Brewing the Dom Perignon of Sake

Richard Geoffroy — Founder of IWA Sake

In the world of wine, the effervescent Richard Geoffroy is globally renowned, as the former Chef de Cave and legendary brand ambassador of Dom Perignon where he spent 29 extraordinary years mastering his craft, and realising some of the finest wines in modern history.

Now, as Richard bids farewell to the industry that he revolutionised, he seeks out a new frontier, founding IWA Sake with the innovative idea of bringing the techniques of ‘blending’ used in Champagne production to IWA’s high-end sake — IWA 5, that assembles three varieties of rice (Yamada Nishiki, Omachi, and Gohyakumangoku), along with five yeast strains.

"One of the wine world's most important luminaries."

­— Jancis Robinson on Richard Geoffroy

From left to right, renowned industrial designer Mark Newson, star architect Kengo Kuma and Ryuchiro Masuda, CEO of  Masuda Shuzo, a family-owned sake company established in 1893 — each are contributing their considerable talents to IWA’s reinvention of sake.

Richard’s inspiring vision was launched in partnership with a constellation of stars — he is joined by co-founders Ryuchiro Masada, CEO of a leading sake producer, star architect Kengo Kuma who built IWA’s stunning Kura (sake brewery), and storied industrial designer Marc Newson, who designed a luxurious sake bottle finished with a dark velvety luster.

Nestled in Tateyama in the Toyama Prefecture, IWA’s Shiraiwa brewery will open in January 2021. It will rest between mountain foothills with access to the purest local water straight from the crest of Japan, amidst some of the heaviest snowfall in the world.

“The making of IWA 5 is not a stable recipe but an experimental process reconsidered every year.”

— Richard Geoffroy

At BlackPine, we see immense potential in the premium sake sector. The IWA brand and product is extremely well-conceived and enjoys a differentiated, appealing narrative. We believe Richard is uniquely positioned to elevate sake to art form, with his unrivalled experience, constellation of talents, and excellent management team that possess a unique and proven ability to produce and market premium alcoholic beverages (CEO Charlie Picart spent 19 years at Moet Hennesy, 10 of which as Head of APAC and previously Brand Director for Dom Perignon Japan).

We see a resurgence of sake gathering pace, with recent upticks in premium sake consumption analogous to that of Japanese whisky, which has gone from a neglected product 10 years ago to one that struggles to keep up with demand.

Premium sake is growing rapidly - From 2012-2016 the category grew by more than 10%; Junmai Ginjo/Daiginjo (the highest grades of sake) production has grown by 61% from 2010-2015.

IWA 5 — bottle designed by Marc Newson.

Exports are driving this growth. Importantly, unlike other sake brands, IWA targets 80% exports and new modes of drinking, accessing a wider pool of consumers than traditionally achieved, with exports more than doubling since 2010 within the key markets of USA and China which account for over a third of sake exports, markets which IWA will be laser-focused on in its goal of bringing premium sake to a global audience. In the premium segment, category leadership is relatively unchallenged – Juyondai and Dassai have emerged as leaders in export markets, but the wider industry lags behind, presenting a compelling opportunity to fill the gap with IWA, an innovative, export-oriented premium sake with a strong brand identity — Kanpai!