Cigar Aficionado

Getting A Head At The Bar

What my wife has been warning me about for years finally happened. I have a skull in my home bar.

No, it's not my own pickled skull or that of some wayward guest whom I beheaded for drinking too much of my Chivas Royal Salute. It's a bottle of vodka.

Now I admit, I've become jaded about vodka lately. Seems as though a new clear spirit debuts every month and each one claims outstanding purity and has a more arresting package than the last. But I got a look at one yesterday that made even me take notice: Crystal Head vodka.

I admit that the bottle (if that's what you'd call it) is pretty much the showstopper here, that and its connection to a celebrity. It's not the first time someone has tried to sell vodka through a link to a well-known person (witness the misguided Donald Trump vodka), but in the case of Crystal Head it's a more interesting endorsement. But more on that later, let's look at the package first.

Crystal Head comes in pretty much just that: a crystal head. Well, more like glass shaped into a skull with an abbreviated bottleneck at the top, but you'll get the picture if you look at the picture. The concept is that the package is a replica of one of 13 crystal skulls that have been found throughout the world—from the Yucatan to Tibet—which were supposedly made out of single pieces of crystal over a period of 300 to 500 years, using an unknown process (as there are no discernable tool marks on the heads, and if they were carved they would have been shattered). The seven heads that are today accounted for are claimed to be imbued with unworldly characteristics.

I know almost nothing about archaeology—although my kids seem to think I may have been unearthed from some ancient dig—nor am I debunker of myths, so I won't make any claims to the story's veracity or lack thereof. (A quick Internet search will show you how varying experts fall on the question.) But the point is that Crystal Head would make a pretty cool presence on anybody's bar—especially if you set it up with an eerie light behind it on Halloween.

And the bottles, which when full cost about $50, are already doing a fairly brisk business of their own on eBay as empties. Which brings us to the next point. Crystal Head is the brainchild of Dan Aykroyd, who is pretty actively promoting the product. He's done many bottle signings, and if you put up one with his signature on the auction site, the price goes way up.

The actor/comedian/musician/writer/etc. is fascinated with the paranormal as anyone who has seen Ghostbusters might have guessed. On the Web site ( he stars in an entertaining video about the product than ranges between an explanation of the vodka and the package and shtick reminiscent of his "Saturday Night Live" performances. With Aykroyd, it is hard not to think there might be some tongue-in-cheek involved, but he goes on to explain that a woman in the Southwest who owns one of the heads, had to put it in her closet after it began talking to her.

Apparently, Aykroyd came up with the idea for the packaging, which is designed by the artist John Alexander and made by Bruni in Milan, before he decided what to put in it. He already a relationship as an importer of Patron to Canada, so he shied away from Tequila towards vodka, the world's most competitive spirits market.

On his video, Aykroyd says that he went to the extreme eastern most part of North America—Newfoundland, Canada—in search of a location as remote as possibly from anything polluted to make his vodka. There the spirit is made from with water from an aquifer, quadruple distilled, triple filtered through charcoal and triple filtered through Herkimer diamonds.

All of which doesn't impress me that much. Multiple distillations and filtrations are pretty common in vodka, as are claims of pure glacial waters as a source. Also, the Herkimer diamond is really a crystal found in upstate New York, which smacks of "New Age" palaver.

But on tasting it, I was impressed. The 80-proof spirit possesses a creamy sweetness and a very smooth mouth feel, even while glycerin, sugar or citrus oil has not been added to the vodka. It cries out to be sipped neat or drunk in a very dry Martini, but the company couldn't resist coming up with cocktails with clever names that goof on the packaging: Brain Freeze (with lime juice, simple sugar and crushed ice); Red Head (with Pama liqueur and with pomegranite juice); Headstone (with Jagermeister) and Wally Headbanger (basically a Harvey Wallbanger).

By all means use these pun-like titles to amuse your friends, but do not leave them alone with the bottle—lest it starts talking to them or, worse yet, it gets stolen.