With the festive season approaching, we are happy to present the TIP TOP December newsletter. Looking back over the year with our students, we can reflect upon a very enjoyable, productive and rewarding time together. We would like to thank everyone and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2016!


“Do ye fancy a wee dram?”

Now that the days are getting shorter and colder, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a good book and a warming glass of Scottish whisky by the fire. Or perhaps you would like to give someone a bottle of whisky for Christmas? But faced with a full supermarket shelf which one should you choose? The first distinction to make is between a single malt whisky and a blend.

Single malts and blends

Under Scotch Whisky Regulations, a “Single Malt Scotch Whisky” must be made exclusively from malted barley, must be distilled using copper pot stills at one distillery and must be aged for at least three years in oak casks in Scotland. The word “single” refers to the production at one distillery, it does not mean that the whisky is the product of a single batch or barrel.

 A blend, however, is produced by mixing together single malts and grain whiskies (made from grains like wheat or rye). The whiskies often come from more than one distillery and are of differing ages. Each blend has its own distinct and traditional recipe. Blended whisky usually contains between 15 and 50 different whiskies and is usually cheaper than single malt. To be called “Scotch”, blends must be produced and matured in Scotland. Well known examples include, Johnnie Walker, J&B Rare, Chivas Regal and Ballantine’s.

Smoky or smooth

Many of the single malts have romantic Gaelic names conjuring up images of wild mountains shrouded in mist, icy lochs and ancient castles. Each malt has its own distinctive flavour. Laphroaig, Talisker, Ardbeg and Lagavulin have a strong, smoky aroma whereas Jura, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet are lighter. In contrast, Oban, Glenmorangie, Bunnahabhain and Cragganmore have a rounder, richer taste and a deep golden colour.

The flavour of a malt whisky is influenced by a great many factors. For example, if local spring water with a high peat content is used in production it will enhance the smoky taste of the whisky. As does the drying of the malted barley over a peat fire. The size and shape of the distillation still also has an important affect. Taller stills with longer necks give finer, lighter spirits whereas shorter, fatter stills produce a fuller, richer taste.

The angels’ share

All single malt whiskies are matured in oak barrels. The wood of the barrel and the length of time that the whisky is matured, help to develop its distinctive character and flavour. Each year about 2% of the spirit escapes from the barrel by natural evaporation. This lost whisky is called the “angels’ share” (taken by the angels) and explains why older whiskies are less readily available and therefore more expensive to buy. There is simply less whisky in the cask to put in the bottle.


So, as the Scottish would say “Slàinte!” and Merry Christmas!


“Slàinte!” - means Cheers in the Gaelic language

“wee” - is the Scottish word for small

“dram” - is the traditional Scottish name for a glass of whisky

“loch” - is Scottish for lake

“glen” - is the Sottish word for valley

“ben” - means mountain

to make a distinction between -  unterscheiden zwischen

barley - Gerste

malted - gemalzt, zu Malz verarbeitet

to distill, distillation - destillieren, Destillation

copper - Kupfer

a pot still - Destillationsapparat / Kessel

cask or oakbarrel - Eichenfass

rye - Roggen

wheat - Weizen

recipe - Rezept

to mature - reifen, altern

to conjure up - hervorzaubern

shrouded in mist - verschleiert, umnebelt, umhüllt von Dunst und Nebel

ancient - uralt, sehr alt

by a great many - durch eine große Anzahl, viele

peat - Torf

distillation - Destillierung, Destillat

be matured in - reifen in

evaporation - verdunsten, abdünsten

readily available - leicht erhältlich, reichlich vorhanden sein


Who brought the Christmas tree to Germany and Britain?

For most of us, Christmas hasn’t really arrived until the tree is up, the candles lit and the presents wrapped and placed underneath it. But why do we bring Christmas trees into our houses ? Where did this custom come from?

The evergreen tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years. Pagans used branches from it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice and the Romans used fir trees to adorn their temples at the festival of Saturnalia.

It wasn’t until the 1500s, however, that the tree became strongly linked to Christmas. A large tree was erected in the town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in 1510 for Christmas and New Year celebrations and in Germany at around the same time, the Protestant Christian reformer, Martin Luther, brought a Christmas tree into his house and decorated it with lighted candles.

From then onwards Christmas trees gained popularity in Germany. They were traditionally decorated with food such as apples, nuts and “Lebkuchen”. The Christmas tree reached Britain thanks to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German husband. He had a tree set up in Windsor Castle in 1841. The newspapers published a photograph and it was so popular that Christmas trees quickly became fashionable all over Britain and then in the USA.

So when you sit down to open your presents around the tree, whether you have a spruce, a fir, a pine or an artificial one, whether it’s decorated with tinsel, baubles, bows, real candles or electric lights; take a moment to think about its humble origins. This fresh green tree symbolises spring and hope in the cold, dark winter.



to wrap - einpacken

a custom - Gewohnheit, Brauch, Sitte

the tree is up - der Baum ist aufgestellt

pagan - Heide / Heidin

branch - Ast

winter solstice - Wintersonnenwende

fir - Tanne

to adorn - schmücken, dekorieren

to erect - errichten, aufstellen

spruce - Fichte

pine - Kiefer

artificial - künstlich, artifiziell

tinsel - Lametta, Rauschgold

bauble - Weihnachtskugel

glitter balls - Weihnachtskugeln

bow - Schleife

humble origins - einfache Herkunft


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