The making of IWA 5 is not a stable recipe but an experimental process reconsidered every year. IWA 5 evolves subtly – one year to the next, new traits emerge, and new facets appear.
For more about IWA’s Sake making Philosophy, please click here.
Richard Geoffroy’s pursuit of beauty propelled him to the highest reaches of his profession. Born in the heart of Champagne country, he became the fifth chef de cave for Dom Pérignon Champagne and charted the course of the legendary wine for 28 years. He is now launching into a new experiment, hoping to contribute to a story started in Japan a thousand years ago: Sake.
To Richard Geoffroy, Japan has never been an abstraction. Following an initial spark in 1991, countless trips have stoked his love for the country, its culture and its people. IWA, therefore, could never be a sake engineered from abroad, a sake bereft of center. In order to be true to sake, and be a true international sake, IWA needed strong roots, anchored in Japan, and to be made according to traditional methods in a brewery of its own design.
With the belief that his project needed a womb from which it could emerge fully formed, Richard Geoffroy chose this location for its beauty.
To the south, the Hida Mountains extend across the entire region. They are dominated by Mount Tate, one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains”. To the north-west stands the city of Toyama, an entrepreneurial centre with ambitions of sustainability and a distinctly progressive spirit. On the horizon: the Sea of Japan. Mountains, land, sea, village, city: a quintessential Japanese landscape melding industry and agriculture, urbanism and rurality, tradition and modernity, purity and hybridity.
The kura is called Shiraiwa, after the site that welcomes it. Harmoniously slotted into the landscape, in profound dialogue with the history of rural architecture, it channels the core principles of IWA: inclusivity, horizontality, community. Workers and guests, production and reception, live and work under the same roof, share the same accommodations, and gather around a unique hearth. IWA’s unique approach to production informed the layout of the Shiraiwa kura.
IWA was brought to life by a constellation of passionate and creative minds.
Designer Marc Newson carved IWA into glass. He created the shape of the bottle by morphing traditional sake vessels and chose to finish it with an unconventionally dark, velvety sheen: such drama when the liquid is poured, like light emerging from deep shadows. Fused to the body as a thin layer of flat white glass, the mark drawn by calligrapher Mariko Kinoshita in collaboration with designer Hideki Nakajima breaks the stillness of the bottle. It’s an object made for pleasure, defined in relation with hand and skin, brimming with a warm humanity.
When Richard Geoffroy met architect Kengo Kuma, he found a gracious initiator into the realities of Japan. Kengo Kuma introduced Richard Geoffroy to another invaluable facilitator of the project: Ryuichiro Masuda, CEO of Masuda Shuzo, a family-owned sake company established in 1893. His native region of Toyama would become IWA’s hometown, and the place where Kengo Kuma would build his first sake brewery, a rare opportunity, even for a Japanese architect of Kuma’s stature.