Dan Aykroyd has worn many hats during his long and successful career – he’s an Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning actor, a writer, director, philanthropist, enthusiast of the supernatural, winery owner, tequila importer and now, vodka maven.
Dan’s partner and veteran fine artist John Alexander has exhibited extensively in the United States and around the world. Together, they were avid researchers of the legend of the 13 crystal heads. And from this inspiration, an idea was born – Crystal Head vodka.
We interviewed Dan Aykroyd about the founding of Crystal Head, details behind its production and his interests in “spirits” beyond vodka. (Part one of two)
How did you and John Alexander first meet?
I met John back in my SNL days. Simply put – he stole my girlfriend. I was off doing a movie and when I returned to SNL my girlfriend at the time was dating John. But John was such a great guy we couldn’t help but to develop a friendship. 30 years later we are still great friends. As for the girlfriend, we aren’t too sure where she is nowadays.
It must have been quite a challenge to find a manufacturer that could handle the specifications of John’s skull sculpture – how long did it take to find a company that could create his design?
It took about 2 years to develop a mold for this bottle. We spanned the globe and no one would even try to do it. You have to understand no bottle company had ever done anything like this before so some of them didn’t even know where to start. As it turned out Bruni Glass was up for the challenge and after about 18 months or so and several attempts Bruni got it right.
Of course, the eye-catching skull bottle drives a lot of sales, but a huge part of Crystal Head’s popularity is driven by what’s in the bottle – incredibly pure vodka. How did you achieve this amazing purity?
The purity aspect was not easy. Because vodka is colorless and odorless people assume it must be pure. But in many cases it is far from it. Chemicals and oils are used to “smooth out” the product. As you can imagine I too was shocked to learn this. I was like everyone else. I believed vodka must be pure. When I found out that it wasn’t, it seemed natural to produce completely pure and clean vodka for people to enjoy. We did a lot of taste testing. The challenge for us was to produce a pure product yet still have incredible smoothness and mouth-feel and to have minimal burn on the throat.
After a while of testing, it became apparent that the only way to make sure a product was to use very high quality water, and grains in our ingredient. The second thing we then did was distill it 4 times to remove any natural impurities that may appear from the distilling process and then we filtered it a total of 7 times. Many people think the number of times you distill the vodka is the most important thing. While it is important, filtration is also very important and of course the quality of your water.
I had never heard of Herkimer diamonds before I was introduced to Crystal Head. What special properties do they contribute to the vodka?
Herkimer Diamond is named for a Revolutionary War general and the stones come from a geophysically anomalous region of upstate New York. An area 50 miles by 50 miles has semi-precious crystals migrating from below the earth’s surface to fields and roadsides. We selected a basket of the finest stones available from a major harvester. These stones compose the contents of our final filter cone. The vodka after being poured through takes on a distinct platinum hue and resembles liquid satin as it goes into the bottle. It is our last touch to both ensure Crystal Head is the world’s cleanest and also it ties the bow, if you will, on our legend – that the Heads were given to man under mysterious circumstances for the purposes of enlightenment.
Your family has had a long fascination with the paranormal — your father Peter even wrote a book about ghosts. What are your current “spiritual interests” or projects that aren’t vodka?
Of course, I am always interested in any developments occurring in psychic research. My fathers’ book history outlines the depth of our family interests in these matters. Other than vodka my time is now focused on House of Blues where I serve as a founding consultant. We have a new initiative at all the clubs currently to re-connect with our respective communities. New Orleans and Chicago are the stars of this new policy.
Part two of the interview will be posted tomorrow!
Dan will be greeting his fans and signing bottles of Crystal Head vodka this Friday, February 3 from 4-6pm.
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