Master’s Blog – September 2019

Master’s Blog – September 2019

Lunch with High Court Judges at the Old Bailey is an invitation extended to all Masters of Livery Companies during the course of their year. The conversation gives an insight into the work of the Judges and the type of trials undertaken at the Central Criminal Court.. principally murder and terrorist offences. For their part one of the key questions they put to me was why sherry had declined so dramatically ?

Afterwards I was able to sit in on a trial and listen to the prosecution outlining the details of a murder case in meticulous detail. The ability to track conversations using text message on mobile phones is now clearly a key element in establishing a case.

The Worshipful Company of Fuellers organised a lecture on energy by the former  CEO of BP Tony Hayward. This was an Insightful speech about the importance of gas in our future energy supplies to keep the lights on until renewables become more established.

I visited Pam Orchard the CEO of the charity “The Connection at St Martin in the Fields” which supports those who are homeless or rough sleepers on the streets of London. This is the charity that I have chosen to support during my year as Master and her explanation of the work they do convinced me that this a worthy and deserving charity.

St Martin in the Fields, where our Founder is buried and which has an imposing memorial to him in the Crypt, has been concerned with helping the homeless in London since  the First World War.

Many servicemen returning from fighting at the Front were disorientated and in need of  support when finding themselves back in London. St Martin opened its doors to them then and has not closed them to the homeless ever since. Pam Orchard will attend our Founder’s Day event on October 8 where the cheque from the Company will be presented.

I attended a Reception for the Worshipful Company of International Bankers in Furniture Makers’ Hall in the City.  The International Bankers are a Modern Livery Company and the Mother Company of the current Lord Mayor.

The Court Meeting and Scottish Dinner both took place in the Signet Library in the heart of Edinburgh. A magnificent Georgian building constructed for the visit of King George IV who declared it to be “the finest drawing room in Europe”.

The guest speaker was Sir Roger Gifford, a previous Lord Mayor of London and of Scottish heritage, who spoke of his experience in Japan where he had lived for 6 years and entertained us in song! Robert Burns no less!

From there I travelled  to Schiedam in Holland with Past Masters Raines and Watling for the  annual Jenever Festival in the capital of Jenever.
I had the honour of being installed as a Knight of the Golden Glass, joining the elevated ranks of our two Past Masters in a ceremony complete with sword with which  to be dubbed as a Knight,  oath, a wax sealed certificate and wooden medal.

Much celebration ensued afterwards and the following day we walked on the red carpet through the picturesque town of canals working windmills and 17th century houses to open the Festival in a 16th century church. All manner of spirits were present!

The Worshipful Company of Farmers held a lunch in their Hall  to which many Masters and Clerks were invited. British food was celebrated and savoured.

The speaker presented the Master Farmer with a bottle of gin made from grains that had been cultivated “hands free” using only technology.

The Dean of St Paul’s held an autumn Evensong and Reception attended by many Liveries where we drank next to the tomb of Nelson and imbued his spirit.

The Sheriffs’ Ball held in the Guildhall is a relaxed and convivial event where the Distillers took a table this year. As Sheriff Vincent Keaveny, a Distiller, and Liz Green, the non-aldermanic Sheriff, were signing off after a most successful year for both of them, it was an opportunity for us all to thank them for their support, enthusiasm and hard work.

There were many Distillers dancing – especially to Whiskey in the Jar.

At the Worshipful Company of Actuaries lecture on inclusivity in the City and supper I was impressed to see they were serving a 1979 Castarède Armagnac as digestif.

I congratulated the Master and Clerk on their excellent choice. They promptly donated a bottle to the Worshipful Company of Distillers and signed the label. A fraternal gesture which was greatly appreciated. The Actuaries after all predict the future. Good news for Armagnac.

A gin tasting for the Mortar Platoon of A Company (London Scottish), our military affiliate, was undertaken by Nicholas Cook and greatly appreciated by the CO and Reservists.

The month ended with an opportunity to drive sheep over London Bridge which the Mistress and I enjoyed before joining the Pearly Kings and Queens of London for their annual Harvest Festival in Guildhall Yard.

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.”

Master’s Blog – June 2019

June began with the Court visit to Armagnac in gloriously sunny weather. 47 of us including consorts assembled in Barbotan les Thermes in Gascony – a spa town in the Bas Armagnac region.

The visit is the subject of a separate report by PM Watling so I will not dwell on this now except to say that it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with members of the Livery and their wives and to introduce them to an area which the Mistress and I have come to know well.

We are great enthusiasts for this part of France and appreciate the warmth and generosity of the local people – which was very much in evidence during our visit. They expressed great pride in being selected as the place for the Court visit of the Worshipful Company of Distillers and saw it as an chance to present and promote the different styles of Armagnac and the wines  from the Cotes de Gascogne region.  

We arrived back to very wet weather and drove up to Ironbridge in Shropshire for the annual gathering of Masters and Consorts of all Livery Companies. This event is hosted by the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs including Sheriff Vincent Keaveny, a Liveryman in the Distillers, and Ironbridge is selected every year as it is the cradle of the Industrial Revolution which brought so much rapid prosperity to the country in the 18 and 19 centuries. 

The City Corporation and Livery Companies have contributed to the development of the many museums on the site and indeed our own Company crest is proudly displayed on the wall alongside other Liveries in recognition of the contribution we have made over the years. 

This year the Lord Mayor used the occasion to organise a working session on the Friday afternoon to discuss the future of Livery Companies and the role we can play in today’s post industrial society. 

He reminded us that the City and Guilds of London Colleges and Qualifications were set up by 16 Livery Companies in 1878 in reaction to a challenge by the then Prime Minister Gladstone who had questioned the relevance of Livery Companies in the Industrial Age. 

A meeting with Liveryman Malcolm Davis in Meson Don Felipe a traditional Spanish bodega offered a perfect opportunity to drink Dry Manzanilla sherry on a very wet Monday afternoon and at the same time discuss the history of our Company and in particular the role of our Founder Sir Theodore de Mayerne. 

A large book by the renowned historian Hugh Trevor Roper tells the story of Sir Theodore and is entitled “Europe’s Physician” reflecting the remarkable fact that Sir Theodore was physician to King Henri IV of France and then to Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of the British King Charles 1. This belongs to PM Sills who kindly lent it to the Company. 

Malcolm has done a lot of work in researching the Founder which we hope to bring together in a revised history of the Company and a celebration of the Founder on October 8 this year. Please note the date in your diary.

A Summer drinks party of our Affiliated Regiment, the London Scottish, took place in their historic HQ in Horseferry Road and was very well attended by other Masters. We were all treated to a stirring performance by their pipers and drummers (one of the oldest pipe bands in the world). 

The band and Regiment were founded in 1859 and still wear the distinctive Hodden Grey tartan from that time – a tartan that has no pattern and was therefore good for camouflage.   

A meeting of the Military Affiliation Liaison Team under the Chairmanship of PM Raines reviewed the activities and future planning for all our Military Affiliates and the role we will play in their activities. 

There is undoubtedly more interest from our Military Affiliates in getting to know the Livery better and we have the chance to find out more about them and the work they do. This is something the MALT will focus on over the coming months.  

We welcomed 4 new Freemen into the Company at a  Freedom Ceremony in The Sanctuary all of whom have different but direct links with our industry and who no doubt will make an enthusiastic contribution to Livery life. 

The Court Meeting and lunch took place in Pewterers’ Hall. I had been keen to use this Hall for an event as I felt there was a  link between what they have done over the centuries in providing drinking vessels and plates and our role in providing spirits as part of the conviviality of the Livery Companies. 

The Pewterers gained their Royal Charter in 1473 and are 16th in order of precedence. Their current Hall was built in 1962 and contains features from the second Pewterers’ Hall such as the panelling on the first floor dating from after the Great Fire in 1666. There is also a collection of old pewter artefacts on display. 

Here we welcomed Air Marshal Sir David Walker to our ranks as a Liveryman by Presentation and also 2 Liverymen, Richard Forsyth and Richard Quellyn-Roberts, by Redemption before the Court all of whom were then introduced to individual members of the Court. 

PM Garrard presented the book on which he and other Livery members have laboured for some time to produce a photographic record of Past Masters and Clerks from 1958 to 2018. A remarkable piece of work for which the Company is grateful. 

A menu from 1932 of a Distillers’ Banquet in Cutlers’ Hall has kindly been donated  to the Company by Steward James Higgins. It is clear that Liverymen in the Past were made of stronger stuff with 8 courses and accompanying wines – finished off with a Boulestin 1865 brandy (Cognac) and a Benedictine liqueur. 

The Sung Grace was a feature as was the National Anthem and God Bless the Prince of Wales. Musical entertainment was provided by a pianist and 4 artistes male and female who sang popular and traditional songs. The Court lunch provided an opportunity to remind Court members that we have a strong tradition to maintain…in the selection of excellent wines and spirits which is certainly the case today and in musical content where we may be somewhat lacking!

A visit to the Crypt of St Martin in the Fields with the Clerk, PM Watling and Clive Bairsto, the Development Director, was helpful in planning for the Founder’s Day Commemoration. We noted that the Latin inscription on the Founder’s memorial is translated as “May the Reader of this always be in good health.“

The election of Sheriffs of the City of London takes place on Midsummers day in the Guildhall. All Liverymen can vote by raising hands during this ancient Ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and  members of the City Corporation.  

The Masters proceed in reverse order of precedence ( Distillers are number 69 with Patten Makers 70 and Wheelwrights 68 ) and take their allotted seats at the front of the Guildhall. 

The Aldermanic Sheriff elected unopposed is Professor Michael Mainelli, an American who has worked in the City for many years and the non Aldermanic Sheriff who received 72 % of the votes in a contested election was Chris Hayward / PM Patten Maker and the candidate whom I had supported. He attended our February lunch as my guest. They will take up their roles officially on September 27. 

The Clerk and I attended a lunch afterwards at Wax Chandlers Hall a long established Livery Company ( no 20 in precedence ). 

The Clerk and I attended an Evensong service at St Stephen Walbrook in the City where the choir of St Martin in the Fields were performing. Afterwards at The Reception in the gardens behind the Church we met the daughter of Rev Chad Varah who founded the Samaritans’ when he was Vicar there in 1953.  

The 400th anniversary of the Royal Charter granted by King James 1 to the Tobacco Pipe Makers and Blenders rounded  off the month in style. 

The Service of Thanksgiving was held in Temple Church followed by a Reception in Middle Temple Hall at which we were offered Cuban cigars and a gift of The Master’s Snuff to commemorate the event. 

Some Livery Companies still offer snuff at their formal dinners. However this is not a tradition we are planning to reintroduce!

Master’s Blog – May 2019

May began with the annual City Debate, the trend of gin being the theme, which was very well attended by Liverymen and people from the City and press. I was pleased to see a number of Masters  from other Livery Companies attending. It is an event that has become a key fixture on the City and Livery calendar.   

I was a guest of the Gin Guild for the annual Gin Industry dinner held in Guildhall the following week. The new Installations of members takes the total to 330 – a remarkable achievement in seven years. 

I attended my first Old Codgers lunch… as a new member. This organisation brings together former executives from the drinks industry and it was an opportunity to catch up with industry luminaries I had not seen for some years. Our senior Liverymen occupy key positions in this August body. 

On 15 May I attended the Royal Gala Dinner to celebrate the reopening of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Navy College in Greenwich. This was in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal who spoke about the important role the Royal Naval College has played through history and its importance to the Royal Family – especially her father who was made Baron Greenwich on the morning of his wedding and who spent time there as an officer. 

The following day the ancient Guildable Manor of Southwark held a “Legal”! dinner for senior members of the legal profession to which the Mistress and I were invited. The guest speaker was Lady Hale President Head of  the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The dinner was held in Southwark at Amigo Hall and followed their ancient tradition including the sought after roles of Ale taster and Flesh taster (the latter referring to meat and the responsibility to sample what we were about to receive as a main course in full view of all present to ensure it was of good quality and bore no trace of poison.). 

During the weekend if the 18th May the Mistress and I were invited to join the Anglo Normand Squadron of the Compagnie des Mousquetaires d’Armagnac who were holding their annual event for the first time in Cambridge at Christ’s College. 
This was the chance for me to represent the British Squadron of Les Mousquetaires which was formed last year and to walk through the streets of Cambridge in the cloak and sash of the Compagnie alongside other Capitaine Lieutenants from countries such as Belgium Switzerland Holland and Turkey. 

The 21st May was the afternoon of the Buckingham Palace Garden Party to which we with other Masters and Mistresses were invited. This was preceded by a lunch organised by the Master Actuary which as his profession would suggest had been planned well in advance of the date! 

A most convivial event from which we all moved effortlessly into the gardens of the Palace and awaited Her Majesty who appeared on the stroke of 4pm along with other prominent members of the Royal Family. It was a glorious early summer afternoon the supplies of tea and sandwiches were plentiful and militarybands accompanied the festivities. 

The Master Baker invited the Learned Clerk and myself to a Master and Clerks lunch at Bakers Hall during which witty speeches between the Master and Clerk were exchanged – based on the traditional mutual respect between the two roles!

Sides in the exchanges were taken by those present with the Masters of course being correct in all their observations about the irreplaceable and ancient role of the Clerk and the way it is (occasionally) undertaken today. All agreed that the Masters are always right….

The Master Baker reminded me that yeast was a key component in the production of spirits and that perhaps the Bakers should be considered as potential Cask Group Members. We are keen to revive The Cask Group of drinks related Liveries, so this may be an opportunity. 

The Master Baker generously served Jameson Irish Whiskey at his convivial Stirrup cup during the afternoon and as an Ulsterman he was also keen on Bushmills a whiskey whose iconic location by the Giants Causeway is legendary.  

We were invited by the Master and Mistress of the Cutlers of Hallamshire to their annual Feast in Sheffield in their magnificent Cutlers Hall. This imposing Victorian Hall in the central historic part of the city directly opposite the Cathedral contains treasures and artefacts gathered over the centuries including many items of Sheffield hall marked silver and silver plate.

It also contains Art Deco doors and light fittings from the ocean going liner and sister ship to the Titanic – the Olympic

The Guest Speaker was David Liddington number two in the government to Theresa May, who made the journey on the eve of her resignation as Prime Minister. Leading figures from business industry and the public sector as well as 25 Masters and Consorts of London Livery Companies were present. 

The following day a visit to a steel producer in Rotherham had been organised. We witnessed a very mechanised and computer driven process. 

This gave a fascinating insight into heavy industry and why its continuing role remains important to the UK and the development of our infrastructure. 

An invitation to attend the Major General’s Review at Horse Guards Parade from the London Regiment A Company (London Scottish) our Military Affiliate rounded off the month very well. This is a dress rehearsal for the Trooping of the Colour with everyone present except the Queen. 

The music choreography and horsemanship on display from the servicemen and women on parade was of the highest standard and fiercely impressive when one considers they practice their roles in this Ceremony for only six weeks and the rest of the time they are defending our country. 

Our London Scottish Liaison Liveryman James Higgins and I attended a lunch afterwards as the guests of London Scottish at their historic HQ in Victoria where pipers entertained us and mortar and machine gun crews explained in detail the reality of life in the field after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Their motto “Strike Sure” is one they live and fight by and as a part of the London Reserve Regiment they come from all walks of life and professions and are ready to serve when the call comes. 
Inspiring and impressive.

Master’s Blog – April

The month began with an interesting lecture hosted by the Worshipful Company of Educators – the subject being the Defence Education Revolution and the need for creative thinking in times of war and peace.

The Mistress and I were the guests of the Keepers of the Quaich at their Spring Banquet in the magnificent castle at Blair Atholl – its grand banqueting hall is the largest in all the castles of Scotland and suitably adorned with hunting trophies and antlers. It was a magnificent occasion where Scotch whisky is celebrated and attended by Keepers and Masters of the Quaich from around the world. PM Brian Morrison had persuaded me to wear the Master’s Gown for the procession of the top table guests into the Hall, which he assured me would make the Distillers’ Company presence noticed. It seemed to work.

Andrew Neil, the journalist and TV personality was the guest speaker and I was questioned by him about the Master’s Chain and Gown – although in a friendly tone and not the one he adopts when interrogating politicians. His speech focused on the importance of business entrepreneurs to our economy – as represented by many in the room.

Our April Dinner was in Saddlers’ Hall, a most impressive hall which holds a magnificent collection of historic saddles. The Princess Royal is Master of the Company ‘in perpetuity’, an honour bestowed in recognition of her passion for equestrian activities. The Prime Warden is the equivalent position to the annual Master. 

The Learned Clerk rose to the challenge of playing the piano for the “Sung Grace” which is a tradition for the majority of Livery Companies, but one which the Distillers have let slip. Historically we did sing the “Livery Grace” from the “Laudi Spirituali” written in 1545.  Our Esteemed Clerk hastily assembled a Clerks’ Choir to lead the singing, which appropriately they did from the Minstrels’ Gallery. And for an encore they led the singing of the National Anthem – following the Loyal Toast. There were six Masters and two Past Masters present as guests – including a Master Musician – all of whom commented positively on the hearty voices of the Distillers and the Choir of Clerks. I hope we can now maintain this excellent addition to our celebrations and Banquets.

The following day was the Official Opening by the Duke of Sussex of the Future Zone, an OnSide Youth Centre in Dagenham. The Distillers contributed £50k to this venture, funds generated by our Whisky Auction in April 2018 which contributed to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal. It was exactly one year ago that the Auction had taken place and the Lord Mayor was present at the Opening where he presented a plaque to me, on behalf of the Company, in grateful thanks for our contribution. A second plaque is a fixture in the building, alongside those of other sponsors. Prince Harry spent over two hours touring the impressive facility, with state of the art sporting and musical equipment, and was thoroughly engaged when talking to the local young people, several of whom had helped design the interior of the building and who had chosen “Future” as their theme.

From then onto our Armagnac Tasting which was held at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Hatton Garden. 20 Liverymen and guests attended – a full house – for a tasting which included 40 year old Armagnacs…

The Big Curry Lunch took place in Guildhall sponsored by the Lord Mayor in support of the Army Benevolent Fund and other forces charities.  Many Livery Companies took advantage of the occasion to display their wares and sell items for charity. The Lord Mayor’s Reserve English Single Malt Whisky, produced by Liveryman Daniel Szor at Cotswolds Distillery, was on sale, and doing a brisk trade. I was delighted to be invited to officially open the new Visitors’ Centre at Cotswolds Distillery later in the month, at a well attended event, followed by a tour of the Distillery producing gin, whisky and speciality spirits.

The month ended with a short visit to Armagnac to finalise details for the forthcoming Court Visit in early June. The Mistress and I met with the National Armagnac Bureau, the Mousquetaires of Armagnac and stayed at the hotel where we will be based for our visit. We sampled some excellent Armagnacs and were introduced to the unique ‘apéritif gascon’ comprising Armagnac and grape juice, made by only one family in Gascony using traditional methods. This took place in the pretty village of Fourcès during a flower festival which uniquely boasts a round Medieval square in the centre of the village.

Master’s Blog – March

March began with a ceremony in Guildhall Yard with the Lord Mayor and Master Gardener hosting the Duke of Kent in the opening of a small garden in the form of a maze produced by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.  The maze symbolises the mental state veterans sometimes find themselves in when trying to reestablish their lives after combat and PTSD. This event was in support of the Big Curry Lunch, a charity event now in its 12th year which takes place in April.

The proceeds of the Big Curry Lunch are in aid of the Army Benevolent Lunch and will be focused on financing care in pain management in conjunction with King Edward VII Hospital. 

A visit to Glasgow at the invitation of the Visitor of the Incorporation of Maltmen – one of the 14 trades and craft guilds in Glasgow – was a lively event. Excellent hospitality with music, much singing and many speeches in the splendid Trades Hall. 

An evening of entertainment at the Old Bailey in Court Number 1 featured comic vignettes of famous trials played by former Sheriffs, Liverymen and legal luminaries in support of the Sheriffs and Recorders Charity Fund. 

The annual event with the Master and Wardens of the Vintners was this year a lunch hosted by the Vintners in their Court room was followed by a tour of their cellars. A most convivial event which cements the close relationship between these two great Livery Companies. 

A visit to Dagenham to see the new On Side Youth Zone building which will be opened in April. The preview given to members of our Charity Committee was as a result of the £50,000 contribution we made to the building from the proceeds of the Charity Auction last year and which is part of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal. A state of the art building designed to keep young people off the streets in a safe space contains sport and music facilities with people on hand to help them with any personal challenges and to develop opportunities. 

The positive, encouraging quotations and slogans which appear inside the building are chosen by young people themselves who have helped in the design of the building and present a, “Yes we can” approach to life. 

In the same week a visit to Treloars School in Alton, Hampshire with the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs along with Masters and Mistresses form many Livery Companies was equally inspiring. The residential school founded in 1907 by Lord Mayor Sir William Treloars is dedicated to educating and supporting severely disabled children from the ages of 2-22. 

All students there have complex medical conditions and the vast majority are constantly in wheelchairs. The school has been supported by the City Corporation and Lord Mayor and by Livery Companies including the Distillers. The staff of 800 are dedicated to improving the lives of the 183 residents with patience understanding and professionalism. 

The visit finished with a concert performed by some of the students using specially adapted instruments and supported by remarkable software packages which enable notes to be struck by the blink of an eye. 

The Lord Mayor hosted a banquet at Mansion House for Masters and Consorts and gave a speech which focused on the important role of Livery companies today. He highlighted the 3 “S “which define this role – skills / standards/ social responsibility. 

The following day was the annual United Guild Service at St Paul’s Cathedral. All the Livery Companies are represented – the Masters in gowns and chains of office and their Consorts sitting under the huge dome. Wardens and Liverymen also attend the service. 

Following this the Distillers traditionally go to Brewers Hall for lunch together with the Brewers and Coopers. This is a most convivial and relaxed event where beer is served alongside wine and the loyal toast is always made in beer.

I made a speech which celebrated the association between the Brewers Distillers and Coopers – not only because of the connection in our respective products but also the strong link reflected in our membership of the Cask Group which we all wish to build on.

Master’s Blog – February

February has been busy for activities within our Company and in the Livery world. The February Court meeting was preceded by a meeting of the MALT group (Military Affiliates Liaison Team) at which the activities of all our military affiliates were reviewed. These will be communicated to the Livery though regular updates on the website and newsletters. A lot is happening. 

At the Court meeting we admitted four new Liverymen who were the first to receive the new Liveryman certificate. Paul Hick, David Croll and brothers Iain and John Stirling. It was considered by the Court to be appropriate to mark the admission into the Livery with a certificate as we are one of the few Companies not to do this. Our thanks to Damian Riley- Smith for his help in their design and production. It is planned to make available these certificates for existing Liverymen at a nominal charge for those who may regret not having received one in their admission to the Livery. More details will be given in due course. We also welcomed onto the Court as Court Assistants Garvin Brown IV and Justin Hicklin. Trevor Stirling became a Steward.

Major Jamie Barklem of London Scottish Regiment and Commander Duncan Thomas of 825 NAS were presented with the Company Freedom as was Dr Dawn Maskell Director of the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Gary Horsfield of William Grant received his Freedom as a Corporate Associate.

The lunch at Vintners Hall was very well attended and our guest speaker Tony Hales who had been CEO of the Allied Domecq Group in the 1990s explained how exciting and unconventional the marketing of spirits had been at that time in the emerging markets of Asia Eastern Europe and Russia.

We were joined at the Stirrup Cup by the Mistress and Consorts who had been lunching at Innholders’ Hall and who with their guest speaker Fiona Adler, a recent Sheriff’s Consort, were offered a warming glass of whisky, port or Armagnac. However, it transpired they had already had enjoyed a glass of Armagnac at Innholders to help them on their way to us!

I was pleased to introduce the new Development Director Clive Bairsto to the Livery during the lunch and for Clive be to be able to meet many Liverymen during the Stirrup Cup. Clive will join us formally in mid March working on a part time basis to help implement the many projects we have identified in our strategic plan and will be briefed by the Master and Wardens as part of his induction schedule.

Indeed, Clive has already attended a meeting of the Industry Committee as part of this pre-joining induction, as well as being present at the Gin Magazine Awards, where I was delighted to present PM Hayman with the prestigious Gin Magazine Hall of Fame Award. The previous winner was PM Maxwell!

I have been invited to many events during the month including the Installation Dinner of the Master Marketor in Drapers Hall and the 450 th anniversary of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers at the Guildhall. An exhibition of their work was opened by the Duchess of Gloucester, which included the giant wicker figures of Gog and Magog which stood at the entrance to the Guildhall. These two mythical figures are the traditional guardians of the City of London and have appeared in the Lord Mayors Show since the reign of Henry V. These wicker figures were made by Liverymen from the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers a few years ago. 
Gog and Magog are also represented permanently as wooden statues in the Guildhall. They are descended from mythical pagan giants and their origins lie in the medieval legends of the early British Kings as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 12 century which tells of the formation of Albion or Britain itself. Their adoption by the Guildhall and the Lord Mayor symbolise, “Defending the honour of their country and the liberties of this their City” as described in the, “Gigantick History of the two famous Giants ” written in 1741.

The high point of the month was the Channel Dash Commemorative Lunch hosted by Commander Duncan Thomas at 825 NAS in Yeovilton. The story of exceptional bravery and courage by the 18 men of the Fleet Air Arm in 1942 who took on the might of the Luftwaffe and the German fleet in their flimsy Swordfish planes each equipped with a torpedo is inspirational for its daring and self sacrifice. A 96 year old Swordfish veteran was present to tell us what it felt like to be in a Swordfish during armed conflict. We were all humbled by his stories and his manner, which was an uplifting combination of modesty humour and fortitude.

The month ended with two fascinating lectures chaired by different Livery Companies. The Glass Sellers in Middle Temple hosted a lecture by a leading surging Sir Roger Kneebone on the theme of, “Thinking with our hands” and the importance of a steady hand in all craftsmanship – whether it be surgery or glass engraving.

The World Traders invited Christine Lagarde, the Head of the International Monetary Fund, to deliver a lecture in the Guildhall on, “Redefining  a Broader Sense of Purpose for the Financial Sector.” Mme Lagarde was clear in her message that finance needs to be at the service of business and people and not the other way round – and she successfully avoided any reference at all to Brexit during the evening – much to the relief of all present! 

Master’s Blog – January

January began well with an “eat through” of the menu we have chosen for the February Livery lunch. I was joined in this endeavour by the Mistress, the Assistant Clerk and Liveryman Jonathan Orr-Ewing. All with discerning taste. 

Those attending the February lunch will make their own judgement, but we were content!

It put an abrupt and early end to any notion of dry January (I wondered whether Dry January is a marketing ploy to encourage the consumption of Dry Martini cocktails – or Dry sherry?). From there it was a short walk to the Industry Committee meeting at the WSET offices in Bermondsey St.  

The Master and Wardens Meeting preceded the Benevolent Lunch in Vintners Hall a few days later and the month was becoming less Dry by the day. 

Invited by PM Hayman (who is also an PM of  the Upholders ) to a dinner of the Worshipful Company of Upholders in Bakers Hall -one which was destroyed during the Blitz and the first to be rebuilt in a modern style in 1963 -..the Master Baker the Master Painter Stainer and Master of the Tim Plate and Wire Workers were also present .

The Master Upholder remarked in his speech that we had a connection going back many years as he had produced the labels for Beefeater Gin and we had first met during the 1980s .

In most Livery Companies there is a Sung Grace before the speeches. This is in addition to the spoken grace preceding the dinner. It is the same “Livery Grace” used by all Livery Companies- The 16th century Laudi Spirituali. 

I am not sure why the Distillers do not follow this tradition – especially as we are the Livery of Spirits we have such fine voices . Something for us to consider?

I had the opportunity to present the Distillers Prizes to two winners for outstanding results achieved in WSET spirit examinations.

This took place in the Guildhall and was very well attended .It demonstrates the enthusiasm and commitment of the educators and students for the study of wines and spirits and the success of the WSET. 

The Worshipful Company of Marketors Installation Dinner took place in Draper’s Hall one of the grandest and most richly decorated Halls in the City.

I was one of eight different Masters to be invited and as I am also a Liveryman of this Company it was a pleasure to see many old friends there. 

The Marketors have a well established mentoring programme which extends beyond their own Livery. 

I hope we can arrange a joint event of some kind with them during the course of the year. 

PM Watling and I visited the crypt of St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square where the memorial and imposing bust of our Founder Sir Theodore de Mayerne is located. Sir Theodore was a remarkable man born in Geneva in 1573. A highly successful physician to the royal families in France and England he knew many famous people of the period from the poet John Donne to Cardinal Richelieu. 

As a successful entrepreneur and wealthy man he was also a philanthropist and worshipped at St Martin in the Fields – his local Church. 

We will return to the life and influence of the Founder in future blogs. We owe a lot to him – or we might still be part of the Apothecaries Company!

Many internal meetings have taken place since the start of the year on different subjects as our Company continues to evolve. The month finished with a visit to Armagnac with the Mistress to make final preparations for the Court visit in June.

Master’s Blog – December

My first Master’s blog starts with the Installation Dinner, and the transfer of Mastership from Bryan Burrough, which is very well reported in the accompanying article by Emma Fox. It was a most memorable and enjoyable event.

The first engagement for the Mistress and myself was an exhibition of the Woodturners craft, hosted by the Worshipful Company of Turners. Examples of work by Liverymen and craftsmen were on display, including live displays of woodturning. The famous artist Gabor Lacko was signing books of his work – a lifetime of artistry. His work “Russian Bells” proved too tempting. We left the exhibition poorer, but happy.

Later that week, the Mistress and I were joined by the Clerk and Assistant Clerk for the “Swan Feast” at Vintners’ Hall as guests of the Master and Wardens.

This is a splendid occasion which celebrated the right of Vintners to eat swan – a delicacy which was the preserve of the Monarchy from medieval times. Henry VIII conferred this honour on the Vintners, which is the focus of the celebration.

A model feathered swan is presented to the Master by the chef during the dinner – accompanied by musicians playing medieval instruments and dressed as minstrels of the period.

The next formal event was as a guest of the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks, whose main event is the feast of St Nicholas, preceded by a church service at the St James Garlickhythe. The Feast took place in the sumptuous surroundings of the Grocers Hall. One original aspect of the Dinner is the ‘Cross Toasting’, where Liverymen all rise simultaneously to toast different individuals, shouting the name of their Parish. The result is a cacophony. A Liveryman in this Company must be a Clerk of a Parish in the City of London, or a handful of parishes in London outside the City. There are currently 89 Liverymen.

I left the dinner to take the Caledonian Sleeper to Edinburgh for the Scottish Committee meeting the following morning. We granted the Freedom of the Company to 3 members of the Scottish Distilling Industry. Ken Grier, the driving force over the last 20 years behind much of the success of The Macallan, and Ian and John Stirling, the brothers who have established the Arbikie distillery near Montrose.

This was followed by the Whisky of Icons lunch held in Surgeons’ Hall in Edinburgh, hosted by Liveryman Damian Riley-Smith and Paragraph Publishing. Ken Grier received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the lunch. I was invited to make a short speech about the Livery and I was happy to congratulate the Scottish Committee for the strength of our thriving Scottish Membership. Probably unique among City Livery Companies, almost 20% of our active membership is based in Scotland.

The following week, our Learned Clerk accompanied me to the Installation Dinner of the Master of the Glass Seller at Stationers’ Hall. Our Company and the Glass Sellers are members of the Cask Group – an informal association of Livery companies with a common interest in the drinking and hospitality trade. The group comprises of The Vintners, Brewers, Coopers, Glass Sellers, Innholders and ourselves.

Our Distillers Carol Service and dinner last week was very enjoyable and it was wonderful to see so many Liverymen and guests singing heartfully, especially when our Learned Clerk led us all in a rendition of ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ to send us on our way.

The next day at the Sanctuary the Wardens, Clerk and I granted the Freedom of the Company to David Croll of the Kyoto Gin Distillery in Japan.

The Lord Mayor hosted a festive event at the Mansion House in the week before Christmas. It was a celebration of ‘Scrooge’ and a Christmas Carol with readings by Simon Callow, who is an enthusiast for Charles Dickens. As we entered the luxurious Egyptian Hall, drinks were proffered. At first glance, I thought it must be a very pale white wine or perhaps a glass of gin? After all, gin was very popular in Victorian times and taken neat. But on tasting it, imagine our surprise to discover it was water and the canapé which accompanied it was a water biscuit!

The Lord Mayor was determined to create the right mood for an appreciation of the themes of Dickens’ Scrooge. But redemption, as for Scrooge, did appear after the readings when Champagne and canapés were served. Mark Dickens, the great great grandson of the author was also present.

The Lord Mayor had made his point. The event was after all intended to support his Charity Appeal, including On Side Youth Centres to which we have contributed and some of whose members were present.

We were delighted to purchase a bottle of the Lord Mayor’s Reserve, Cotswold English Whisky, produced by our Liveryman Daniel Szor, in support of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.

The Mistress and I would like to wish all Liverymen and their families a very happy Christmas and a most fulfilling and enjoyable New Year.

As Tiny Tim said in A Christmas Carol – ‘God bless us, Every one’.