China’s ‘Firewater’ Liquor Sells for $1.4 Million at Auction in London

Moutai

A famous Chinese liquor known for being consumed by former Presidents Richard Nixon and Barack Obama during visits to the country sold for over $1 million at an auction in London. 

The auction: Kweichow Moutai set the record for the “highest price ever paid at an auction for a single lot of Moutai outside China” on June 18, according to CNN Business

  • Although the identity of the buyer was not disclosed, the winning bid reportedly came from an Asian collector. 
  • The bid was estimated to end between $278,500 and $626,800, but the case sold for $1.4 million among 14 bidders. This was also the first case of Moutai to ever be presented at an auction by Sotheby’s in the United Kingdom. 
  • The lot included 24 bottles of Moutai under the “Sun Flower” brand.
  • The line was first introduced in 1969, but it was “highly sought after” in 1974 due to its “relatively limited production.” 

Moutai’s history: Moutai, named after the small town of Maotai in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou, is rare since it can only be produced in that specific town. The company is part state-owned and part publicly traded, and has grown to be China’s most valuable firm outside of technology and is worth more than the country’s four biggest banks. 

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  • The drink is a clear spirit that has been described as “firewater” because it is 53% alcohol. The brand is viewed as a “luxury status symbol” as some consumers buy the bottles to keep as investments or collectibles, reported CNN Business. Some bottles sell for as high as $400,000 each. 
  • Moutai was allegedly used during the Red Army’s “Long March” in China in the 1930s as a way to disinfect their wounds and used to “knock themselves out before surgery,” according to China Daily
  • It is the favorite drink of Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China. It was also used to welcome former President Nixon during his trip to China in 1972, and in 2013 when Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 
  • The liquor sells at approximately $209 for a half-liter bottle, which is considered cheap in China because of how quickly it sells out. Moutai is valued at $421 billion and is worth more than Coca-Cola, Toyota, Nike and Disney. 

What people are saying: Westerners have described Moutai as “drinking liquid razor blades” and as a “fiery, throat-tingling liquor” by CNN Business. 

  • Ben Cavender, the managing director of China Market Research Group states that it will be gone “almost instantly” and that people will be “clamoring” for it. 
  • “I think if we drink enough Moutai, we can solve anything,” said U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at a state dinner in 1974. 
  • Another Chinese local Qi Wang states that “Kweichow Moutai is the leader of Maotai” and that it “influences all aspects of the town’s development.” 

Featured Image Via Moutai China 

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