Thanks to the pandemic, the wonderful tradition of Livery Masters’ Weekend Away has not been able to happen over the past two years. However, the Mistress and I were lucky enough for our year to be open to this once more, with The Lord Mayor deciding to take us to Sheffield as his city of choice for his year’s ‘Class of ‘22’ Year Group, from Friday June 10th – Sunday 12th.
Things started well when, within five minutes of our departure from St Pancras, bottles of champagne were provided for us to enjoy with our six travelling companions, from the Dyers and the Lightmongers.
It was a great opportunity to get to know our peers a little better and the conversations we had proved a fascinating insight into the workings and activities of other Liveries.
We were hosted brilliantly throughout by the Master and Mistress of the Cutlers of Hallamshire, James and Jo Tear and their team. Founded in 1624, The Cutlers’ Company was established by a parliamentary Act of Incorporation and since that time has sought to maintain the standards and quality of Sheffield manufactured cutlery and steel products and to promote the name of Sheffield.
As manufacturing in the region has changed over the centuries, so the Company reflects this by highlighting the innovation in the region as well as upholding Sheffield’s proud heritage. The weekend served to demonstrate this very well, as we were about to find out!
After drinks, canapes and a welcome address from the Lord Mayor in the splendid setting and open space of the Sheffield’s Winter Gardens, adjacent to our hotel, we had private access to the art featured in the Millennium Galleries, the famous Ruskin Collection and Sykes Gallery.
Of course, a trip to Sheffield wouldn’t be completed without pie & mushy peas and our day was made perfect by this simple supper in the excellent company of our colleagues from the Spectacle Makers, Farmers and Basketmakers.
Early starts were necessary on both days if we were to fit in all that had been prepared for our visits.
We separated into 4 different groups in order to fit onto the coaches taking us to our visits for both days.
Saturday morning, we were introduced to 21st century Sheffield manufacturing, with a visit to MetLase. This is a digitally-led, mechanical manufacturing solution company, based in Sheffield which provides added value service through rapid tooling development, digital manufacturing solutions and customised problem solving solutions for high value manufacturer clients.
The tour of technical sites continued with our next visit, the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). They specialise in world-leading research into advanced machining, manufacturing and materials, which is developed as practical use to industry. Their aim is to transform industrial and economic performance by making step changes in productivity, increasing competitiveness, developing new products and processes and training new talent and skills. A truly fascinating visit, perhaps a little too technical for me (and most if us?!) but the young people who took the time and trouble to show us around were as dedicated to their art as any I’ve met. Sheffield has a large claim to be the centre of future training of industrial training and engineering.
Back on the bus and a visit to Persistence Works, Yorkshire Arts Space, a purpose built, award-winning studio complex in Sheffield City Centre.
Comprising 53 studios of varying size to accommodate around 80 artists and makers, its six floors are zoned to suit a broad range of making processes, including light industrial work. Here, we saw skilled artists working with silver, producing the most beautiful and unusual things, from rings and necklaces to napkin rings, goblets and silver measures for spirits – I was sorely tempted!
Temptation never very far away, most of us agreed a much needed drink was in order and, ever the organisers, our hosts had arranged a large open outdoor private space for us a picnic BBQ lunch, in the company of the Glass Sellers and our hosts, at the site of Sheffield’s famous Kelham Island Museum aside the River Don.
An Iron Foundry was built on the site in 1829 and continued in operation until the 1890s. The site was flooded on 11 March 1864, but was replaced by a power station in 1899 to provide electricity for the new fleet of trams in the city. The power station operated until the 1930s when the building was used for storage and workshops. These are the premises now occupied by the museum, along with Russell Works, which now houses the Hawley Gallery and the Crucible Shop, both part of the museum.
Of course the Kelham Island site also houses two of the greatest pubs, the Millowners Arms and the Fat Cat – a must for a visit for any self-respecting real ale lover!
The day’s visits culminated at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, a unique eighteenth century industrial works, which offered us a glimpse of life at home and at work at a rural scythe and steelworks dating back to the 18th century. The Works was once a producer of agricultural tools and the largest water-powered industrial site on the River Sheaf. It is now a group of Grade I and Grade II listed buildings and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
So the day finished at the historically industrial opposite to where it had begun. An intense set of visits, but a very interesting day
Dinner that night, black tie and badges, hosted by the Hallamshire Cutlers in their splendid silver-laden Hall in the middle of the city, in the company of our table, the Mariners, Haberdashers, Barbers and Past Master & Mistress Cutler. A champagne reception, four course meal with wines (but no spirits !!) provided ample fayre for most of us and, with concluding speeches from the Lord Mayor and Master Mercer, we were happy for our beds – but not before I’d spotted a bottle of Jura 10yo on the bar en route which delayed for a little longer … a night cap in the company of the Masters and Mistresses of the Builders Merchants and Needlemakers.
I had been told that there is a very special bond between Livery Masters whose year coincides with one’s own. And so it is proving – meeting as we did on Sunday morning to decide on our Group names for the Year ‘the Platinum’s (of course) and the forming of a committee group who would run our communications and get togethers. The inter-Livery bond is formed for one’s year, friendships made and keeping in touch.
Our final visit before heading for home was to the gardens and house, Wentworth Woodhouse, just outside Rotherham. This extraordinary stately home is one of the largest houses in Europe, that was once the home of the Fitzwilliam family. The house has it’s origins from 1725, and was bought by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust in March 2017.
The Preservation Trust offers guided tours of the house and gardens. The weather was kind and the walk around the extensive estate and house took our morning.
A delicious light summer lunch of poached salmon and salad was provided and in the company of the Solicitors and Feltmakers, in one of the private rooms overlooking the gardens, before which we had a talk from the CEO of The Preservation Trust who explained that they were embarking on a 15 year restoration project to the house this historic attraction in south Yorkshire.
A visit is highly recommended.
A massive debt of gratitude is owed to James and Jo Tear, Master and Mistress of the Cutler’s of Hallamshire.
The photos only capture some of what was a very enjoyable and educational weekend.
I think we had all silently agreed though that there was not to be any talking as we quietly, tiredly but very contentedly made our way home, back t’ smoke of London.
Master 2021 – 2022
Michael and Ian Urquhart have been awarded the honour of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Scotch Whisky Industry and to charitable work in Moray in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
They are both humbled yet surprised to receive this honour, especially in Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee and it reflects not on just them but all those they have worked with in many organisation in the Scotch Whisky industry and other sectors in Scotland over many years.
It is an honour and a pleasure to receive this award in Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee year.
I have had the privilege to lead two successful family-owned Moray companies. They are two very different businesses – single malt Scotch whisky and Scottish cashmere – yet they share a commitment to producing the highest quality iconic products, now exported to over sixty markets throughout the world. None of this would have been possible without the support of my family and the wonderful staff at both Johnstons of Elgin and Gordon & MacPhail who I have worked with over the last fifty years.
As the president of Johnstons of Elgin I continue to play a pivotal role in many local and national charities and organisations and remain a Deputy Lieutenant of Moray. I was delighted recently to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Glasgow Caledonian University and continue to do what I can to promote Scottish business throughout the world.Ian Urquhart CBE
I am delighted to receive this honour in such a special year for Her Majesty. I like to think this is not mine alone, but recognises the Urquhart family as a whole and our role in building a grocer’s shop in Elgin into a thriving business which exports around the world and is now the owner of two distilleries. Ian and I are only sorry our late brother David is not here to see the family honoured in this way.
None of this, of course, would have been possible without the support and hard work of our wonderful staff at Gordon & MacPhail over the years. And of course I also have to thank my wife Ailsa and our four children for putting up with my almost non stop travelling over the years.
While I may have retired from the family business, I seem to be as busy as ever in the Scotch whisky industry, as Chairman of the Scottish Committee of the Worshipful Company of Distillers and previously in my role with the Keepers of the Quaich and as Chairman of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry in the Highlands and Islands. Combined with my Non Executive Director role at the National Theatre for Scotland and my involvement in the Moray Growth Deal, I seem to find plenty of things to do. All of these roles have involved working with some wonderful people who have supported me on a journey that has been fascinating, occasionally challenging but always rewarding.Michael Urquhart CBE
Karen Betts has been awarded the honour of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to International Trade.
As the Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) until 2021, Karen provided outstanding leadership to the Scotch whisky industry and has been a powerful personal advocate of trade opportunities, participating in overseas missions and galvanising her organisation to provide technical support in trade negotiations.
I am delighted to receive this honour. I have had the pleasure to work alongside superb colleagues in the SWA and across the global whisky industry, as well as with committed government officials at home and overseas, and this honour reflects their hard work and creativity as much as my own efforts.Karen Betts OBE
Her Excellency Liveryman Sarah Dickson, former International Director at the SWA and now, since Aug 2019, British High Commissioner to The Bahamas, was awarded the honour of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to bilateral relations between the UK and The Bahamas and to British Nationals in The Bahamas.
We are delighted and proud to share this news with you and offer our heartiest congratulations to Ian, Michael, Karen, and Sarah.
I hope that, like me, you are looking forward to the forthcoming Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend to mark the occasion of Her Majesty’s 70 years as our Sovereign. The Mistress and I will be spending it in the company of my father, fellow Liveryman Harold Porter, who, in his 90th year, is one of an ever-decreasing number of people who can actually remember the accession of Queen Elizabeth II in February 1952 following the untimely death of her father, King George VI. Her coronation the following year, in June 1953, marked the beginning of a reign that has been the very epitome of duty, fulfilling the promise and commitment pledged at her coronation 69 years ago.
To celebrate and mark 70 years of Her Majesty’s dedicated service to country and commonwealth, we are lucky enough to be attending a hog-roast and fireworks event on the Saturday night. I have no doubt that we will also be sharing a yet-to-be-decided single malt, as together we honour this remarkable woman.
How ever you may decide to spend your Platinum Jubilee weekend – whether it be with family, friends, or both – may it be a truly memorable occasion and may your distilled product of choice be of a quality suitable to meet the spirit of the occasion.
With my very best wishes
On Tuesday 17th May at Vintners’ Hall, an audience of 120 people attended the 10th City Debate organised by the Worshipful Company of Distillers, and after a two-year hiatus due to covid, were treated to a lively debate addressing the topic: “This House believes that the consumption trends of today’s younger generations will have significant impact on the future shape of the spirits industry”.
The debate was ably chaired by Trevor Sterling, who explained that there would be a pre-debate vote on the opinion of the audience, and this showed 73% in favour of the motion, with 27% disagreeing.
Paul Mathew opened the debate, proposing the motion. Paul owns several high-profile bars in London, and also launched his own brand of 0% alcohol aperitifs under the ‘Everleaf’ brand – his key message was “ignore change at your peril”, concluding with the example of the dairy milk industry, with its many alternatives which are now in demand, and readily available.
Tom Warner, founder of Warner Edwards Distillery, then opposed the motion – giving many examples of how the spirits industry was grabbing “the rampant opportunity presented by changing trends”, and his animated speech was built around the firm belief that human nature is driven by the desire to get together, and it is the ‘ritual’ which is important, although the products consumed may change.
Sanjeet Aujla, Beverages Analyst at Credit Suisse, seconding the proposal, homing in on ‘Generation Z’, and the current trends of younger generations living their lives through social media, with the obsession of looking and feeling good, which was one of the key drivers of the growth in lo- and no-alcohol beverages. He quoted that “Gen Z spends 40% less on alcohol than millennials” and questioned whether the spirits industry is able to compete successfully with beer.
Finally, and seconding the opposition, Claire Warner – co-founder of the Æcorn Brand – pointed out that the drinks industry is one of the most creative and innovative industries and yet many have missed the glaring opportunity to use their talents to add greater breadth to the drinks industry. It took an outsider, someone without distilling or drinks knowledge (Ben Branson), to show the industry what they were missing. She commented “imagine how much creative power is sitting in this room!”
There followed a lively Q&A session, facilitated by Trevor, which asked the panellists to comment on many issues, including: “what happens when Gen Z ‘comes of age’ and has more disposable income?” and “shouldn’t the spirits industry be targeting the over 40s, who already have more disposable income?”. The final point – on which all panellists agreed – was that there was a significant risk of misleading (and losing) consumers if poor quality beverage products (alcoholic and 0% alcohol) are allowed to proliferate the market.
The Chairman closed the debate by asking for a show of hands to see whether the speakers had managed to sway opinion, and this showed the ‘team Warner’ had indeed done so, with 48% in favour of the motion and 52% voting AGAINST the motion.
Concluding the formal proceedings, the Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers – Chris Porter – thanked the Chairman, the speakers and the organisers for a highly successful Debate, and invited everyone to join him for a drink, with products kindly supplied by the speakers. For the first time in the history of the Distillers’ Debate, two-thirds of the drinks served contained no alcohol.
Organisers of the City Food Lecture today announce the Worshipful Company of Distillers will become part of the leading food industry event in 2023. They join the seven existing City of London Livery companies involved in agriculture and food: the Worshipful Companies of Bakers, Butchers, Cooks, Farmers, Fishmongers, Fruiterers and Poulters.
From its start, back in 2001, the invitation-only event has always enjoyed a high calibre attendance of 600 plus, with a long list of well known key note speakers that include Ash Amirahmadi, MD Arla Foods, Mel Smith, CEO Ocado.com, Dave Lewis, CEO Tesco, Dominic Blakemore, group chief executive Compass Group, Louise Fresco, the President of the Executive Board, Wageningen University and Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever.
The City Food & Drink Lecture, as it will now be known, brings together industry leaders, academics and liverymen and women at this annual London event in the food industry calendar. It also champions future leaders in the industry, with its Future Generation Forum for university students, as a key part of the event involving its key note speaker and panel members prior to the lecture itself.
The Worshipful Company of Distillers is delighted to be joining The City Food and Drink Lecture. Our aspiration is to be at the heart of the spirits industry. We look forward to working with our seven fellow food liveries to raise the profile of the UK food and drink industry through this prestigious high-profile event.Trevor Stirling, Chairman of the Industry and Membership Committee WCD
We are really excited that the Company of Distillers are joining what will be the City Food and Drink Lecture as from 2023. They join what we like to think has become a highly important, successful and enjoyable event that is now in its 22nd year. They will bring new ideas and thoughts to this well established event from their sector, which adds a brilliant new dimension.John Giles, Chair of the City Food & Drink Lecture
We’re really looking forward to welcoming them aboard formally in the next few weeks and months. We also plan to announce the 2023 dates and details of who our key note speaker will be for 2023 too.
The aim, is always, to keep the standard of the event very high and combine the history and tradition of the eight Livery organisations involved, along with addressing the really important issues that the agriculture, food and drink sectors face.
The Gin Guild’s annual dinner and Spring Installation of new members took place in London’s Guildhall on the 5th of May.
In front of an audience which included WCD Master Chris Porter, Upper Warden Chris Searle, Middle Warden Lorne MacKillop and 19 other liverymen, 23 new members were sworn in to join the Gin Guild’s ranks.
Included in this installation ceremony was the new Director General Pal Gleed, George Maxwell, son of former Master Charles Maxwell, and Dr Abhishek Banik, who all joined the Guild as Rectifiers.
Other installees included multi-award winner Jon Hillgren from Hernö Distillery and Rob Curteis from G&J Distillers.
Following the installation ceremony guests enjoyed the legendary Gin Guild bar, which featured founder member gins, and those of new installees, including the Stranger & Sons (of India) collaboration with Four Pillars (of Australia) – the Spice Trade Gin.
After a delicious meal followed a highly entertaining speech by Liveryman Sam Galsworthy, who talked about the many highs and lows of his colourful career, including his infamous run-in with the Court over his initial choice of company names. He is (still) truly sorry.
The surprise for many on the night was the awarding of the Gin Guild’s Lifetime achievement award, its highest honour, to outgoing Director General Nicholas Cook, which was bestowed upon him by fellow Liveryman and Gin Guild Chairman Christopher Hayman following his decade in the role. Nicholas is only the 5th person to receive this accolade.
Following an excellent speech from Christopher Hayman and a thank you response from Nicholas, the audience rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation, which was then followed by a rousing “Three cheers!” A good night was had by all.
For a full list of all Gin Guild installations, please click here.
Although it was a bright evening, the chill in the air reminded us that this was the spring court and dinner and not, yet, a summer event.
Grocers’ Hall is one of those absolute delights in the City of London. Tucked away in the shadow of the Bank of England and rather anonymous, it hides a trove of historical treasures. This is the Grocers’ fifth hall after losing its first hall in the Great Fire of 1666 and its second in 1965, in the worst fire seen in the City since the Blitz. Halls three and four were demolished. How the other half live!
Everywhere you look in Grocers’ Hall, there are opulent and yet rather tasteful nods to the company’s eminence and grand history. The left facing camels and the clove motifs – references to its spice trade origins – appear on everything from glassware, to carpets and furniture.
At the reception, we were refreshed with a choice of Laurent Perrier La Cuvee, Pickering’s Gin and Johnnie Walker Double Black Label. This was held in the Piper Room and it was impossible to miss the epic tapestry running the width of the room depicting diverse spices, their provenance, purity and those two great fires in the company’s history.
At the third, or maybe fourth, attempt The Beadle finally managed to drag us away from the reception and upstairs to the Livery Hall. There, dinner was taken under the watchful eye of Charles II, which felt fitting given his reputation for frivolity and merriment. On the other hand George III, whose portrait also hangs in the Livery hall, likely would not have approved!
Torched fillet of mackerel with celeriac and pickles was paired with a delicious 2016 Beaune Blanc du Chateau 1er Cru from Bouchard Pere. In a nod to the seasons, Cornish lamb and Jerusalem artichoke puree with a perfectly rich rosemary jus was accompanied by a 2015 Domaine Belle Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Louis Belle. Cheese souffle followed and the meal was completed with a delicious Honeycomb parfait, perfectly paired with an Eden Valley Botrytis Reisling from Heggies Estate, which hit all the right notes.
As is now customary, in this post-pandemic world, we shared a virtual loving cup of Hayman’s Sloe Gin, though thankfully not via Zoom video conference.
Toasts and speeches were heard with the help of Dows Bonfin 2004 Port and Glenfiddich 12 year old Single Malt Whisky.
Once the Master had proposed the toasts, Nigels Mills CBE kindly welcomed guests, to include a great many new Liverymen and a new Corporate Freeman. He also welcomed the Master’s Principal Guest, Mr. Ted Young.
It fell to Mr. Young to remind us of the Master’s many erudite passions – and his inexplicable love for Status Quo – before entertaining us with stories from his time as editor of various newspapers, including those under the apparently close management of Rupert Murdoch. He then toasted both the Company and the Master.
The Master closed the evening with a full and entertaining response, before delivering his parish notices and a rare three line whip!
On the 11 April 2022, the WSET held their annual prize giving – the first since COVID lockdowns began.
The Master, Clerk, IPM and Development Director attended the Guildhall Event which was live streamed across the world to all non-attending prize winners. The Master presented the WCD-sponsored prizes to two lucky winners – Mayuresh Ranade (Level 2 Spirits) and Christopher Stedman (Level 3 Spirits).
The Development Director received the prizes on behalf of Mayuresh and Chris for both who could not attend, but who will be drawn into the VTEC Mentoring programme.
The event also saw recognition of Liveryman Ian Harris, the eve’s Master of Ceremonies, who retires after 20 years of heading up WSET.