Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Whisky Live Tokyo 2015 (2): The Lowdown

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

A few more weeks, and Whisky Live Tokyo 2015 is upon us. For those who were living on a different planet the past few months: it’s Saturday, 19 September at Akiba Square in Akihabara, Tokyo from 12 noon to 6pm.
It promises to be an incredible show, and since it’s only one day this year rather than two, it’s a bit of a risk to wait too long to book your tickets. Hold on… one day? Isn’t it two? Well, no, not really. There’s been a little confusion about the event to do with the fact that it’s being organized in conjunction with Modern Malt Market. To be clear: Modern Malt Market is the trade-only event, held the day before at the same venue. It is strictly limited to customers of Sanyo Bussan, so even if you are professionally involved with whisky but live abroad (and therefore are likely not to be a Sanyo Bussan customer), you would be going to Whisky Live on Saturday! Although the organizational framework is the same, it is best to think of them as separate things… the Friday doesn’t concern us. It’s all about the big party on Saturday!
In addition to the one and only Dave Broom (do read our recent interview with him!), many industry folks from Scotland, Japan and elsewhere will be attending Whisky Live Tokyo 2015: Mark Watt (Cadenhead’s), Douglas Cook (Glendronach), David Allen (Springbank), Andy Hogan (Duncan Taylor), Peter Wills (Kilchoman), Stewart Harvey (Pulteney), Antonio Bleve (Samaroli), etc. There won’t be any ‘masterclasses’ but there’s a fabulous stage program throughout the day. At 12:30, Dave Broom will be hosting a panel discussion with Akuto-san (Venture Whisky), Sakuma-san (Nikka chief blender), Fukuyo-san (Suntory chief blender), Tanaka-san (Kirin chief blender) about the “future prospects of Japanese whisky”.  Fukuyo-san and Sakuma-san will be speaking solo a little later in the day, about the potential of grain whisky (at 14:15) and the characteristics of blended malt (at 16:00) respectively. The last stage event is a blending “Battle Royal” in which 3 participants from the audience will take part... together with Mark Watt. Guaranteed to be hilarious!

There will be a plethora of whiskies available for tasting at the Whisk-e/Whisky Magazine Japan boot: the likes of Ardbeg 1994 from Duncan Taylor, Glenlivet 1972 from Cadenhead’s, 3 Teeling single casks, 2 new ‘School of Malt’ bottlings (Mortlach 1989 and Linkwood 1989, Fettercairn 1995 for Whisky Magazine…) the list just goes on and on. A few of these will come at an extra charge, but the organizers are keen to offer as much as possible included in the ticket price. The last couple of years, there’s been a trend at whisky festivals in Japan to charge for anything that’s even a teeny tiny bit special (i.e. anything other than entry-level whiskies). People were getting a bit tired of having to bring wads of cash just to try new whiskies. Whisky Live Tokyo 2015 should offer some welcome relief for the wallet in that sense, which is to be applauded! There are obviously limits to what can be offered for free sampling, but the organizers are trying hard to keep as much as possible within those limits.

Of all the booths, we predict the Whisky Magazine Japan booth will attract the most customers (giving Akuto-san, who usually attracts the biggest crowds, a little break maybe). Why is that? Well, if you ‘like’ the Whisky Magazine Japan FB page, you get access to some incredible Japanese whiskies… 1988 Yoichi and 2001 Miyagikyo single casks, 1998 Hakushu and Yamazaki single casks (courtesy of Whisky Shop W.), two 6yo grain whisky cask samples and a 15-18yo malt cask sample from Fuji Gotemba and a line-up of Chichibu prototype bottles. But hold on, it gets better. You don’t just get 1 dram from this line-up, you can try everything… as long as stocks last. So our advice would be: click ‘like’ right away and don’t wait too long to pay our friends at the Whisky Magazine Japan booth a visit… but leave some for us, pretty please!
People are always keen to get their hands on some of the festival bottlings. There are some very interesting festival bottlings this time round, too, but unlike previous years, these will not be available for purchase (or advance registration). Rather than have people go hysteric and think just “get, get, get”, the organizers want people to try them at the event and worry about purchases after the event (going through the usual liquor retail channels). At the event, it’s all about experiencing the liquid rather than elbowing one’s way to a bottle to take home. One of the Whisky Live bottlings is already available: a stunning 1995 Springbank (refill sherry butt). You can find it at bars around the country and some retailers may still have a bottle or two. That will not be available at the show, because it’s already out there for you to try and buy. Two others will be unveiled at the show: a 2009 Kilchoman (from a sherry butt) and a 2003 Glendronach (Oloroso sherry). In addition, three special bottlings for Modern Malt Market will also be available for tasting at the event: a 1995 Glendronach (PX sherry puncheon), a 1997 Pulteney and … possibly but not 100% confirmed yet, a young Japanese single cask. Again, these will only be available for purchase after the event.

Well, folks, that’s about it. There’s plenty more we could tell you, but we don’t want to spoil the fun of discovering all the surprises lying in wait for you at Whisky Live Tokyo 2015. Book your tickets here and we’ll see you there!


ggwiwi said...

Will be there !!!! kanpai

Gabriel said...

Hi guys, will you be covering the singapore whisky live event? It's happening this 28/29th November.

Anonymous said...


Does it happen every year ?

I just get interested in whisky and I'm living Japan but I'll miss it this year.
So disappointed :-(

Stefan Van Eycken said...

Yes, it's an annual show - but the timing sometimes varies (sometimes it's in the spring, sometimes in the autumn).

Wolfy said...

Argh! Wished I could be there!