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Issue 53 - Bottling the Holy Ghost

Whisky Magazine Issue 53
January 2006


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Bottling the Holy Ghost

What happens when you have a Mass at the mash-tun?

Saints alive! A classic beer vaporises... and now there's a Samichlaus spirit.

The priest had a glint in his eye, and was warming to his theme: the role of St Nicholas as the patron saint of bakers, brewers and distillers.

My German does not stretch much beyond Maischpfanne, Lauterböttich or Sudhaus, but the priest's expansive gestures made it clear that he saw the products of bakers, brewers and distillers as a significant slice (and pint and dram) of the good Lord's benison.

Given the location, this was to be expected, but he nonetheless seemed more visibly committed to the works of St Nicholas than previous celebrants.

We were celebrating, at a Roman Catholic mass, the aforesaid gifts of God, but especially a range of products under the name Samichlaus (‘Santa Claus' in the local Zurich dialect of Swiss German).

Before becoming a saint, Nicholas had a day job as a bishop in what is now Turkey.

That was in the fourth century A.D. His generosity developed into voluntary work delivering gifts. Given its global reach, this must be very time consuming, but it begins on December 6 in some countries.

Somehow, Nicholas also manages to be the patron saint of prostitutes, apothecaries, coopers, and several other longestablished professions dedicated to the giving of relief, comfort and pleasure.

It was perhaps wise of St Nicholas to re-brand himself as Samichlaus before his diversification into the drinks industry, where he has been active in character merchandising.

It ...

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