Keepers of the Quaich

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The Welcome for guests at the bi-annual Keepers of the Quaich Inductions from Jeremy Bell's Website [1]

The Keepers of the Quaich is an exclusive society founded in 1988 by large international alcohol companies to promote scotch whisky. James Espey a former senior alcohol industry executive was one of the founders. [2] Membership is by invitation only, and members are sworn in at an induction ceremony held twice a year (spring and autumn) at Blair Castle in Perthshire, Scotland. It is basically an exclusive public relations and marketing strategy, the group's purpose is to promote Scotch Whisky after declining sales throughout the 1980s, in domestic and global markets. The ceremonies are intended to reward individuals who have made a valuable contribution to promoting scotch whisky. According to one of the members the group's mission statement is:

To advance the standing and prosperity of one of Britain’s premier export industries, and to make more widely known its uniqueness, traditions, quality, service and benefits to the community it serves at home and in the markets of the world.[3]
Members must be invited to join by those already within the society. To be selected, individuals must have at least five years experience within the Scotch Whisky industry and have made a "notable contribution" to the promotion of Scotch.[4] There are reportedly 1800 members in over 82 countries worldwide. [5] Those who are known to have attended as special guests or guest speakers include Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy, Prince Charles, Caspar Weinberger and South Africa's former President Frederik Willem De Klerk. [6]
The Keepers of the Quaich have their own Tartan [7]
In 2008 Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond became a 'keeper' and rewarded the whisky industry with this endorsement: "Whisky is vital to the Scottish Government's number one priority - increasing sustainable economic growth. My Government fully backs the Scottish Whisky Association's push for greater legal protection in order to protect this iconic Scottish product in the global market." [8]

The Liberal Democrat Viscount, John Thurso, one of twelve patrons of the group, told Whisky Magazine “We are all dedicated to whisky, to its purity and variety not only as a commodity but also as Scotland’s greatest export,” he orates. “We are like a constitutional aristocracy. We have no power but considerable influence. It is a great honour to be a Keeper of the Quaich but particularly to be a Patron.” [9]

Contents

Powerful Guests

Tom Bruce Gardyne writing in Whisky Magazine provides some insight into the gatherings in terms of the powerful guests present and the masonic style rituals used. However, it should be noted that although present at the dinner Gardyne was not witness to the initiation ceremony of new members. When Gardyne attended the master of the ceremony was Jim McColl, of Beechgrove Garden fame, this role involves addressing the haggis, and the special guest was Philip Lader, Bill Clinton's former ambassador to Britain. On Gardyne's visit Lader was sworn in by laying hands on the ceremonial Quaich together with the 31 Life Members and eight Masters also being inducted at the time. Gardyne shares a tale from a previous banquet:

The story goes that the Fear an Tigh that evening was having quite a tussle with a particularly slippery haggis which jumped the knife and had to be snatched from the floor. "What's he doing?" whispered Nancy Reagan, wife of the guest of honour – the former President of the United States Ronald Reagan, to her neighbour on the top-table. "Addressing the haggis," replied Lord Elgin, the Society Patron and past Grand Master. "What for?" came her reply. "So we can eat it," replied Lord Elgin (Andrew Bruce) politely. This was met by a horrified cry of: "EAT IT? I'm not eating it!"[10].

Other noteworthy attendees present with Gardyne included the Reverend John Cairns who delivered a robust and humourous poem he had penned about the virtues of Scotch. John McGrath, Chairman of Diageo in Scotland, proposed the Loyal toast. He spoke of whisky's struggle against regulation, governments and taxation and how the struggle had united the defenders of the spirit. Perhaps the most interesting observation made by the author was about the purpose and role of this group:

Many claim the big decisions affecting Scotch whisky are too often made outside Scotland, but watching the big guns on the top table one wondered what deals were being struck right here in the heart of Perthshire. The industry is currently in a state of jittery anticipation over the fate of its third biggest player – Seagrams. [11].

Structure

New recruits are led by pipers to the ceremony room [12]
There are two levels of members, the first being Keeper of the Quaich. There are around 1800 members at this level, all with the required five years of service positively promoting scotch whisky. You have to be nominated by one of the leading companies. The second level is the Masters of the Quaich, who are selected from the Keepers by an executive committee that judges contenders on factors such as their brand reputations and market success. There are around 104 Masters and this is seen as a great honour. [13] One newly appointed Master told the Oakville Beaver:
When you are part of this group, you can call on fellow Keepers and Master Keepers and discuss business and Scotch whisky," he said. "To me, it is a whole library of people that you can call upon, if you need certain advice and support." [14]

People

The Master of ceremonies performs the initiations and heads the celebrations, this prestigious role that changes with each ceremony. This List was compiled in 1996 and therefore, may not remain accurate:

Grand Masters

Management Committee

Master of Ceremonies (FEAR AN TIGH)

Patrons Past & Present

[16]

Members

There is no list detailing the membership of this exclusive club, the following list has been compiled from a variety of sources.

Keepers of the Quaich

Affiliations

The group has informal links with

References

  1. Sir Jeremy Bell Knight of Toasting Website Keepers of the Quaich accessed 14th November 2008
  2. James Espey and Associates, Biography accessed 5th July 2012
  3. Buxrud Website Keepers of the Quaich accessed 14th November 2008
  4. Adrian Murray, The Wee Dram Members of the Keepers of the Quaich accessed 14th November 2008
  5. Scotland The Official Online Gateway Whisky Traditions accessed 14th November 2008
  6. The Scotch Doc onlineScotland's "Keepers of the Quaich" Inducts The Scotch Doc accessed 14th November 2008
  7. Tartans and Fabrics By Scotweb Keeper of the Quaich Tartan accessed 14th November 2008
  8. The Scottish Government FM joins Keepers of the Quaich accessed 30th April 2009
  9. Jane Slade A malt for all moods (Lord Thurso)] accessed 12th May 2009
  10. Tom Bruce-Gardyne, Whiskey Magazine, 1th Dacember 2000 Dinner with the keeper accessed 14th November 2008
  11. Tom Bruce-Gardyne, Whisky Magazine, 1th Dacember 2000 Dinner with the keeper accessed 14th November 2008
  12. Sir Jeremy Bell Knight of Toasting Website Keepers of the Quaich accessed 14th November 2008
  13. Oakville Beaver.com 4th June 2008 Raise a toast to newest Master of the Quaich accessed 14th November 2008
  14. Oakville Beaver.com 4th June 2008 Raise a toast to newest Master of the Quaich accessed 14th November 2008
  15. New Zealand United Distillers Association Press release 21st October 2008 Scotch honour for Distilled Spirits Association chief accessed 14th November 2008
  16. Buxrud Website Keepers of the Quaich accessed 14th November 2008
  17. Adrian Murray, The Wee Dram Members of the Keepers of the Quaich accessed 14th November 2008
  18. Scotland The Official Online Gateway Whisky Traditions accessed 14th November 2008
  19. The French Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Hong Kong Keeper of the Quaich accessed 14th November
  20. They Work For You Brian Donohoe accessed 14th November 2008
  21. Dubai Duty Free http://www.dubaidutyfree.com/newsdetail.asp?NewsID=93 ‘Keeper of the Quaich’ Honour for George Horan] accessed 28th April 2009
  22. Worshipful Company of Distillers Trade Links Last accessed 28th April 2009
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