I have written about placing a Dassai sake at a Sotheby’s wine auction in a couple of “Kuramoto Diary” ago, and the results are in. Of the six bottles sold for, two bottles went for 843,750 yen ($8’076), three bottles sold for 810,000 yen ($7’753), and one bottle sold for 759,375 yen ($7’268). I am actually kind of amazed. I think it's probably the highest price ever paid for a single sake, not including at restaurants or hotels. To be honest, I was afraid that the biddings would not go to a high price, so it really was a relief.
The rice used for this Dassai is the same rice that won our “Yamada Nishiki Project” contest, which is worth 25 million yen (3000kg). We used this rice for fermenting one tank our sake, and in order to get the best out of it, when extracting the sake from the fermenting mash, we only bottled 23 of the “mid-press” sake and blended it to our usual Dassai 23 the rest of the sake we get at the beginning and the end of the extraction.
In other words, and to put it quite bluntly, we have put a sake out in the world at a price that, no matter how you look at it, will never quite make it for us. It's a 180-degree turn for Dassai because our main focus is to always keep its price as reasonable as possible by never spending money on any weird marketing or promotional campaigns.
I'm sure people will say that Dassai has finally become like any other sake, but I don’t mind being told so. I've always said that the lack of expensive sake is one of the weaknesses of today's sake industry, especially when it comes to the international market. However, we have been unable to break through this glass ceiling.
Even when compared to extremely expensive wines or Maotai, sake is definitely not losing in terms of quality. Then why not have a bottle of sake that costs hundreds of thousands or even millions of yens? However, this is quite difficult to achieve. The main reason for this is the pressure of conformity in Japanese society (especially in the sake industry). While we are willing to accept the expensive prices on foreign wines and Chinese Maotai, when a Japanese sake is priced above the market standards, people tend to try and drag it down. Kuroryu in Fukui also knows well about
this matter, and even though they have a different way of doing things than us, they
have been working hard on this for many years.
As far as the auction placement goes, it is mainly because we wanted to do something that only Dassai was able to achieve under the current circumstances. In the future, I think we'll see sake producers in the sake industry aiming for greater heights, maybe by taking different paths.