April Court & Livery Dinner

April Court & Livery Dinner

On Thursday 25th April, members of the Court and Livery, and their guests, gathered at Apothecaries’ Hall for our spring dinner.

After a very jolly reception, during which Henriot Brut Champagne, Cotswolds Dry Gin and Whyte & Mackay 13 YO were served, our Beadle Jeremy Smith gavelled up and the assembled throng moved slowly through to the splendid 17th century dining hall. After an amusing grace by our new honorary chaplain, the Reverend James Titley, we had a slight false start where we thought the loving cup would be making an early appearance – before the first mouthful! The cup was saved for later, everyone sat down and the feasting commenced.

We were treated to a delicious starter of London cured smoked salmon, potato and watercress blinis, sauce gribiche, accompanied by a refreshing and crisp Marc Brédif Vouvray 2022. A hearty main course of Fillet of Cambrian venison, king oyster mushroom and botanical jus followed, accompanied by a robust Australian red, Yalumba The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 – which we continued to enjoy whilst we moved onto the savoury course of London ale rarebit, parsley and London sour dough. For some reason, the pudding published on the menu – Chocolate delice, orange compote, espresso ice cream – did not materialise and the délice that was served was a slice and not a chocolate disc; whilst it was good, it was not what we had tasted and chosen! This course was accompanied by a delicious Bizoe Tiny Semillon Noble Late Harvest Rikus Neethling  37.5cl Western Cape 2017.

The real Loving Cup ceremony followed, after which we settled down to listen to speeches from Alison Gowman, Alderman for the Ward of Dowgate and then the Master. Alderman Gowman gave us an update on City charitable giving and also the Green Finance Initiative, which she has so famously championed. She also gave a generous tribute to our outgoing Clerk, Edward Macey-Dare (who had stepped down at the Court meeting that afternoon, after 15 years’ service) as they had worked together on the 375th anniversary dinner at Middle Temple Hall in 2013 (when she had been Master Glover), during which he had managed to incorporate Charles II’s grace, which sadly she did not attempt to sing, but nonetheless proceeded to recite, as follows: “Here’s a health unto His Majesty,With a fa la la la la la la, Confusion to his enemies, With a fa la la la la la la. And he who would not drink his health, We wish him neither wit nor wealth, Nor yet a rope to hang himself. With a fal lal la la la la la la la la, With a fal lal la la la la la.”

The Master followed, introducing our new Steward, new Company Freemen and new Liverymen, before himself paying tribute to the outgoing Clerk – which prompted an immediate standing ovation – and introducing the new Clerk, Mr. James Bryan. He then concluded by informing the guests that the Assistant Clerk, Kim Lyons, was also retiring at the end of November – and everyone was back on their feet again!

All in all, an excellent evening, and one which marked the end of an era – 3 successive generations of partners in the law firm Monier-Williams having clerked for the company for a total of 69 continuous years (corresponding exactly to our number in the Order of Precedence). It was thus most fitting to find ourselves back at the Apothecaries (the Society from which we had splintered off in 1638) on this momentous occasion – and, indeed, to use this event to publicise the Company’s updated history, which seeks to build on the existing history published in 1996 by chronicling the numerous achievements of the past c.30 years (to include the fully scored Distillers’ Song written by the outgoing Clerk, entitled: Good Heart!).

February Court & Livery Luncheon 2024

The February Court & Livery Luncheon saw the Distillers’ Company return to Vintners’ Hall, which is our home for the Installation of the new Master and Wardens in November. It was fitting therefore that at the Court meeting before the luncheon Alderman Vincent Keaveny, CBE KStJ was installed as Renter Warden and Alex Oldroyd was also welcomed to the Court.

At the Court meeting there were ceremonies to appoint Simon Collins (Chairman of MALT) and Stephen Russell (a member of the Finance Committee) as Stewards. Alexis Burgess, Ciarán Russell and Naomi Laurie joined the Livery and Alderman & Sheriff Bronek Masojada was formally introduced to the Court. He had joined the Livery in September 2023 just before being appointed as Sheriff.

There was the welcome return of Rev’d Canon David Parrott who deputised for our new Honorary Chaplain, Fr. James Titley who was unable to attend. I felt very honoured that I found a place in one of David’s famed graces:

We meet today in this fine hall
Distillers livery one and all
To eat some food and drink some wine
Provided by our God divine.
When last we met t’was my desire,
From saying grace I should retire
But then a call from tyrant Kim,
And once again for lunch I sing

We were treated to a wonderful menu comprising poached sea trout, Lake District lamp rump, and rum & coconut parfait served alongside Hugel Classic Pinot Gris 2019 and Château de Fonbel St Emilion Grand Cru 2018. There was Graham’s ‘Six Grapes’ Special Vila Vehla Edition Reserve Port for the toasts.

The luncheon had a military theme, with guests attending from various areas of the armed forces, the Royal Navy (825 Naval Air Squadron and HMS President, Naval Regional Commanders organisation), and the British Army (The Household Cavalry and London Scottish Band of the Pipes and Drums). The military theme continued with Steward Matthew Russell as Company Speaker. Matthew is a member of MALT (our Military Affiliation Committee) and our liaison for 825 NAS.

The guest speaker was Lt Gen James Bashall CB, CBE who provided an overview of the British Army today, his view on its challenges and the importance of the Armed Forces to Livery Companies to the Armed Forces. 

During the Master’s speech he made a presentation to Leading Air Engineering Technician Matthew Spicer who was the winner of the Distillers’ Prize for 2023 which is awarded to the best performing Engineering Technician in 825 NAS for the entire year. 

The Master also presented the Claret Jug for 2023 to Honorary Steward Geoffrey Bush who was the winner of the golf knockout competition 2023. Geoffrey has now won the trophy 3 times since the inauguration in 2010.

After the speeches, everyone retired to the Drawing Room for the Stirrup Cup and a chance to catch up with both new and old friends, where we were joined by the Mistress and her guests who had dined at Innholders’ Hall where they were treated to an insight of City life by Fiona Adler, Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders and non-Aldermanic Sheriff in 2014-15.

Fiona Adler had given a fascinating account into her role as Secondary to the City of London, a permanent position working alongside the Sheriffs and Aldermen and supporting their year in office. Given the fire at the Old Bailey the day before, in which some 2000 staff, jurors and offenders had to be evacuated, we were delighted Fiona could attend. She gave an inspiring speech about the work with young offenders or those at risk to tackle knife crime.

The Consorts had a most delicious lunch starting with a chicken leg Caesar salad, followed by pan fried spiced Cod loin, finishing with a deconstructed Greek yogurt, lime & white chocolate cheesecake. Clean plates all round!

Kim Lyons
Assistant Clerk

RAF 603 Squadron’s Burns Supper

I was honoured to attend RAF 603 Squadron’s Burns Supper on the 26th January 2024 as a guest, representing the Worshipful Company of Distillers, at their HQ at 25 Learmonth Terrace. This was their first Burns Supper since 2018 and marked the first dinner event to return since Covid.

We were welcomed in for drinks with the piper and then treated to a superb dinner with all the traditional addresses and responses throughout the meal. Great fun was had and it was wonderful to see the squadron being able to meet and enjoy each other’s company again over a fantastic meal and in their bar afterwards.

It was nice to see a number of Distillers products behind the bar as a result of donations after the ICBD lectures and tastings, that have been gifted to the Squadron and help support the regiment. A particular note of thanks was given to the Worshipful Company of Distillers for their kind donation of the Drambuie which was gifted to 603 after the Scottish Dinner as it is the Squadrons formal toasting drink.

My thanks to the squadron for their wonderful hospitality as always.

Matthew Gammell

Sue Searle – The Mistress’ Year in Review 2022-23

What an amazing year this has been! These are the main events, but not quite all, I attended during my year and in addition to those I attended with the Master.

Summer & Autumn 2022

Having joined the City Consorts’ Society last summer, I enjoyed some amazing events in the weeks leading up to the Installation. I attended their Wine tasting and dinner at Vintners’ Hall, which is always held for up and coming consorts. Their AGM and grand dinner was held at St. Bartholomew’s’ with delicious food and musical entertainment. Livery Pictures held a champagne tea to meet the Lady Mayoress designate, Felicity Lyons, very useful for meeting other future and current consorts too. Then I attended a spectacular Robert Adam lunch at Plaisterers’ Hall. We experienced a taste of what it might have been like to be entertained in these beautiful spaces with dance and music. I made some great friends in these early days.

December 2022

After our Installation Ceremony, I joined ‘A Christmas Carol’, Charles Dickens walking tour of City of London with Terri Davies of the Farmers, followed by a Christmas lunch at the Guildhall Club. The City Consorts also held a Christmas lunch at Vintners’ Hall.

January 2023

In January, I enjoyed a tour of the magnificent Goldsmiths’ Hall and lecture with Lady Angela
Bridges, and lunch at Haz. The highlight of seeing such incredible displays, was to see the beautiful Queen’s Platinum Jubilee brooch which was created by the Goldsmiths. City Consorts held their annual lunch at Ironmongers’ Hall.

February 2023

In February I held my own consorts’ lunch at Vintners, Hall with guest speaker Prof. Rosie Campbell, Director of The Global institute for Women’s Leadership, and included consorts form various liveries. This was preceded by a tour of the hall. I attended a lunch with Jane Harland, consort to the Tax Advisors. We heard a selection of topical readings from well-known authors associated with this part of the City.

March 2023

March began with an exciting Jury Trial and Error at the Old Bailey to raise money for The Sheriffs’ and Recorders’ Fund and Pan Intercultural Arts. I joined an interesting tour of the Goldsmith’s Centre in Clerkenwell with Lady Angela Bridges. We saw how young people learn to work with gold and silver and create some amazing pieces.

April 2023

April saw a turning demonstration and afternoon tea at The Dutch Church, courtesy of consort, Dr. Christine Elliott. I was lucky to win the raffle and received the candlestick made at the demonstration. I also bought a wooden pear!

May 2023

In May, the lovely weather lent itself to a sunny tour of the Secret Gardens of the City of London with Lucy Neame and buffet lunch at Brewers’ Hall. This was followed the next day by a needlecraft session and afternoon tea at the Guildhall Club with Consort, Kim Riley . The month ended with a Consorts’ lunch at Stationers’ Hall with Colin Wells and drinks in the garden.

June 2023

The Lady Mayoress, Felicity Lyons, ran a champagne tea at Guildhall Club in June, with the Sheriffs’ consorts attending as well. Two days later it was an exceptionally early start at the crack of dawn for a guided tour of Smithfield Market, with consort Simone Parker, followed by a champagne breakfast and tour at Butchers’ Hall. With the continuing good weather, it was a pleasure to attend the tour of Chelsea Physic Garden and reception with Pollinating London Together on behalf of the Master. Next came lunch and a tour with Sue Nash, consort for the Worshipful Company of Plumbers at the RAF club, Piccadilly, including a fascinating talk by Air Commodore Barbara Cooper, CBE. The Women of Note concert by Arch Sinfonia at Celia Sharp House took place on another lovely summer evening. This highlighted three women composers and the world première of a new saxophone concerto by composer Lucy Armstrong. The grand finale in June was the Coronation Ball at Stationers’ Hall with the Master as my guest, at the invitation of their consort Colin Wells. This was an amazing and memorable evening.

July 2023

In July we enjoyed Inter Livery Croquet organised by Kimball Bailey, consort to the Investment Managers.

September 2023

After a summer break from consorts’ activities, during which there were a few Livery events the Master and I both attended, I enjoyed a reception and talk in September at the Athenaeum Club with the Consort to the Art Scholars, Joanna Barker.

October 2023

October saw the City Consorts’ AGM and lunch at Butchers’ Hall. We were joined by Patrons Elisabeth Mainelli, Marian Marsden and Caroline Wright. The Livery Banquet of the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers was next, accompanied but the Master at the Guildhall Great Hall. This was a magnificent evening with the Honour Guard of the sea cadets from training ship Barrosa and cadets from St. John Ambulance. Music was by the London Banqueting Ensemble, St. Paul’s Chorister, Master Joshua Cohen and The Corps of the Drums of the Royal Logistic Corps. Preceded by tour of the exhibition.

I held a Champagne Masterclass for consorts at 116 Pall Mall, the IoD, with four course dinner and champagne pairing. This was attended by 43 people who had an amazing time and learnt a huge amount about champagne from Searcys Master of Champagne, Martin Dibben. This was followed by the Lady Mayoress’ Musical Feast at Mansion House accompanied by the Master. This was performed by young people from a wide variety of charities and organisations supporting musical education for all, regardless of background.

Lady Lauriston, Master Basketmaker, ran a workshop for her consort, William Newlands of Lauriston, at the Dutch Church. We had a lovely lunch and continued in the afternoon. Yeoman Member Init Vozik, assisted by Trade Advisor, Eleanor Morgan, showed us how to make a rush mat. That evening I enjoyed a tour of the Tower of London followed by a reception and the Ceremony of the Keys accompanied by the Master. The next day I had lunch at Tallow Chandlers’ Hall with consort Janie Hill.

November 2023

November began with afternoon tea with the new Lady Mayoress, Elizabeth Manielli, at Goldsmiths’ Hall, followed the next day by Lady Mayoress, Felicity Lyons, ‘at home’, accompanied by the Master. I very much enjoyed the tour of the Fan Museum and tea with the Master Fanmaker, Peter Dove and meeting Mrs H E Alexander, MBE FRSA
Founder and Director, The Fan Museum, an incredible lady!

I was invited to the Installation Dinner for Mark Huxley, new Master of the Company of Entrepreneurs at Drapers’ Hall. I was a guest of Emmanuel Cohen. An amazing evening with the installation and the Service of Thanksgiving at St. Lawrence Jewry before the dinner.

Finally I held a Cocktail masterclass, with buffet supper and jazz at the Guildhall Club, which was great fun. We began with refreshing Martini Vibrante before guests were seated for a most entertaining and informative masterclass run by Ollie (Oliver Morris from Cotswold Distillery). We were treat to a gin tasting after which we made our own, seasonal cocktail. This was followed by a buffet supper, during which the King’s College London Jazz Society played some lovely music which continued for two hours into the evening.

It was a truly amazing year, during which I made a great many friends, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute!

Sue Searle
Mistress 2022-23

Carol Service 2023

On 14th December 2023 – and for the first time in 3 very long years – the Livery congregated at St. Lawrence Jewry for the annual Carol Service.

Not only was this our new Master’s first “internal” event, but we had the pleasure of welcoming Fr. James Titley – the new incumbent of the recently restored Guild church – as our new honorary chaplain, on the retirement of the Reverend Canon David Parrott. To mark his appointment, the Clerk (in conjunction with Canon Parrott) quickly invented a new “ancient” admission ceremony at the very beginning of the service, during which the Master asked Fr. Titley whether he would faithfully undertake his duties as Chaplain and, upon confirmation of the same, presented him with his badge of office. Then, we were back to the standard format of carols, lessons read by the Wardens (or, more accurately: IPM Chris Searle masquerading as Upper Warden; PM Riley masquerading as Middle Warden; and Alderman Vincent Keaveny masquerading as Renter Warden – for he is currently only “Renter Warden Elect”) and the Master, some rather lovely motets sung by the choir, and a choice inaugural sermon – featuring a brown bowler hat, no less! – which has set the bar high in terms of future Carol Services (and graces!).

At the end of the service, we repaired to the 3rd floor dining room in the Guildhall where, after a short welcoming address, we sat down to a delicious buffet supper courtesy of The Cook and The Butler – and some rather fine bin ends from our own cellars!

Many thanks to the Master for supplying the fizz (although I was somewhat aghast to hear him – a Master of Wine, no less – describe Nyetimber as “Champagne” (!), but to be fair he quickly corrected himself…) which, this year, was wisely only on offer to those who were actually attending the supper.

Judging by the emails the following morning, the event was deemed a great success. In short: the Carol Service is back. Alleluia!

Edward Macey-Dare

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

2023 Installation Dinner

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.

Edward Macey-Dare

Remembrance Sunday 2023

The Mistress and I attended the Remembrance Sunday Service at St Paul’s as part of the commemoration of the Great World Wars and the fallen.

Plenty of veteran groups were present as well the majority of livery company masters.

The new Dean of St Paul’s gave a moving address covering all conflicts, both historic and current and the service honoured all. After this, we processed in gowns and badges to the Royal Exchange where wreaths were laid by a large range of military groups.

The Fruiterers laid a wreath on behalf of all the livery companies, in the presence of the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs. Pikemen from the Honourable Artillery Company formed a guard of honour and led the group to Mansion House where we watched the military parade return to barracks.

It was a day for reflection and a privilege to be present representing Distillers.

Chris Searle
Master 2022-23

The Master’s Whisky Tasting

On Friday November 17th, the Master invited other Livery Masters from whom he had received hospitality during his year with an evening at the Guildhall in the main dining room. The Wardens and members of the M&W who were available also attended.

35 Livery Masters attended the evening which was managed by Jonathan Wilson, Brands Home Manager at Aberfeldy as a tutored tasting. The event was made possible by sponsorship from the Single Malts Group at John Dewar and Sons.

With a superb background talk on the history of John Dewar and the Aberfeldy distillery, Jonathan took us through the flavour profile and flavour characteristics of the Dewar Double Aged 16 yo Blended whisky before moving through the range of Aberfeldy Malts from the 12 year old , through the 18 year old and finishing with the 25 year old, whose smoothness ,rich flavour and limited stock justified the £500 Retail price point.

A relaxed evening was achieved through a Scottish Style Buffet Supper where Masters were free to network . A hugely enjoyable evening and a great way for the Master to end his year, giving back hospitality in the way that only Distillers can!

Many thanks also to Mark Grove and Jean Deillon at Cook and Butler for their support.

Chris Searle
Master 2022-23