The Full Package: Why “Iron Cap” and “Precious” Moutai Are the Tops

By Sotheby's
T rue enthusiasts will maintain that you cannot judge wine and liquor by its packaging. But in at least two cases, what a bottle of Moutai looks like on the outside can be a good indication of the quality inside. Those who appreciate and collect China’s most famous baijiu would surely be excited to come across a bottle with a particular metal cap or to discover one with the “1704” label.

The Iron Cap

The highly sought-after Kweichow “Iron Cap” Moutai series was born at the end of 1986 and lasted for about a decade. From January 1987, all the domestic and export packaging of Moutai liquor was officially changed to special aluminum screw capsules. The venerable distiller had previously only used stoppers of wood and plastic, or even bladder-skin seals. Manufactured by the Italian Guala Closures Group, which specializes in non-refillable aluminum closures for spirits, the special aluminum screw capsules were designed to prevent counterfeiting and tampering.

As soon as the new aluminum cap was introduced, Moutai enthusiasts affectionately dubbed it the "iron cap" and many have early memories of first enjoying Moutai when it still had this distinctive metal screwcap. However, the period of "Iron Cap" Moutai did not last beyond a decade. Later in August 1996, Kweichow Moutai Distillery introduced an even more advanced anti-backfill seal which replaced the aluminum screw capsule.

Beyond the effective sealing attributes of the aluminum screw capsules, which are especially appreciated by consumers for the keeping of Moutai for the long term, collectors refer to the “Iron Cap” more broadly as the series of Kweichow Moutai distributed from 1987 to 1996, a key time in the distillery’s history. Produced for less than a decade, the highly regarded Moutai series has become desirable not only for its rarity but also a measure of nostalgia.


In 1986, Kweichow Moutai introduced its first bottles of “Precious,” premium Moutai that comes in a box specially created by the renowned designer Ma Xiong. The label carries the seal “1704,” a commemoration of the year the liquor officially got its name from one of the earliest distillers in the town of Maotai. The sense of tradition and heritage is further suggested inside the gift box, made of an elegant spotted copper that is a specialty of the Kunming Bronze Factory.

Of course, “Precious” Moutai is prized not only for its package design, which garnered the international AsiaStar Award for excellence in packaging. During the brewing process, aged wine was added to enhance the highest-quality liquor, thus “Precious” Moutai commands a much higher price than the standard Kweichow Moutai liquor produced during the same years.

Other Bottles of Moutai Offered in ‘Distilled | Whisky + Moutai + More'

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