Owned by Hollywood actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd (star of Saturday Night Live, The Blues Brothers, and Ghostbusters), Crystal Head Vodka was launched in the US in the state of California, back in 2008.
Designed by John Alexander, the unique skull shaped bottle was inspired by the legends of the crystal heads, which many will now associate with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Crystal Head Vodka is not only well known for its creator and origins, but also for its high quality (and arguably gimmicky) processing techniques, which involve the vodka being filtered through quartz crystals which are known as Herkimer diamonds.
But does it live up to his name? The following article will assess each aspect of Crystal Head vodka, to help you decide whether it’s the right vodka for you.
The Legend Of The Crystal Heads
The shape of the Crystal Head bottle was inspired by the mysterious legends surrounding 13 actual crystal heads, which were believed to have been carved by ancient Mesoamericans thousands of years ago.
The legend of the crystal heads, which appeared to show no trace of carving despite their age, is that they contain supernatural powers, and even the history of the entire planet.
You might be thinking: there’s no way. And… yes, there’s probably no way.
But despite the fact that scientists have concluded that some of the skulls appear to have been carved using technology that’s only been available since the 19th century, there’s still a sense of mystery surrounding the skulls- and therefore this skull shaped bottle.
If you’re going to milk a gimmick, you won’t find many gimmicks more intriguing than this one (at least none that you can carve into a bottle)!
The History Of Crystal Head Vodka
The Crystal Head bottle was designed by artist John Alexander, who is predominantly a painter.
His artwork has been featured in a range of collections, as well as in museums, including the Corcoran, the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, and the Smithsonian.
Made with Bruni Glass, the design took Alexander roughly two years to get right.
In 2010, store sales of Crystal Head Vodka were actually banned in Ontario, Canada, due to the shape of its bottle being commonly associated with death (and, in the Liquor Control Board’s defense, they’re not wrong!).
The board concluded that it would be in poor taste to allow the sale of such a bottle in stores, given their concerns regarding binge drinking by young adults.
The ban only lasted until 2011, though, when after public outcry the Liquor Control Board allowed the vodka to return to store shelves, albeit with a slightly altered box.
Crystal Head Vodka has won numerous awards over the years, including the Double Gold Medal at 2011’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition, where it was up against more than 200 vodkas.
It also won the New Product of the Year award and the Luxury Spirits ($75 plus) award at the Australian Liquor Industry Awards in 2012.
In May of 2011, more than 21,000 bottles of Crystal Head Vodka were stolen, somehow, from a warehouse in California.
Aykroyd maintained his sense of humor as the story developed, joking that while he regretted such a loss, he was also happy that some lucky consumers would be able to taste the spirit at a reduced price.
The Distillation Process Of Crystal Head Vodka
Crystal Head vodka is made with a brand of Canadian corn called Peaches and Cream, and glacial meltwater from St John island in Newfoundland.
It’s distilled at the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation by Globefill Inc.
The spirit undergoes four distillation processes, before being filtered seven times. It’s during the last three times that the Herkimer diamonds are used.
How Does Crystal Head Vodka Taste?
As far as its flavors go, they’re a lot less unique than the bottle they come in- but that doesn’t mean they’re not impressive.
A sip of this 80 proof vodka kicks off with a burst of vanilla, and is followed by some sweet, candy-like flavors (potentially too sweet, depending on your personal preference), as well as notes of lemony citrus and corn.
While it’s a little chalky on the palate, it goes down very smoothly, with a crisp finish and a faintly peppery kick.
And unlike vodkas of lower quality, you won’t have to worry about a medicinal aftertaste. Its aroma is much the same as its flavors: hints of vanilla.
Variations Of Crystal Head Vodka
A brand of vodka inspired by the legends of the crystal heads not quite mysterious enough for you? There are a couple of variations of Crystal Head Vodka.
Both are similar to the original version, naturally, but have their own defining characteristics.
The first is Crystal Head Aurora, which was inspired by the aurora borealis phenomenon. The bottle is iridescent, with a metallized finish.
Unlike the original version, Aurora is made with English wheat, but it uses the same Newfoundland water.
Its aroma is floral with a hint of anise, and its flavors feature notes of peppercorn, as well as that familiar sweetness.
Crystal Head Onyx, on the other hand, is made with Blue Weber agave, and sourced from one single farm in Mexico.
It’s inspired by the warrior crystal, Onyx, which is believed to hold powers of focus, intuition, protection, and positivity.
We can’t speak on those (maybe we used the wrong mixers), but it does boast a unique flavor profile compared to the two other varieties; hints of green grass, white pepper, agave, and sweetness.
Is Crystal Head Vodka a Good Shot?
Crystal Head Vodka makes a great shot. When kept cold, it’ll go down very smoothly with hints of sweetness and no metallic or medicinal aftertaste.
If the vodka’s been left out for a while, though, you may feel a bit more of a burn, paired with a citrusy aftertaste. It’s not a spirit recommended at room temperature- shots will have an aftertaste that borders on unpleasant.
Cocktails Featuring Crystal Head Vodka
Crystal Head Vodka is a great spirit for vodka-based cocktails.
The cocktail featured on the Crystal Head official website is the OG Martini, which contains two and a half ounces of Crystal Head (original version), a quarter ounce of dry vermouth, and some baby corn.
Simply add your vodka to the dry vermouth in a mixing glass with ice, and stir the mixture for 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass before garnishing with your baby corn.
Another Crystal Head cocktail worth trying is the Crystal Head Brain Freeze. Containing an ounce and a half of Crystal Head, an ounce and a half of lime juice, and one ounce of simple syrup, all you need to do is combine the ingredients in a blender with ice until said ice is crushed.
Then you can serve in a glass rimmed with sugar, and garnish with a slice of lime.
The Crystal Head MelonHead cocktail contains one and a half ounces of Crystal Head, one and a half ounces of melon liqueur, and a splash of watermelon juice.
Simply combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake, and then strain the mixture into a champagne glass before garnishing with watermelon.
Tropic Like It’s Hot, inspired by the Pride edition of the original vodka, contains one and a half ounces of Crystal Head (or 45ml), half an ounce of campari (or 15ml), half an ounce of fresh lime juice (or 15ml), an ounce and a half of fresh pineapple juice (or 45ml), a pinch of salt, half an ounce of simple syrup (or 15ml), and one morello cherry.
For this cocktail you’ll need a jigger, a shaker, a strainer, a knife, and a hurricane glass.
Simply shake all the ingredients in a shaker with ice, strain the mixture into a glass with crushed ice, and garnish the cocktail with a cherry, a pineapple leaf, and a pineapple slice.
Made specifically with Crystal Head Onyx, the One Night in Jalisco cocktail contains two ounces of Onyx, a ¾ ounce of fresh lime juice, a ¾ ounce of simple syrup, one red jalapeno, and cilantro.
Garnish a rocks glass with a salt rim before muddling and shaking all your ingredients in a shaker with ice, and then double strain into a rocks glass with ice. The cilantro can be used as an extra garnish.
If its unique shape and origins appeal to you, we can’t recommend Crystal Head Vodka enough. Even if you’re reluctant to buy into the gimmick, it’s a nifty bottle to own, and one you’ll be unlikely to throw away once it’s empty.
Its flavors are pleasant if you’re a fan of sweeter vodka, and while they may not be worth the asking price, the bottle certainly is.
Overall it’s a vodka worth trying. It’s unlikely to grant you supernatural powers, though, so if that’s what you were looking for we recommend living in a movie (we hear they’re nice this time of year!).