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Crystal Head Aurora Vodka

Review: Crystal Head Aurora Vodka  (86/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published February 18, 2018

Crystal Head Vodka is a Vodka Brand created by Dan Aykroyd (Canadian Actor and Comedian) and John Alexander (Artist) in 2007. I first encountered the spirit in 2011 at Edmonton’s Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival where a pleasant woman at the Crystal Head Vodka 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.

The Aurora is produced by Globefill Inc.. at the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation distillery in Newfoundland, Canada. The spirit is five times distilled in a traditional column still using English wheat from North Yorkshire, England. After distillation and filtered using activated charcoal in a filtration which lasts 6 hours to remove any impurities. It is then filtered three more times through layers of Herkimer diamonds. A final micro filtration is performed, and then the is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume. Crystal Head Aurora has won numerous awards recently, including a Gold Medal at the prestigious 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Rather than sampling the spirit in isolation, I tasted three vodka spirits side by side, Crystal Head Vodka, Crystal Head Aurora and, Sobieski. All three spirits were chilled on my back deck for several hours (it was a very cold minus 18 degrees Celsius outside), and when I brought them in my thermometer indicated they had chilled to just above the freezing point of water (1 degree Celsius).

The First Impression 9.5/10

Crystal Head Aurora was created to celebrate the Aurora Borealis and its mysterious visual properties. The Crystal Skull decanter which houses the premium vodka was designed by artist, John Alexander and is produced by Milan-based glass-manufacturer Bruni Glass. To make the Aurora bottle, this decanter is placed in a sealed chamber and is electrically charged. Two metals in powder form are then activated and released into a pressurized chamber with the electrically charged Crystal Skull. The powder is attracted to and coats the charged bottle. After this it is baked at a high temperature melting the powder and creating the iridescent finish. The coating process is random, so no two Crystal Head Aurora bottles are alike.

Incidentally, the Crystal Skull design is said to have been inspired by legendary ancient Mesoamerican crystal skulls (which were popularized in 2008 with the release of the Indiana Jones action-adventure sequel Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). These crystal skulls were said to have originated in the Americas and were said to be carved from quartz crystal in ancient times. However, recent analyses of some of these skulls by both the British Museum and the Smithsonian Institute has revealed that he skulls have a more recent origin. They were almost certainly produced by European Craftsman in the mid to late 19th century, not in ancient times by Mesoamerican cultures.

Although the mythos of the Crystal Skulls has been explained away, the crystal skull decanters themselves are tremendously popular. Almost everybody I know who has purchased a bottle of the Crystal Skull Vodka has kept the decanter afterwards, many of my friends use them as Halloween props filled with some sort of colourful liquid suitable for the holiday. I plan to keep mine as well. They are just plain cool,and the iridescent finish on the Aurora skull is a great added touch for the new brand.

The First Sip 17/20

Prior to my tasting session, the hours of chilling on my front deck ensured the vodka had been chilled to about 1 degree Celsius. At this cold temperature the Aurora vodka is slightly thickened and creamy. The aroma was clean with a little grain spice and a light scent of wheat flour in the air. When I took my first sip I was surprised at the firm grain-like spiciness which I encountered which was accompanied by an ever so light flavour of starch and a touch of both lemon citrus and mint. There was also a very light sweetness.

I tasted the vodka twice more, once with its temperature at about 10 degrees Celsius, and once again at room temperature. There was some noticeable breakdown in the flavour as the spirit warmed. The Lemon citrus grew in the glass as the Vodka warmed as did the grain and alcohol spice and the light sweetness. There was also a light  vegetal flavours which was apparent in the aftertaste. Fortunately, the a light menthol cooling was also present which helped soothe the alcohol spice. The Crystal Head Aurora is a decent sipping vodka especially when well chilled.

Taking a Shot 16.5/20

When I threw back a shot of the Aurora (served chilled), I was very pleased with the clean smooth spirit.There was a good amount of alcohol and grain spice which warmed the stomach after the swallow, but I did not encounter any sort of burn in the throat (just a nice creeping warmth that moved up from the stomach). As the Vodka warms however, it begins to break down with a light burn appearing at 10 degrees Celsius and a more uncomfortable burn appearing at room temperature.This light burn is accompanied by a bevy of grain spice so it is difficult to determine what is really alcohol burn and what is really just firm spice.

The vodka displays more flavour than I would have expected in the finish. The aftertaste is lightly sweet and mint-like. Lemons flavours and light vegetal flavours appear as well. There is also a firm afterglow of spice. Having said all of that, I find myself enjoying the Vodka shot. I preferred sipping by a small margin hence the difference in score.

Out for Dinner  16/20

While I was tasting the vodka, I had a variety of breads and crackers available; also some different types of sausage and cheese; some sour spinach dip for the bread; and a nice plate of salt and pepper chicken wings. In my opinion a good vodka should act as a plate cleanser between bites of food allowing you to enjoy the food and the vodka more thoroughly.

The Crystal Head Aurora Vodka bring a spicy thrust to the food pairings. This means that the spicy foods like the salt and pepper wings and the pepperoni sausage really pop on the palate after a swallow of vodka. The bread and spinach dip tasted fine as did the various cheeses (especially Edam cheese). I did notice though that as I sampled the various foods and the spicy foods that the firm spiciness of this vodka was beginning to interfere. The spicy foods in particular the pepperoni sausage and the salt and pepper chicken wings began to pop just a little too much. I had to slow down and let my palate settle to enjoy the food once more. This is almost more of a quibble than a real fault of the spirit, nevertheless my enjoyment was being deterred just a little and so I marked this score down slightly as well.

Cocktail Hour 27/30

During my tasting session, I made a standard Vodka Gimlet with each spirit. The Vodka Gimlet is a good reference cocktail when judging Vodka because it is not only very tasty, it also showcases both the vodka spirit and its mixability with fresh fruit.

The gimlet made with the Aurora was nice and tasty. The tartness of the lime shone through the cocktail with just a touch of added sweetness from the Vodka. I think that the firm spiciness which I have noted in various parts of this review served the spirit very well in this part of the review. As my feature cocktail for the aurora, I decided to follow this same path making a Cosmopolitan style cocktail (see recipe below). I highly recommend the Crystal Skull Aurora for Short cocktails.

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Final Score 86/100

A Very Good Vodka highly recommended for short cocktails!

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.

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Suggested Recipe

This is almost a Cosmopolitan, but the mixed drink goes much heavier on the lemon juice with only a dash of lime. Because the flavour works out just a little differently, I have given this cocktail its own name, I call it Hawking Radiation, named of course for that famous Cosmologist.

Hawking Radiation

1 1/2 oz Crystal Skull Aurora Vodka
1/2 oz Bols Triple Sec (Orange Liqueur)
1/2 oz Cranberry Cocktail (Ocean Spray)
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 Ratio)
Ice
Orange Peel Garnish

Add the first five ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a Cocktail Glass
Garnish with a strip of orange peel
Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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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 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 cocktails)
90 – 95     Gold Medal (Highly Recommended for Vodka Shots and Sublime Cocktails)
95.5+       Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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