What is that hairy creature on the label?
It is the Yuki Otoko, the Snow Yeti. The illustration is from a 19th century book, the Hokuetsu Seppu, Snow Stories of North Etsu Province, written by Suzuki Bokushi. This book was an extensive work on the life in the snowy southern region of the Niigata region and became extremely popular. Bokushi was a textile merchant and author, and also is an ancestor of the Aoki Shuzo, the Sake brewery which now produces this Sake. The Yuki Otoko is alleged to inhabit the snowy mountains of Niigata, and sometimes helps travelers who are lost or in need of assistance in the mountains.
The Aoki Shuzo was founded in 1717, making it over 300 years old, and it is located in Shiozawa, an area well known for both its quality rice and well water. They are a very traditional brewery, and only produce Sake during the cold months rather than year round like some other breweries. The Niigata region is famous for producing a certain style of Sake, known as Tanrei-Karakuchi, which is light, crisp and dry. However, Aoki Shuzo aims for a slightly different style, what they call Tanrei-Umakuchi, which is crisp and dry but with more umami.
It's also interesting to note that Aoki Shuzo donates part of their proceeds to support rescue efforts for hikers lost in the snowy mountains. emulating the Snow Yeti who was also said to assist hikers.
The Yuki Otoko "Yeti" Honjozo (about $28) is a premium Sake, made from only five ingredients: rice, water, yeast, koji-kin, and a little distilled alcohol. It was made with Gohyakumangoku and Koishibuki rice, polished down to 65%, a bit more than what is required to be a Honjozo. The Sake also has a 15.5% ABV, a SMV +8 (meaning its generally dry), and an Acidity of 1.2. It is said to be "Dry, light and clean like melting snow."It also can be served chilled, warmed, or at room temperature.
I drank this chilled, and found it to be a clean and refreshing Sake, with a savory kick of umami. Subtle melon and citrus flavors with the umami taking center stage. This would be excellent for seafood, mushrooms, or truffle dishes. The umami of the Sake makes it even more food friendly. Or you can just enjoy this Sake on its own, slowly sipped and enjoyed. Highly recommended.