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Crystal Head Vodka

Review: Crystal Head Vodka  (83.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published February 25, 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 describing this quadruple distilled premium Vodka, filtered with real diamond filters was 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 she was showed me.

I reviewed this spirit  seven years ago, and it has been one of my more controversial reviews. At that time, I found the product wanting, suffering from corners cut in the presentation (the cork seal fell apart when Dennis and I opened it for the first time) and a flavour and finish which seemed more like an economy vodka than a premium product. However, recently Crystal Head Vodka has won numerous awards including a Gold Medal at the prestigious 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Given the time that has passed since my original review, and my belief that products do indeed change (and possibly improve) over time, I have decided that a new review is indeed in order.

Crystal Head Vodka is a corn spirit made from a brand of corn called Peaches and Cream. I have actually grown this corn varietal in my garden. It is very good, sweet with both light and dark corn kernels (hence the name, Peaches and Cream.) The spirit is quadruple-distilled in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada by Globefill Inc. at the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation distillery. After distillation the spirit is filtered seven times, the final 3 of which are through a filter which contains Herkimer Diamond crystals. (Herkimer Diamonds are actually a form of quartz crystal.)

Rather than sampling the spirit in isolation as I did seven years ago, I tasted the spirit, side by side with two others, the new Crystal Head Aurora (reviewed here), and a Vodka which I am very familiar with Sobieski (review pending). All three Vodkas 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

The original Crystal Skull decanter which houses the premium vodka was designed by artist, John Alexander and is produced by Milan-based glass-manufacturer Bruni Glass.

The 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 carved from crystal quartz 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, the crystal skull decanters themselves are tremendously popular. Almost everybody I know who has purchased a bottle of the Crystal Head 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.

The First Sip 16.5/20

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 Crystal Head Vodka is slightly thickened. The aroma was clean with a little grain spice and light scents of lemon balsam and cornstarch. When I took my first sip I noticed the vodka carried more sweetness than the Aurora and the Sobieski. This is no doubt the influence of the Peaches and Cream corn. (Corn spirits typically carry more sweetness than wheat or rye spirits.) There is also a light mint-like flavour which accompanies the sweetness as well as grain spice and a bite of alcohol bite.

As the spirit warmed, I noticed the lemon-like flavour increased and a light bitterness was present in the aftertaste. Almost every Vodka will break down like this as it warms, Crystal Head Vodka is tasting much better than I remember; and indeed, when I checked my score from my review seven years ago, my score in this section is much better..

Taking a Shot 17/20

I mentioned that the Crystal Head Vodka has improved and this is very apparent when I take a full swallow shot-style. A Cold shot brings a light sweetness across the palate and goes down smoothly with no unpleasant bitterness or metallic flavours in the aftertaste. As I let the spirit warm, I began to notice a lemony aftertaste in the swallow and just a hint of burn at 10 degrees Celsius. It was not until the spirit reached room temperature that the hint of burn and lemony tastes become a deterrent to my enjoyment. I am quite pleased as especially when served cold, Crystal Head Vodka is an excellent spirit for shots.

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.

When I sampled each of my vodka spirits with food, I think it would be fair to say that I was ambivalent towards the Crystal Head Vodka. I did not notice any real change in my enjoyment. The bread and spinach dip tasted just as well with or without the sip of Crystal Head beforehand. The same was true for the sausage  and chicken wings. The food did not seem to affect my impression of the vodka either. When I checked my impressions from seven years ago, I notices that my feelings were similar. The vodka seems to be holding its character though. Some vodka spirits will begin to pick up unwanted flavours during this exercise. Crystal Head has not.

Cocktail Hour 24.5/30

During my tasting session with the three Vodka spirits, I made a standard Vodka Gimlet with each. 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. What was immediately apparent when I made my cocktails with the Crystal Head Vodka was that the mixed drink was not nearly as tart as the cocktails made with the Aurora and the Sobieski. In fact the lime seemed somewhat muted in the Crystal Head Gimlet. I had noted earlier in the review that the corn distillate carried more sweetness through the distillation that the wheat and rye distillates had. I am pretty sure that this added sweetness is why the cocktail seemed to have less of a fruity burst. The cocktail was still tasty, but I preferred the others by a wide margin. I made a few more cocktails afterwards I found that Crystal Head Vodka was well suited to mixed drinks where the vodka had more ingredients to play with. Cosmopolitans and Moscow Mules come to mind. (See my recommendations below.)


Final Score 83.5/100

A Good Vodka recommended for Chilled Shots

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


Recommended Cocktails

The Cosmopolitan (according to the IBA (International Bartenders Association))is a cocktail made with Vodka Citron (lemon flavoured vodka), Cointreau (orange liqueur), Cranberry Juice, and freshly squeezed Lime Juice. The serving is by now means consistent, and if you order a Cosmo (as the bar drink is frequently referred to) you will most likely receive a variation on the recipe usually using non flavoured vodka and sweetened lime juice. An orange peel garnish is also quite popular, (the IBA formulation states a lime slice garnish).

Using Crystal Head Vodka and the other ingredients I had on hand, I constructed this Cosmopolitan as closely as I could to the IBA formulation.


2 oz Crystal Head Vodka
1 oz Bols Triple Sec
1 oz Cranberry Cocktail (Ocean Spray)
3/4 oz Lime juice
1/4 oz Lemon juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Orange Peel

Add the first six Ingredients into a cocktail Shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain the cocktail into a chilled glass
Garnish with Orange Peel


Another great cocktail is the Moscow Mule. Unfortunately I do not have copper mugs which are usually used to serve this mixed drink, but I find an old-fashioned glass works well too.

The Sweet Moscow Mule

1 3/4 oz Crystal Head Vodka
3/4 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Cracked Ice
Ginger Beer

Slice of Lime for garnish

Pour the Vodka, Lime and Simple Syrup  into a Metal Shaker with Ice
Shake until the sides of the metal shaker frosts
Strain into a chilled ice-filled highball glass
Complete to taste with Ginger Beer
Garnish with Lime

Please remember that my aim is to help you find better spirits, not to help you consume more spirits!

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


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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