Though relatively new, IWA 5 is a sake brand well known to many, probably due to its two main claims to fame.
One, that renowned chief winemaker of 28 years at Dom Pérignon, Richard Geoffroy, is the main man behind the brand. And two, that IWA 5 is one of very few sakes out there to proudly accept the process of blending in its identity.
Releasing a different blend or assemblage annually since 2020, 2023 marks the year IWA 5’s Assemblage 4 hits store shelves. All releases mature for a year in-bottle before being shipped out.
[Read more: The making of IWA 5 and the launch of Assemblage 3]
Like its predecessors, Assemblage 4 is a creation by Geoffroy himself. He spends time tasting and mixing various brews made using different rice strains and yeasts. He also uses reserves in his blends.
But unlike the past three iterations, this fourth edition undergoes the blending process on-site by Geoffroy at the brewery, Shiraiwa Kura, itself. Due to travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, previous blends were a creation from his home, with the sake components delivered to him to work on.
Geoffroy spent three weeks at Shiraiwa to complete the assemblage process, tasting and making his test blends in the Doma, a room symbolically sited between the rice fields and the brewing vats.
We’ve tasted all previous assemblages before, and can tell that no two blends are the same nor alike, and Assemblage 4 is no different. We find this fourth iteration to be the driest, most wine-like, and most umami-leaning release so far.
On the nose is a crisp, dewy and zesty bouquet. There is a clear absence of fruitiness. Instead, root earthiness and notes of green fennel and sansho pepper are allowed to shine. We also enjoy the mushroom and nori umaminess that’s more prominent on the palate than on the nose.
These characteristics lend the sake well to food – a wide variety of them. We tried it with dishes ranging from stir-fried leafy vegetables and chicken bulgogi, to nacho chips and chilli crab, and found them all pleasing.
What’s especially interesting is that Assemblage 4 gains plenty of vitality as it warms up a notch or two. Aromas of white pepper, shiso, and candied almonds gain prominence in the 35°C-45°C range. Its texture also becomes silkier and more weighty.
IWA 5’s Assemblage 4 is a sake that grows on you. Its wine-like first impression eases you into familiarity, but slowly reveals itself to offer greater and greater complexity.
If you’re intending on getting a bottle, trust us and get two, and play with various temperatures and pairing them with different cuisines. This one’s a thinker and well worth mulling over with good company.