distilling.

After an introduction to the Livery by Master Chris Searle, Liverymen Martin Riley, Chris Pitcher, Steve Wilson, Richard Watling, Nick Carr, and Clive Bairsto – and featuring new speaker Abhishek Banik from the Copper River Distillery – were all on great form sharing their knowledge to give distilling students a wider perspective of the whole business.  Topics covered included: a Global market overview and trends, Pricing and Finance , Consumer and Category Segmentation, Innovation, and a terrific personal story from Abhishek on his experiences of building a business and distillery from scratch with Bob Russell and his family and team at Copper Rivet in Chatham, Kent.

Comments from the students in the end-of-day evaluation were consistently 5 out of 5 gradings across the board with remarks such as: “..very knowledgeable and entertaining…”; “fantastic, highlighted how much I don’t know..!”; “..loved the practical advice/steps for real business application…” and “…absolutely brilliant; so worthwhile, and especially the networking opportunity” and “…I would love to attend more events like this…!”

Thanks go to our partners at WSET, Richard Harding and his team, for supporting us on the day with a very good venue – and to Bob Russell and Copper Rivet for kindly making Abhishek available to support us. The next delivery of this will be February 2024 at ICBD in Edinburgh.

Tequila in the Spotlight: 2024

Joint Distillers and Marketors Livery Panel Event

Date: Wednesday 1 November 2023
Time: 6.00pm – 9.00pm, HMS President, 72 St Katharine’s Way, London E1W 1UQ
Price: £35 with fabulous complimentary drinks and canapés

The Masters of the Livery Companies of the Distillers and Marketors invite you to attend a wonderful evening on Wednesday 1 November at HMS President in London, a stunning shore-based Naval venue, with a specially assembled panel of experts to consider if the spotlight is on Tequila in 2024 – a fiery subject indeed!

The panel will be chaired by the esteemed David Wethey, a published author and expert in Marketing, who returns to reprise his expert controlling-role, to this time over-see:

Nuno Teles – Managing Director, Diageo, UK
David Haigh – Chairman and CEO, Brand Finance PLC
Marina Santos – Marketing Director, Campari, UK
David Elmer – Tequila Aficionado, many years based in Latin America

Commencing at 6.00pm, we will welcome you to HMS President, there will be time to greet friends and find a seat. The event will get under way at 6.30pm sharp. The Masters of the two Companies – Chris Searle and Glynn Cartwright – will set the scene and context for the evening for our respective Liveries.

The panel then, with complete audience interaction in the intimate surrounding of HMS President, will get into the meat of the subject – and conclude just before 8pm. A complimentary Tequila cocktail bar, provided by Diageo, Campari and Brown-Forman, with wines for those who prefer and Mexican inspired canapés too, will allow a well-lubricated continuation of the subject matters raised amongst friends in a highly convivial atmosphere. A Tequila tasting table will be provided by Brown-Foreman for those who wish to learn more about this fascinating spirit. Doors close at 9pm.

Tickets will be priced at £35 and are available through the EventBrite link below. You may bring guests with you to this prestigious event. Numbers are limited so you are advised to book early.

PLEASE NOTE: As this is a private event, the password to access the Eventbrite page is available to members only. Please click the button below to see the option to book your place!

Any questions please contact Event Director for the Distillers Clive Bairsto: clive.bairsto@distillers.org.uk

We look forward to seeing you there!

Any profits from the event will be split between the Distillers’ and Marketors’ chosen charities.

Photographs will be taken and we will be filming the event which will be used for publicity purposes. If you do not wish your photograph to be taken or not wish to be in the film recording, then please let the photographer, or event organisers, who is covering the event know at the start.


Spirits Tasting July 2023

On the evening of Wednesday 26 July 2023 – which was uncharacteristically cool for this prestigious annual event – The World Drinks Awards teamed up with the Worshipful Company of Distillers once again to present more than 200 country and world winners from their 2023 awards tasting at Vintners’ Hall.

Clearly, word had spread far and wide that this is the only event in the world where such a range of spirits is brought together to taste under one roof, as over 200 people attended (ranging from Distillers’ Liverymen to Masters, Clerks and Past Masters from other Livery Companies) with virtually zero no-shows!

During the evening, guests were also able to enjoy:

  • The Distillers Cocktail Bar
  • A selection of cheeses and preserved meats
  • Presentations from The Master and World Drinks Awards
  • A complimentary copy of Whisky Magazine, American Whiskey, Gin, Rum and Tequila

Finally, in a break with tradition, guests were given the opportunity to take home a mystery bag at the end of the evening, containing a selection of latest edition magazines and 2 randomly selected bottles from the tasting, all for a charitable donation of just £20 per bag. All proceeds are being donated to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.

Livery members can see images of the event in the gallery:

Ed Macey-Dare

The Gin Guild welcomes Desmond Payne MBE as Grand Rectifier

The Gin Guild has appointed a new Grand Rectifier at its prestigious annual Ginposium, which focused on the sustainability of the gin industry.

London’s Desmond Payne MBE, Master Distiller Emeritus at Beefeater, was announced as the new Guild’s new Grand Rectifier, succeeding Lesley Gracie, Master Distiller of Hendrick’s Gin, when he takes up the post on 20 October 2023 for two years.

The full article is available here from The Gin Guild