The historic city of London, birthplace of a nation, bathed in the most glorious sunshine, was the backdrop for this year’s Whisky Live event.The world’s premier whisky tasting show, held in the Royal Horticultural Halls, was packed with enthusiasts eager to sample the latest and greatest offerings from a wealth of distillers and whisky companies.Highlights of the show included several companies releasing new expressions giving the malt lover an opportunity to try the latest bottlings before they hit the shelves.These included The Glenlivet 25 Years Old, Longmorn 16, Benromach Sassicaia wood finish, Ardbeg’s Airigh Nam Beist and the new Balblair vintages.These new releases were put through their paces by whisky star and renowned author, Dave Broom, French Whisky Magazine editor Martine Nouet and Whisky Magazine’s consultant editor Dominic Roskrow in a series of live tastings.The stage was turned into a cocktail bar as top international barmen from LABartenders created some refreshing and sophisticated whisky cocktails using the innovative AnCnoc shaken-up into delicious tipples. The increasing popularity in blended whisky cocktails was reflected with the crowd’s appreciation of the mixologists’ art.Richard Paterson was his usual showmanlike self as he presented a blending competition live on stage. Members of the audience got the chance to join Richard and Dave Broom in competing to create the best blend in a mere nine minutes.This year’s tutored tastings had plenty to challenge the enthusiast and entice the newcomer into exploring the whisky world further. The first day of classes offered a look at Mackmyra’s ongoing work producing Swedish whisky.The Glenlivet gave fans the chance to try three rare Cellar Collections as well as samples from the last year’s sma’ still project.Whisky Magazine’s Martine Nouet looked at tracing the influence of pepper in our glasses, and Highland Park offered a chance to walk through the ages of the Orcadian malt in its masterclass.Diageo allowed its masterclass attendees to get up close and personal with its big Islay two, Caol Ila and Lagavulin.Those at the Balblair masterclass got some of the first public glimpses and tastings of the new liquid and packaging.To round off Friday Whisky Magazine’s globetrotting contributing editor Dave Broom looked at whisky by the occasion.Saturday’s masterclasses kicked off with Dominic Roskrow leading a whisky inspired version of Question Time.Glenmorangie and Fullers, the brewers, teamed up for the first time to show why both products have bags of character.In the second Diageo masterclass of the show the company gave a tutored tasting of the latest batch of Special Releases from the Classic Malts selection.Dr Bill Lumsden from Glenmorangie presented the “Path to Peat Maturity,” looking at the story of Ardbeg’s development.Whyte and Mackay’s Richard Paterson presented some of the rarest whiskies in his stable during his Fab at Forty tasting, including Whyte and Mackay 40 Years Old blend and a 40 Years Old Dalmore.Again rounding off the day, Dave Broom with the help of Jon Allen, co-proprietor of Loch & Glen, the Scottish specialist foodstore, took a merry dance through Scotland’s gastronomic and whisky landscape.Agreat selection of food was also on offer to stave off the hunger pangs.Preparations are already underway for next year’s event, which promises to raise the bar yet again and bring the greatest celebration of whisky in the world back to Scotland.Meanwhile Whisky is officially alive and well in Japan. Any possible doubts there might previously have been were dispelled at Tokyo Big Sight on Sunday 18th February when more than 3,600 people braved the weather and the Tokyo Marathon crowds to attend the seventh Whisky Magazine Live!in Tokyo.The event followed a similar format to last year with the tasting room and main stage activities running concurrently with a programme of 21 masterclasses. It is the number and intensity of the classes that differentiates Tokyo from other Lives around the world; the thirst for the whiskies is matched by a thirst for knowledge and a desire to meet the men and women behind the marketing. The classes have a capacity of 120 people and the majority were fully booked well before the day.Anew departure this year was the Jura Jazz Club. Hosted by master blender Richard Paterson, this melodic blend of tasting notes and musical notes sought to match the whiskies of Jura with the music of the “Bison Katayama Trio” (all four of them).Suntory completely revamped their booth area from last year, with a fantastic walk-in display of both its Japanese and Scotch offerings. Visitors were really able to feel a part of the exhibition as they mixed and chatted with the many production staff and Suntory distillery ladies.Both Nikka and Diageo’s booths were also very striking and contributed to a feeling that whisky is really starting to take very seriously the efforts to attract new drinkers.Indeed the number of first-timers was very apparent and many of the overseas panellers were pleasantly surprised by both the youthfulness of the audience and the high proportion of young ladies. The surge in interest in whisky during the past 18 months or so, centred on single malts, has been led by the young, with women playing their full part. Whisky has not so much re-invented itself in Japan; rather it has been discovered by a new generation of drinkers looking to challenge themselves both in terms of the wide variety of tastes available and also of the historical and cultural attributes that accompany a good dram.Live! in Tokyo is very much about learning and tasting, but it also about having fun and enjoying whisky in a natural environment as well as the more sterile conditions of a classroom session. Chocolate and cigar booths contributed to this, as did the program of onstage entertainment, valiantly led by our very own Dave Broom. Talkshows, first with Charlie Maclean and Ulf Buxrud, and then Suntory’s Koshimizu-san and Nikka’s Satosan looked at the future for Japanese whisky from both an international and a domestic perspective; unsurprisingly both came to similarly positive conclusions.Acharity auction, with rare bottlings very kindly donated by many of the exhibitors, raised more than £2,000 for Save-the-Children during the afternoon, and two lucky people will be attending Live in Glasgow later this year as guests of Whisky Magazine, having won the prize draw that includes air tickets, hotel accommodation and admission tickets.Messrs. Paterson, Broom & MacLean were joined on stage towards the end of the day by a volunteer from the audience for the great Tokyo Marathon Blending Competition.What ensued can only be described as organised chaos as Richard attempted to guide his three blending apprentices into producing a commemorative blend from the range of whiskies available to them, averaging by some stroke of fortune 26 years of age.Eventually the finishing line came into view and with the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” echoing in their ears, (performed as never before by the Peaties) the band of happy but weary revellers made their way home from a day where whisky was very much the winner.With the planning already underway for next year, the shows promise to get bigger and better.See you there.