By HIROKI ITO/ Staff Writer
November 11, 2020 at 19:07 JST
A bottle of limited-edition sake from the renowned Dassai brand fetched the equivalent of 843,750 yen ($8,026) at auction in Hong Kong on Nov. 10.
The winning bid was 62,500 Hong Kong dollars.
Brewery Asahi Shuzo Co. held its first-ever contest in 2019 to find the best Yamada Nishiki rice variety to use in Dassai, a renowned “junmai daiginjo” (sake specially brewed with pure rice) brand.
Asahi Shuzo offered six 720-milliliter bottles of sake from the Dassai Beyond the Beyond collection, which used rice that won the contest, for auction at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong to gauge how connoisseurs assess the value of its collection.
“I wanted to see what mark the world will give to the collection that we believe has the best quality,” said Kazuhiro Sakurai, 44, president of the brewery. “I’m extremely happy with the results since we were able to create new values of sake that are different from wine.”
Asahi Shuzo Chairman Hiroshi Sakurai, 69, admitted he was “really worried what we would do if the bottles didn't fetch a decent price, given the extraordinarily high costs needed for producing them.”
He pronounced himself satisfied with “such a high mark given to them.”
The bottles fetched between HK$56,250 to HK$62,500 each at the auction venue and online by the close of bidding on the afternoon of Nov. 10.
Asahi Shuzo employees watched the live webcast of the auction at the company’s headquarters in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Yoshinobu Sakauchi, 56, who lives in Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture, produced the rice used in the sake from the collection.
His crop topped the list of 45 entries from farmers of premium Yamada Nishiki rice around the country for the contest, dubbed Beyond the Best Yamada-Nishiki Project, after being screened for its shape, color and gloss of grains as well as its ratio of “shinpaku” (white core of a grain) to a grain.
The brewery bought 50 bags, or 3 tons, of Sakauchi’s rice for 500,000 yen per bag, about 25 times the market price. Each bag weighs 60 kilograms.
Among Asahi Shuzo’s sake offerings on the market, one from the Dassai Beyond collection, which is brewed with Yamada Nishiki rice milled to the 10-percent level of its original size, has the highest price tag of 33,000 yen per bottle.
The brewery has not disclosed the milling ratio for Sakauchi’s rice used in the Dassai Beyond the Beyond collection, but said the rice was milled even further than the one for the Dassai Beyond collection.
Asahi Shuzo also said it prepared ingredients for brewing about 1,000 720-milliliter bottles’ worth of sake from the Dassai Beyond the Beyond collection but filled only 23 bottles with the sake.
The rest will be mixed in sake from the Dassai Beyond collection for shipment and the remaining 17 bottles, which were not put up for auction, will not be offered for sale, according to the brewery.
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