Whisky Live expands in Tokyo

A newfound interest in whisky among Japanese drinkers is driving interest in the upcoming Whisky Live Tokyo 2011, with organizers moving this year's event to a larger and more central location in the city to meet demand.

More than 6,000 people are expected to converge on the Tokyo Midtown complex, in the Roppongi district of the city, for the three-day event. Whisky Live Tokyo starts with a reception for VIPs on February 18, but opens to the public and the industry at large on the following two days.

"We have moved into central Tokyo this year because the venue we have used for the last six years, Tokyo Big Sight, does not have enough space for all the people who want to come," said Kimitaka Toyama, of Whisk-e Ltd., a specialist importer of arguably Scotland's most famous product.

"Most of the visitors will be regular consumers of whisky, and they will be able to meet many of the biggest names in Scottish whisky, as well as major Japanese companies as well," Toyama told Relaxnews. Representatives of Japanese bars and restaurants are also expected to be out in force given the resurgent popularity of scotch in Japan.

"We have had quite a strong whisky culture in Japan for the last 40 or 50 years, although the popularity of the drink had levelled off a few years ago," he added. "That changed a couple of years ago when Suntory began a promotion for highballs using its own brand of whisky, which took off."

According to Suntory Holdings, sales of its Kakubin whisky leapt 70 percent in the first half of 2010 after it began the highball campaign. Demand reached levels so high that the distiller had to put the brakes on further shipments of the amber liquid as the number of bars putting highballs on their menus climbed to 40,000 establishments, up from a mere 15,000 in early 2009.

Whisky's profile has also been helped by the same company fighting off competition from some of the biggest and most traditional names in the whisky industry to win the coveted International Spirits Challenge 2010.

Held in London in November, the Suntory Single Malt Whisky Yamazaki 1984 first won the top prize in the category specifically for whisky, where it had been up against 300 entrants from around the world. The tipple then went on to win the Supreme Champion Spirit award, selected from all the entrants in the various categories.

This is the first time a Japanese product has been awarded the ultimate honor, the company said, in the 15th year of the event.

The VIP reception will mark the opening of the event and will include the announcing of the winners of the 2011 World Whiskies Awards, with the presentation being made by Maiko Itai, the 2010 Miss Universe Japan finalist.

Visitors to the public events will be able to sample products by some of the most well-established distilleries in the world, including Scotland's Bowmore, Springbank and Isle of Arran, as well as the Irish producers Cooley. The event will also include a range of entertainment and, for an additional fee, master classes in whisky appreciation.

Whisky Live Tokyo
February 18-20
Tokyo Midtown, Roppongi 107-0052

Ticket prices: Y5,000 (€44.77) for a one-day ticket and Y9,000 (€80.59) for access on both days.

More information: http://www.whiskylive.com/japan/20/tokyo-2011


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