A rare collection of Kweichow Moutai baijiu that features sunflower logos instead of the usual flying fairy.
  • A rare collection of Kweichow Moutai liquor has broken Sotheby's record for Moutai auctions at $1.4 million (R20 million).
  • It was estimated to be worth between $276,000 (R3.8 million) and $552,000 (R7.7 million).
  • Kweichow Moutai is known for its pungent notes and high alcohol content and is sometimes stockpiled as an investment.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Twenty-four bottles of Kweichow Moutai baijiu sold for a record-breaking $1.4  million (R20 million) at a Sotheby's auction last month.

Kweichow Moutai baijiu is known as the national liquor of China and has been a staple of the elites and ruling class since the Chinese republic was formed.

Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong served it to US president Richard Nixon in 1972 and it also made an appearance in a 2013 state banquet when Chinese President Xi Jinping met US President Barack Obama.

A bottle usually starts from about $100 (R1,400.00) but could go as high as $8,000 (R112,000.00) on Chinese e-commerce site Taobao.

This particular batch that was auctioned was produced during China's chaotic Cultural Revolution period from 1966 to 1976. The 1974 bottle features a sunflower logo instead of the usual flying fairy. According to Sotheby's, the logo was changed in that period because a flying fairy was "deemed inappropriate."

It had an initial estimated value of between $276,000 (R3.8 million) and $552,000 (R7.7 million) but a fiery bidding war between 14 bidders tipped the price to over a million dollars.

Insider has reached out to Sothebys for comment.

What is Kweichow Moutai baijiu?

Baijiu (white alcohol) is a popular and fiery spirit in China made of sorghum and wheat. It has an alcohol content of between 35% and 53% and is known for being potent and pungent.

There are many brands of baijiu, but Kweichow Moutai - made in Maotai village in the mountainous province of Guizhou in the southwest of China - is considered to be the premium choice. The liquor is produced only in small batches, giving it an air of scarcity and luxury.

The company is the most valuable alcohol producer in the world and is valued at about $400 billion (R5 trillion), according to the Wall Street Journal.

Besides being a popular drink, bottles are also stockpiled as investments, as prices tend to appreciate.

In Guizhou province, a family sold a dozen bottles for $38,000 (R532,000) to pay for their child's apartment downpayment in Beijing, according to a Reuters report.

"Moutai is not only for drinking, it is a social tool, an identity indicator. As people believe older Moutai will be only more valuable, there is little risk in hoarding," liquor industry analyst Cai Xuefei told Reuters.

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