Crystal Head Vodka
Review: Crystal Head Vodka (74.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published March 10, 2011
I think I shall begin this review with a video and let the man behind this spirit, Dan Akroyd, tell you in his own words about his Crystal Head Vodka.
I found the video quite interesting, and the information it contained corroborated well with what I was told about Crystal Skull Vodka, (at The 2010 Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival), when I was first introduced to it. The Vodka bottle is indeed just as Dan Akroyd described, shaped like a Crystal Skull, complete with two crystal skull cups to serve it in. The pleasant woman at the festival who talked to me at the Crystal Head booth went to great lengths explaining how this is a quadruple distilled premium Vodka, filtered with real diamond filters, produced using only the freshest water found in Newfoundland. She gave a great presentation, but I’ll be honest, she already had my full attention with the crystal skull decanter and the two skull cups.
My buddy Dennis who was with me at the show was just as smitten by the presentation as I was, and as fortune would have it he was given a bottle (er skull) complete with Skull cups as a Christmas Present from one of his pals. Dennis often joins me for my informal tasting sessions on various Sunday afternoons, and a few days after our first Vodka tasting (See Tasting Nemiroff Vodka) he invited me over to sample the spirit within the crystal skull. We couldn’t resist snapping a few pictures with his camera before opening the bottle, and being the Dungeons and Dragons geeks that we are we thought we would add our own skeleton warriors to the party.
The First Impression 8.0/10
I (rightly or wrongly) feel that presentation is even more important for the Vodka category than it is for other spirits. This is because a spirit which has much less flavour, and very little aroma and colour, must impress visually to initiate the purchase decision in the consumer. The Crystal Head Vodka is all about such a visual presentation. A crystal skull decanter and a set of crystal skull glasses pretty much have me hooked from the get go.
But… when Dennis opened the bottle for the first time the synthetic cork closure broke. The wooden top came off the synthetic stopper (there was not enough glue to hold it in place) leaving the cork wedged firmly in the bottle without an easy way to get it out. With a little ingenuity, we got the stopper out; but… the first impression I received from this experience was of corners being cut in what was supposed to be a premium product.
The First Sip 14.5/20
We had chilled the sample of the Vodka overnight (in the freezer), and with my crystal skull glass filled, I let my nose take a few cautious sniffs. The first wiff was what I would call vegetal. It had the smell of a raw spirit just off the still. You might think this is normal for a Vodka, but I do not think it should be normal for a Premium Vodka. In my opinion, only the center cut of the distillation should be used in Premium Vodka, and it should not contain this level of rawness. Additional light candy notes were apparent as well; but, I would have to describe this initial aroma as medicinal. As I let the first small sip settle on my tongue, I felt the bite was perhaps a little sharp. A light metallic aftertaste which was slightly bitter followed, and the Vodka warmed my throat a little more than I would like.
Taking a Shot 13.5/20
I tested this Vodka several times and on several different days. This stuff warms the back of the throat a more than it should, and it has a light but distinct burn going down. As the Vodka settles in the throat the burn increases making this a little uncomfortable. The aftertaste, which I noted in the initial first sip, was more pronounced when taking a shot. Again it is slightly bitter and slightly metallic, and it has a tendency to linger well after the shot is consumed. When the Vodka is allowed to warm up a little more, the aftertaste and the burn increase substantially.
Out For Dinner 15/20
When I sampled the Crystal Head Vodka with bread, cheese, and ham I noticed the metallic flavours and the burn associated with the spirit were each tamed to an extent. The flavours and textures of the food seemed to be helping especially with the aftertaste. However, there still was some of that slight bitterness in my mouth and in back of my throat from the Vodka which lessened my enjoyment. And although the metallic taste was gone, things still didn’t taste quite right. I felt the food was improving the Vodka rather than the other way around.
A good Vodka will allow the flavour of the cocktail to shine through. I like to drink Cosmopolitans with fresh lime and cranberry juice.
2 oz Vodka
1 oz Triple Sec
1 oz lime juice
1 oz Cranberry juice
1 tsp of Grenadine
Shake all the ingredients over ice
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with Orange Peel
I use the grenadine as a sweetener to bring the colour of the cocktail to a nice almost rosy pink.
The Cosmo I built with the Crystal Head Vodka tasted fine, but it wasn’t stellar. That nice firm juicy flavour that a good cosmopolitan has, was missing. The same was true for the screwdriver I tried. It turns out that even when mixing with Crystal Head, the results are rather average.
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.
In Canada we have this great rock band called Trooper that had a string of hit songs in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I think their only crossover hit into the United States was a song called “Raise a Little Hell“. It would have been nice if I could have selected that particular song as the theme for this Vodka which is being promoted by another great Canadian, Dan Akroyd, (think about it, a mystical crystal skull raising undead minions…that song could have worked beautifully).
However, Crystal Head Vodka contains more window dressing than substance. My knowledge of the quadruple distillation; the diamond filters; the crystal skull decanter; and the so-called freshest water in Newfoundland cannot save me from forming the opinion that what we really have is an average Vodka all dressed up to the nines. In that vein, there is a song from that same Canadian Band, Trooper, that actually does sum up my feelings on Crystal Head Vodka quite clearly. It is called “Three Dressed Up as a Nine“! Have a listen if you like.
You may (loosely) interpret my score as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing Vodka. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again for cocktails only.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this Vodka in shots, although cocktails are still preferable.
85-89 Excellent! Shots or cocktails!
90-94 You may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 80 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
81 – 89 Silver Medal (Recommended for shots and mixing)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly Recommended for Vodka Shots)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)