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Scotch whisky Big in Japan

Marcin Miller captures the spirit of the Far East, where Scotch malt whisky is revered and there is no indigenous whisky publication to indulge the passion of the many Japanese Malt enthusiasts
By Marcin Miller
For many years, the Far East has been regarded as an area in which Britain’s fifth biggest export, Scotch malt whisky, is revered. Many whisky producers have attempted to seduce the Japanese with exclusively packaged products appealing to the high-spending enthusiasts and collectors looking to indulge their passion. Japan has no indigenous publications about whisky, which encouraged Whisky Magazine to hold an event in Tokyo with the sole objective of celebrating the whiskies of the world.The evening began with a seminar format: a panel comprising of Whisky Magazine’s Consultant Editors Michael Jackson and Jim Murray, Isle of Arran’s Harold Currie, Master Blender at JBB Richard Paterson, Managing Director of The Whisky Publishing Company Damian
Riley-Smith together with the Editor & Publisher of the magazine was admirably controlled by Tsuchiya Mamoru, Japan’s leading whisky writer. Following a welcome from Matthew Rous, the Commercial Officer of the British Embassy, David Croll (Whisky Magazine’s representative in Japan ) and Damian Riley-Smith introduced the magazine and the panel. During Michael Jackson’s opening comments a team of barmen organised by Mr Suzuki of Speyside Way poured and distributed five samples to each of the 650 people in attendance. This Herculean task was completed in approximately 8 minutes and with a minimum of fuss. Harold Currie then presented a potted (or bottled) history of the Isle of Arran malt, which was the first sample in this historic tasting. Michael Jackson added his tasting comments dwelling on the fresh, peat smoke on the nose and the surprisingly creamy mouthfeel.The next sample was tasted blind: the exercise was a process of elimination to identify the unidentified single malt. By asking a series of questions, Michael managed to whittle down the assembled company to five joint winners who correctly identified that the enigmatic spirit was a 10-year-old single malt from Campbeltown. The only fitting way to follow the competition was with the irrepressible Richard Paterson delivering an introduction to The Dalmore in a manner that no one present will ever forget. Resplendent in full Highland rig, Richard’s views on the use of ice in whisky were made explicit and we extend our apologies to the front row of the audience for the soaking they received.As the fifth sample was mineral water, it fell to Jim Murray to show the last whisky to be tasted: he selected one of his very favourite whiskies, the rugged 10-year-old from Ardbeg. Jim’s role in the resurrection of the Ardbeg Distillery is well documented, particularly by Jim himself. The seminar concluded with a question and answer session. In response to a question from the floor enquiring about the qualities required to become a great whisky writer, both Jim Murray and Michael Jackson cited a beard and a strong liver. More serious matters were raised including a question on the status of Japanese whiskies in the world: their views on this are best seen in their tasting notes in Issue 13. The action then switched to an open tasting, via a Bass beer bar, where 21 whisky producers exhibited their wares.Whisky Magazine is delighted to confirm that we are to hold Whisky Magazine Live in Japan next year on 11th November 2001. Our thanks to all the importers, distributors and producers who attended the show as well as the members of the HBA, the NBA and the independent barmen who ensured that the discerning Japanese whisky consumer had a memorable evening.