Last Sunday, I wandered along to the 9th Whisky Live event, a kind of whisky convention/tasting/excuse to get extremely inebriated (if ever an excuse were needed) … at 10 a.m. (oooh maybe an excuse IS needed). Breakfast consisted of a 18 year single malt, freshly baked croissant and coffee. (Rather took me back to my days in Spain, when once a week I would have a 7 a.m. meeting with 2 business ladies whose start to the day was a double cognac). There were around 20 distilleries represented there, each with immaculately presented booths and equally immaculate selection of single malts and blends, some the price of a (yeah, all right, very) small house. It was packed with thousands of red faces (bit like the Yamanote line on a Friday night). Most of the distilleries were (surprise, surprise) Scottish, but the mainstay Japanese companies were in force too. What was of some surprise was the success these local makers has been enjoying in recent years. I am no whisky connoisseur but my ever-lasting impression of J-Whisky is late nights in tacky Mama-san-led “pubs” slurping insipid “mizu-wari” which always seemed way too sensible and tasteless — bit like decaf — and an excuse to hide the fact that the whisky itself was not terribly good. But, no, how wrong I was. Whisky Magazine, which was a sponsor of the event, has in recent years begun blind tastings, during which Japanese whiskies have been lined up with their far more illustrious Scottish counterparts. And on several occasions, the Japanese brands, notably Yoichi by Nikka and Yamazaki by Suntory, have come out on top!