The Great TIBS/Whisky Live Tokyo 2013 Interview

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub

With less than a month to go until the weekend-long highlight of the whisky year in Japan, we thought it was high time we spoke to the masterminds behind the Tokyo International BarShow / Whisky Live about their plans for this year's edition.
Nonjatta: Every year, there’s a specific theme. What banner is this year’s edition organized under?
TIBS: The theme of this, the 2nd Tokyo International BarShow and Whisky Live Tokyo, is “Legends & Rising Stars”. Although the title was devised around the four guest bartenders who will be gracing the main stage and also hosting bartending seminars, it can equally be applied to the range of whiskies and other spirits available, where old, established brands like Glenlivet and Yamazaki can be sampled alongside the likes of relative newcomers such as Kilchoman and Chichibu.

Nonjatta: After just two years in Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, the show is moving to a different venue.
TIBS: Yes, the decision was taken to move venues again this year. Why? Simply because of space constraints; last year as well as having to refuse a couple of potential exhibitors, the event itself was becoming overcrowded at times, which not only presents safety concerns, but also detracts from visitors’ enjoyment.
Anybody who has staged an event of any size in Tokyo will know that there are surprisingly few centrally located venues. We wanted to keep the convenience of Roppongi but needed more space; after investigating probably 50 potential sites with our event company, it was judged that Shibuya Garden Belle Salle offered the best balance of location and size.

Nonjatta: You’ve also decided to drop the masterclasses. We’re quite curious as to why you decided to change this, seeing as they were always very popular.
TIBS: The decision to drop the Masterclass program was largely driven by the choice of venue - there are no seminar rooms at Belle Salle. We had however been thinking about tweaking the Masterclass format anyway. It was felt by some that it was getting a little tired with the same brands hosting every year. Last year we introduced a mini-stage with Dave Broom in the Whisky Room and this proved very popular with both visitors and exhibitors alike. What we’ve done therefore is extend that format to a 2–day program of 44 mini-seminars, each of 20 minutes’ duration and free for participants.Each session is limited to just 50 people and tickets can be obtained in a variety of ways; details are on the TIBS website.

Nonjatta: Every year there are official bar show bottlings of Japanese whiskies. These are usually instant sell-outs. What can you reveal about this year’s commemorative bottlings?
TIBS: This year we have 4 official TIBS bottlings: from Chichibu (2009), Hanyu (1990), Karuizawa (2000) & Yamazaki. The first three are from single casks (two from closed distilleries, one from a newly opened one), whilst the Yamazaki is a very special 100% mizunara bottling, containing whiskies blended from several different vintages, centred on the 1984 and with an average age of over 21 years old.

Nonjatta: How can people get their hands on a bottle?
TIBS: Well, all of the bottles will be available for order at the event from any of the participating liquor shops. More details can again be found at the TIBS website.
Also, several brands will again be undoubtedly launching special bottlings to coincide with the show. Details of these will be available from the importers/producers.

Nonjatta: Last year, just before the inaugural TIBS, you launched Bond#1. Dave Broom held a special tasting at Shinjuku’s Golden Gai for the first members the day before the show. What is Bond#1 offering its members this year?
TIBS: Dave Broom, Whisky Magazine Japan Editor-in-Chief, Whisky Live host and Bond#1 Director, has had an extremely busy 12 months and will be making his first visit to Japan since last year’s BarShow. To thank the loyal members of Bond#1, Dave will be hosting a very special tasting on the eve of the BarShow at the Park Hotel Tokyo, where there will be the first opportunity to taste not only the four official TIBS bottlings but also a range of other special bottlings for the BarShow and some of the recent winners in the World Whiskies Awards. [Ed. This will be limited to 50 places and it's free. To secure your place, visit this link.] In its inaugural year, Bond #1 has offered members a variety of exclusive bottlings, tastings with Dave in Golden Gai and at Whisky Live Taipei, special invitations to a number of industry events, plus a variety of gifts & prizes. A number of new initiatives are currently in the works that will further extend the benefits of membership.

Nonjatta: One more thing, before we let you go: we often get asked by our readers abroad - some of whom are in the bar/liquor trade - whether it’s worth their while to make the trip over and attend the show.
TIBS: We’re often asked whether the Tokyo International BarShow & Whisky Live is a trade or a consumer event. Without wishing to sound like we’re sitting on the wall, the event is designed to appeal to people at every level of connoisseurship, knowledge and experience. Anybody just finding their way in the world of fine spirits can browse the various exhibitor booths at a leisurely pace, discovering for themselves the sheer range of flavours and styles on offer. Those more experienced drinkers can hunt out the many new and limited bottlings available at the BarShow, also making use of the fantastic value offered by the Premium Voucher scheme to taste the truly rare. Those in the trade from both Japan and overseas have a forum in which to exchange ideas, experiences and techniques.
We’re particularly happy to welcome overseas visitors to the Show; Japan is a long way away for many people and is not the cheapest country in the world to travel to, but using the BarShow as a springboard for a visit offers the opportunity to travel to some of Japan’s distilleries, explore its many wonderful bars and discover some rare bottlings on the well-stocked shelves of its retailers.

Nonjatta: Where can people purchase tickets in English?
TIBS: Tickets can be purchased at the English language webshop here. Payment is by credit card and tickets can be collected at the door.

Nonjatta: Thanks very much. Nonjatta will be covering the show in depth, so even those who can’t be there in person, will be able to get a feel for what’s happening in Tokyo on April 20th and 21st. Thanks again.
TIBS: Our pleasure.


Lukasz said…
I will be at this year's Whisky Live Tokio. I would also like to participate in Seminars. I have seen that there is timetabe and some more info of the TIBS site but it is mostly in Japanese. I would be grateful if You could give me a link or other data in this subject in English.
Thank You!
The English version of the stage schedule will be up soon. Keep checking! Enjoy the festival!
The English schedule is now up at
Unknown said…
This is hands down on my top 5 list of things I've done/seen, since living in Japan. I went to this last year thinking it was just a show for Japanese whiskey's. Nope. It had a LOT more than that, to include an overwhelming selection of Scotch and American whiskey's. All the big name labels are there and tons of up and coming brands (plus a plethera of mixed drinks, especially helpful if one's wife is with you and doesn't enjoy whiskey that much). I was overwhelmed and stopped being able to "taste" the whiskey after about 3 hours ( I said I stopped tasting, not stopped drinking...). I'm in the US military, stationed in Japan, and unfortunately deployed. I'll be missing it this year and I'm terribly bummed out about it. I could write pages on how incredible this event is. If you're even contemplating it, don't. Just cough it up and go. The fact that it's at a bigger venue and has more brands this year should excite you to no end. To all of you going, good luck and I'm supremely jealous!
I couldn't agree more, Thomas, but it's nice to hear it from someone else, too! Hope you'll be able to make it next year. Thanks again for your great feedback.

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