“Mastering the Range” – A field visit to A (London Scottish) Company at Pirbright

“Mastering the Range” – A field visit to A (London Scottish) Company at Pirbright

On Sunday 4th August, the Master and Steward, James Higgins, visited our Army Reserve Unit (A (London Scottish) Company at Pirbright in Surrey.   A Company, together with the other Companies of The London Regiment, were on a training weekend at Pirbright to complete their Annual Personal Weapons Test (APWT) ensuring that every member of the Company has meet the standard required (a score of 42 out of 50 shots fired from various distances from 100m to 400m). 

On the Sunday, the Regiment were joined by guests from across their Livery affiliates, and external stakeholders including Local Government officials as part of their Community Engagement programme.   Also in attendance was Major-General Ranald Munro, Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff and the most senior tri-service Reservist in the UK Armed Forces.   The Master had a chance to speak for some time with the Major General on the importance of our military affiliations and on how, together, we can spread the important work of our Armed Forces.   The discussion covered a wind range of topical subjects from the work of HMS Montrose in protecting shipping lanes for British ships in the Middle East, and the important work of the Army in helping shore up the dam at Whaley Bridge to the Major General’s love of 30 year-old Dalmore!

Later in the morning there was a chance to see the Company take part (in teams of 4) in a “march and shoot” competition involving a 2 mile run in full combat gear (including their personal weapon (the SA80 Rifle) and ammunition) finishing at the range and followed by a 100m dash to the 200m firing point to fire 5 rounds each at a series of 20 plate targets.    It sounds easy enough but rest assured with heart and lungs pounding after a 2 miler on a hot August day it wasn’t.   

Following the conclusion of the March and Shoot, the London Regiment’s guests were given the opportunity to fire the SA80 rifle (the standard issue service rifle of the British Armed Forces) on the 25 metre range.    This was a first for the Master and under the watchful eye of A Company’s Major Jamie Barklem (and Freeman of the Company) he managed to ensure that the Company didn’t disgrace itself in front of the watching Jocks!    Afterwards, there was a chance to chat to a number of members of A Company, including several who have been recipients of  Distillers’ prizes in recent years, and discuss future opportunities to see A Company in action.

James Higgins
August 2019

Master’s Blog – July 2019

July is a busy month and  there were a number of key events in the month starting with the Innholders’ Dinner in Innholders’ Hall where the Master gave a short history of the Company that is a fellow member of the Cask Group. After all, Inns are where our products were and are sold. 

The Annual Inspection of a Distillery in London “or up to 31 miles radius from the Cities of London and Westminster” granted in our Charter was undertaken by the Master and Wardens. This year it was Hayman’s Distillery, now located in Balham and easily within the bounds set out by the Charter. The report of the visit is a separate item on the website, but suffice to say the Master and Wardens were more than satisfied with the quality of the stills and the spirit produced and presented the certificate of Inspection to PM Christopher Hayman and  Liverymen James and Miranda Hayman in a Ceremony at the Distillery witnessed by over 35 other Liverymen and guests. 

A visit to the House of Lords for drinks on the famous terrace and lunch in a room overlooking the Thames had been arranged by the Master Framework Knitter. An excellent tour which after lunch gave us the opportunity to visit both the House of Lords and the House of Commons during debates and questions. 

The Master Constructor and Master Plumber organised a day long walk around City churches which was well attended by Masters of different Livery Companies. The highlight for me was the Swordstand with the Coat of Arms of the Lord Mayor of London 1813. 

This is where the Sword of the Lord Mayor would be placed during the Sunday church service. The Lord Mayor and his entourage would visit each City Church during his tenure. 

George Scholey who was a Liveryman in the Distillers and whose Sword stand is located in St Mary Abchurch has been our only Lord Mayor to date.  Watch this space. 

The Installation Dinner for the new Master Vintner also took place this month. Christopher Davies takes over from Sir Andrew Parmley.  An excellent dinner with outstanding wines and Hine 1975 Cognac served in the Stirrup Cup.  A rare spirit. 

The Mistress and I joined the Distillers’ Car Club event, visiting Liveryman Julian Temperley in his Somerset Cider Distillery  and then staying at the very comfortable and imposing Stone Easton Hotel where on Saturday evening Liveryman Alan Montague- Dennis gave us a tutored tasting of Bollinger champagnes including Rosé Vintages. 

The Car Club Outing had been very well organised by Court Assistant Nick Carr and PM Watling and is reported separately. 

This followed a visit to the International Air Day in Yeovilton organised by the Fleet Air Arm and 825 NAS Squadron. 

Commander Duncan Thomas hosted the Mistress and myself in the VIP Enclosure which also received many visiting Senior Naval Officers and foreign dignitaries. 

The following week I was Guest Speaker at the lunch of the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners held in Salters’ Hall. 
This gave me an opportunity to talk about the global spirits industry and the history of our Company and the Gin Guild. 

The same evening I had been invited to the newly restored Painted Hall in Greenwich for the dinner hosted by the Chancellor of the University of Greenwich. 

The annual dedication service for the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor took place in the Chapel of St Faith in the Crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral for three new Knights Bachelor appointed by the HM The Queen. The Bishop of London officiated. 

The Knights wore their red cloaks and were preceded by the Sword Spurs and the Pennons bearing the heraldic Badge of the Imperial Society which are the symbols of this ancient order dating from medieval times. The word “Bachelor“ is a corruption of the French word “Bataille” as this award was often made on the Field of Battle. 

Afterwards an informal meeting with the Master and Clerk of the Marketors was held with Clive Bairsto our Development Director and myself to start planning a joint event planned for early November. More details to follow. 

That evening the Summer Dinner of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries was held in Apothecaries’ Hall. The Master gave an amusing speech in which he warmly welcomed the Distillers’ Master and Mistress and said that any past ill feeling concerning our break away from the Apothecaries has now been (mostly) forgotten. 

The Sheriffs organised a tour and dinner at the Old Bailey one evening which many Masters and Mistresses attended. The tour included stepping into a cold stark cell. Not a place where you would want to spend a lot of time. 

No prisoner is held there overnight and so if you accidentally lock yourself inside the keys are held some distance away and you would be spending the night in solitary confinement. Fortunately this did not happen and the dinner took place under the impressive dome of the Hall of the Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court). 

The annual summer event of the Brigantes – the Association of London Liverymen with Northern connections – took place in Manchester at the impressive Victorian Whitworth Hall situated within the University  of Manchester. 400 people attended. 

Rivalry between Lancashire and Yorkshire Liveryman was briefly put to one side and the War of the Roses forgotten (Lancashire won) as the Brigantes come from all regions of the North of England. 

Yorkshire was represented by Sir David Wooton and Lancashire by Dr Sir Andrew Parmley, both of whom had been recent Lord Mayors of London. The current Lord Mayor Peter Estlin and both Sheriffs were also present. 

After their respective witty speeches which extolled the virtues and superiority of each of their counties, there followed a highly symbolic gesture in which the white rose of Yorkshire worn by Sir David was exchanged with the red rose worn by Sir Andrew. 

Sir Andrew had entertained us on the organ and played for the Sung Grace and National Anthem for which a bottle of Master’s Cask Whisky was given by our Company as a mark of our gratitude. 

The month ended with the IWSC Medal Winners Tasting at Vintners’ Hall. This event is eagerly awaited by our Liverymen and Masters of other Companies and is reported separately on the website. 

Thanks to Court Assistant Allen Gibbons for organising this so professionally with the help of Liveryman and Assistant Clerk Kim Lyons. 

The Fleet Air Arm Wildcat Helicopter Wings Parade at 825 Naval Air Squadron in Yeovilton rounded off the month very well where with PM Raines and Cheesman, and accompanied by Liveryman Ewan Lacey who is our Liaison Officer with the Squadron, we were invited to participate in this very important day. 

6 Naval airmen received their Flying Badges “ Wings “ from the Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd as they graduated the Wildcat helicopter Course 3 as Observers and 3 as Pilots. This ceremony took place in front of their family members, friends and colleagues and was followed by a Flying Display. 

I was honoured to present the Distillers prize for the LAET (Leading Air Engineering Technician) who had achieved the strongest result for Certificate of Competence to supervise aircraft maintenance. 

I also presented a signed and framed Memorandum of Understanding to Commanding Officer Duncan Thomas which both of us had signed.It will cement the relationship between 825 NAS and our Company and which will hang in pride of place in their Mess on the base in Yeovilton.”

IWSC/Worshipful Company of Distillers spirits tasting not the hottest day of the year shock!

Vintners Hall hosted the 12th annual IWSC/Worshipful Company of Distillers spirits tasting on 30th July, always a popular event in the livery calendar and most unusually not the occurring on the hottest day of the year for the first time in some years.

The evening began with whisky and rum masterclasses led by Richard Paterson of Whyte and Mackay and Peter Holland of the Floating Rum Shack which were exceptionally well attended. A small technical glitch prevented Richard from using his planned presentation and his off the cuff comment of overcoming this by “throwing the water around” caused PM Maxwell to blanche slightly. In the end both masterclasses were well received, highly informative and relatively dry!

Prior to the main tasting, guests were invited upstairs to the Drawing Room where they could sample the traditional Gin and tonic bar offering a range of six gin brands from across the flavour spectrum. In addition, this year saw a baiju cocktail bar on offer and the opportunity to purchase the Master’s Cask whiskies which was manned by Upper Warden Kenny Mackay and Development Director Clive Bairsto who between them sold an impressive 32 bottles with all proceeds going to the Distillers Charity.

The Master opened the main tasting with a few words in particular welcoming Aldermanic Sheriff Vincent Keavney to the event and congratulating Tariquet on their success in winning the IWSC Armagnac Trophy for the second year in succession. In honour of the Master’s position as Captain Lieutenant of the British Squadron of the Company of Armagnac Musketeers, a feature table of some of the best armagnac’s from the IWSC was on offer. In addition, over 150 spirits ranging from whiskies, rums, gins and vodkas to shochus and baijus were available to taste.

The tasting also welcomed representatives from many of the distilling companies whose exceptional products have been recognised by the IWSC this year including Adnams, Maverick, Diageo, Chivas Brothers, Bacardi, William Grant and Angus Dundee and both the industry and the livery world enjoyed another great evening.

The Master’s Honorary Doctorate

On July 15 The Master received an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from the University of Greenwich in recognition of the support he has given to the Business School over the last 7 years.

He has been a member of the Advisory Board and has given lectures on marketing and mentored business students and young entrepreneurs during that time.

The Business School has consistently increased its reputation and performance ratings over the last few years and has ambitious plans for the future.

The event was held in the Chapel of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich which is where the main campus of the University is located and where the Graduates of the Business School also received their degrees.

The Chancellor Lord Boateng presented the Honorary Doctorate Certificate and the Head of the Business School read the eulogy which referred to his career and the role he has played within the University.

Lord Boateng who as Paul Boateng was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2002 reminded the Master that they had met previously in the House of Commons when he presented the argument for not increasing UK duties on Scotch whisky and Gin to the Treasury Select Committee of which he was a member.

The Chancellor who was also British High Commissioner for South Africa from 2005 -2009, hosted a private lunch after the Ceremony at which the Mistress and their son James were present.

The Master wore his Livery tie for the occasion!

DCC Meeting to Somerset – July 2019

Our trip to Somerset started with a visit to Thornley Kelham, the famous car restoration company in Cirencester. They specialise in Lancia’s, but had more than 50 other cars in various states of restoration. Thornley Kelham began life in 2009, at that time they were just three, now they employ 35 people and offer many apprenticeships for young people to learn their craft. Their mantra is Beauty – Durability – Drivability – that is what they live by, and that was most apparent as we drooled over beautiful Italian cars and ground-up projects for Aston Martin, Porsche and Jaguar. Following our wonderful visit, Nick Carr presented Simon Thornley with a bottle of 18 YO Masters Cask malt whisky, with thanks and good wishes for a healthy future.

On Friday, some of us took a meandering drive through the foothills of Cheddar Gorge, whilst others visited Wells cathedral before arriving for lunch at the 17th century Holecombe Inn. We then made our way to the Somerset Cider Brandy Company were we were met by the owner Julian Temperley, who entertained us about the background of his business, which originally produced just cider but now, as a result of obtaining in 2009 a PGI  (Protected Geographical Indication) the Somerset Cider Brand now has to have a minimum ABV of 40% and has to be aged for a minimum of 3 years.

Following Julian’s animated introduction, we visited the Cider is fermentation vessels and the Cider distillery. All were housed in a number of very rustic buildings, with explanations of all the processes given by an equally enthralling and rustic Julian. A tasting followed with a range of styles and ages of brandy, which were very enjoyable. A really interesting visit, made especially memorable by a passionate owner.

Saturday was all about aircraft, with a visit to the Royal Navy Air Station, Yeovilton, (a previous home of Past Master David Raines), for their annual air display. On arrival we were made most welcome and proceeded to the VIP enclosure of the Navy Wings Charity.

This proved a comfortable retreat for those who wanted to sit and enjoy the flying, have a chat, and enjoy a light lunch, but also on hand were (mainly) retired airmen who accompanied small groups to view the classic and historic aircraft on display, One can only marvel at anyone who was prepared to fly an open cockpit bi-plane, in winter, in the arctic, to protect our shipping and hunt down and kill the Bismarck.

The flying displays were spectacular, with everything from a man in a jet suit (very James Bond), to an unbelievable acrobatic display by a Pitts Special S2S. This followed helicopter demonstrations, an incredibly noisy and fast Lightening Mk2, and the jaw dropping F35, to be followed later by the Red Arrows Display Team who gave a stunning performance.

Back at the hotel we had time to relax before a Bollinger champagne tasting on the hotel terrace overlooking beautiful countryside, by kind courtesy of Liveryman Alan Montague-Dennis from the family firm of Mentzendorff. Alan gave us a fascinating insight into the company and its celebrated founder Madame Lily Bollinger. The range of wines offered were truly excellent, including two pink champagnes which were very welcome on a warm summers evening. Nick Carr, our car club secretary duly thanked Alan and Paul Finch welcomed the Master to his first club outing, and thanked all those who had made the weekend such a success, in particular Nick Carr. Apart from a collapsing chair under one member, the dinner was hugely enjoyable, and the following morning before departure we all took part in a photo shoot, coincidently and exactly where the Somerset & District Motor Club met 1906. A truly “Summer Special” for the DCC.

Bob Rishworth


HMS Montrose

Following the recent activities of our affiliated Frigate HMS Montrose in the Gulf, we thought you would find this exchange of E-mails of interest.

To Commander Will King – Commanding Officer HMS Montrose

As the Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, I am writing to let you know that we are all watching your successful operational activities in the Gulf with great interest and are proud of the role you are playing in keeping our sea-lanes open and defending our trade routes. Many sources have told us you are doing a very good job. We look forward to seeing your team when you are back in the UK, but in the meantime, stay safe and rest assured that we are all supporting you in full. BZ to all your team. 

Martin Riley

The Master

From Commander Will King

Sir, on behalf of my Ship’s Company, I would like to thank you for your kind words of support.  I have ensured that they are posted onto Daily Orders, as they will be well received by my team.  From a professional prospective we are relishing the operational challenges this region is presenting us, and remain clear on our intent to protect and reassure UK shipping interests. The team are in good sprits despite being on powdered milk, and we look forward to something stronger once back alongside in August! Thank you for your thoughts and please pass on our regards to the wider Company. 

Go well,

Will King

Other Naval News

Liveryman and Steward, Commodore James Parkin is currently embarked in HMS Albion commanding a joint expeditionary, spearheaded by the UK. The Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) of 44 ships and submarines has just completed its biggest ever-maritime deployment. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, the 9 JEF nations have demonstrated freedom of action in the Baltic Sea.

Haymans open their new doors to the livery!

The Hayman family of Christopher, Karen, James and Miranda welcomed The Master and Wardens and members of the Livery to their new distillery – Hayman’s of London – The Home of English Gin (opened in March 2018) in down town Balham, London SW12 on Thursday 4th July.

After a refreshing G&T we sat down and Chris (no relation) explained the style and balance of the three Hayman Gin brands.  HAYMAN’S OLD TOM GIN  –  HAYMAN’S LONDON DRY GIN  –  HAYMAN’S SLOE GIN. We then ‘nosed’ and finally sampled the products.

We then moved to the BOTANICALS ROOM where Daryl explained the 10 botanicals that went into the distillation. We then had the opportunity of ‘grinding’ the botanicals into a mortar bowl and pestal and then ‘nosing’ our efforts. All very educational!

Finally, we adjourned to the Balcony Bar overlooking the three ‘stills’ where John, the Barman, had produced the classic ‘MARTINEZ’  made up of Hayman’s Old Tom gin – dry vermouth – maraschino – angostura bitters – orange bitters – all shaken and not stirred. Served in a beautiful glass. Absolute luxury.

It was all great fun but at the same time educational.

Thank you so much, the Hayman family for a wonderful evening

The annual Inspection of a Distillery in the Cities of London and Westminster and within a 31 mile radius outside the Cities by the Master and Wardens is a privilege given to the Worshipful Company of Distillers in their Royal Charter.

This year Hayman’s Distillery in Balham was selected and the Master and Wardens were shown the stills and tasted the spirit and the botanicals used in the production of Hayman’s London Dry Gin. 

The Master spoke about the quality of Hayman’s spirit and Gins and that the Masters and Wardens were very impressed with what they had seen and tasted. 

Accordingly the certificate of Inspection from the Livery Company was handed over to Christopher Hayman who received it on behalf of his family and Company.

The Worshipful Company of Distillers

Court visit to Gascony June 2-6th 2019

The Master has a particular affinity for southern France which naturally led to a Distillers Court visit to Gascony, the country of gastronomy and rural charm and especially the home of the much loved spirit of Armagnac.

This area stretching almost from the Pyrenees toward the Massif Central and from the Landes and the Basque country to Toulouse, the home of Airbus, is one of, if not the most rural areas of France Truly it is La France Profonde – the original rural countryside of rolling hills and Bastides – the fortified hill top towns reminiscent of Tuscany – where little has changed for centuries.  How appropriate for this most artisanale of spirits to be produced on farms by long established families who cherish this magical background and eschew the traditional dressing of distilleries and the modern trappings of brands.

So it was on a beautiful Sunday evening in June that the Court and their consorts arrived for a five –day session of their own – to understand the mysteries of distilling Armagnac and to enjoy the fruits of the Gascon countryside. We were based in a beautiful hotel – named La Bastide of course – next to the thermal baths in Barbotan clothed in a wooden structure typical of the curing barns of the air dried tobacco that used to be kept here.  

But to business, and the serious matter of exploring the wonderful array of wines and spirits from the area. First the Floc de Gasconne – a wonderful melange of fruit and Armagnac Blanche– the new spirit straight from the still – a much loved aperitif whether in white or red formats that was the subject of our first reception in the wonderful warm evening sunshine that greeted us as we arrived by car or plane.  (How long did it take to gain acceptance of an immature spirit calling itself Armagnac Blanche I wonder in a country that prides itself on its innumerable appellations and strict conformity with tradition?)  But delicious it certainly is and a great introduction to the noble spirit.  Then it was the wines – deliciously light and fruity expressions of Ugny Blanc and Colombard that were brilliant foils to the rich cuisine of foie gras and guinea fowl that awaited us at every turn, helping us to understand better the main ingredient of the mature Armagnac that was served later.

Each day we were treated to multiple tastings of Hors D’Age, XO, Single Vintage Millesime and single cask variations of the grand theme and gradually the picture emerged.  It was a surprise to find that the stills were mainly columns – albeit quite short – and that pot stills or alambics were the exception rather than the rule.  How could such stills retain the characteristically earthy and fruity flavours that are the hallmark of this spirit?  Well the maximum strength of about 66 degrees was one clue and the high quality tight grained new French oak barrels toasted from the outset clearly made their contribution. At Domaine Arton we heard Patrick de Montal speak eloquently of the importance of the wine and variation of the vintages – not the usual narrative of a spirit producer.

At Chateau de Bordeneuve Thomas Guasch introduced us over lunch to his best Armagnacs, Le Duc de Signognac and La Grande Josianne.  We learned about how the delicious Serrano ham is cured and cut and discovered the delights (and the meaning) of a “dejeuner champetre” in is gardens.  Monet would have been proud of us.

Our new friends at Armagnac Delord treated us not only to their vintage and 25 Years old expressions but also made us into their bottlers that morning as we were shown how to dip the bottle necks into hot wax without any drips and then make your own impression of the seal with more hot wax on the shoulders – a very skilful operation. 

Only when we arrived at Le Tariquet did we get to see a large modern and beautifully crafted purpose-built visitor centre and production area where we were treated to another excellent wine and spirit tasting.  Leading from their purpose-built tasting room we repaired to a wonderfully atmospheric distillery cum reception hall – pausing to admire the mobile stills as we entered their low-light refectory for our final session.

Although we worked diligently studying Armagnac distillation and having tutored tastings, there was still time to explore the region, 

In a packed programme, we admired the Cathedral of Condom and took our group photograph in the company of D’Artagnan and his three mousqueteers outside; we enjoyed early morning coffee  in the only round square in France, in the middle of  the fortified village of Fources; we were amazed by the Roman mosaics at the Seviac site, and toured the cloisters, the physic garden and art exhibition at the Abbaye Floran.

All too soon it was the last night and we returned to Condom to the Table de Cordeliers for the gala dinner, and what a special night it was.  We were joined not only by all our new Armagnac friends, but also by Francois Rivière, Captain Lieutenant of the global Compagnie des Mousquetaires . After suitably elaborate introductions  and the entrance of the Master and members of the Compagnie des Mousquetaires many of whom were at the inauguration of the new London squadron. We witnessed the introduction of our own Charles Minoprio and his clothing with the wide blue sash and eight pointed star badge, a delightful end to a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening few days in this lovely part of France – a place to be savoured and enjoyed “a nouveau” in not too many years. We learned a lot and made many new friends who showed us their warmth and legendary hospitality to very good effect.

Congratulations to the Master and Mistress, their cohorts of supporters and legions of friendly producers who gave so generously of their time, their enthusiasm, their knowledge and their products to make this a truly memorable occasion. 

Richard Watling

Master 2016/7