Actor, Musician, Entrepreneur
Interview by Jay Cooper
The man that is a beloved Canadian treasure gave me his time to chat about his tasty vodka brand ‘Crystal Head’. I had met Dan and his father at a signing for the book ‘A History of Ghosts’ a few years back but to have him in ATOTK magazine is such a thrill. SNL, Blues Brothers, Coneheads, Ghostbusters, the list goes on and on. True Canadian boy, with dreams that eclipsed anyone’s imagination. The man, the myth, the legend, Dan Aykroyd. We’ve covered Breweries, wineries and distilleries in the past but to get Dan explain his vision and process was very interesting.
JAY COOPER (ATOTK): IThank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat. So let’s get right to it. I believe your first inclusion into the spirits business was importing Patron tequila. Then you decided to manufacturer and market your very own brand of ‘Crystal Head’ vodka. What lead to that move?
DAN AYKROYD (DA): Hey Jay, thank you for including our brand, love the Kawarthas. Well I first got involved in the beverage alcohol industry when I brought Patron tequila to Canada. That’s where it all started. We built it into Canada’s #1 luxury tequila brand. I then started looking into other categories. To me, vodka always had this fake, overly viscous, artificially sweetened taste and smelled like perfume. So, with ours, we set out to create a pure and clean liquid - free from all additives.
ATOTK: So ‘Crystal Head’ puts in no additives, why do others and you do not?
DA: Well, other brands use additives and sugars to either mask the taste or create flavors. Being additive and sugar-free is our identity. We use only the highest-quality ingredients to create unique expressions of ultra-premium vodka. Rather than using additives, we distill our vodka from different raw materials. Our original vodka is crafted from locally sourced Canadian corn, offering a silky-smooth vodka with a hint of sweetness and vanilla.
ATOTK: I’ve heard you say that the water is a key factor in the manufacturing process. Can you explain?
DA: Water makes up 60% of vodka, so blending Crystal Head with the best water is essential. Canada has some of the purest water sources in the world. For all our expressions of vodka, we chose to source our water from St. John’s Newfoundland.
ATOTK: The vodka is filtered seven times, through layers of Herkimer diamonds?
DA: Yes, our filtration process is unlike any other. The Herkimer diamonds guarantee clarity and offer a hint of minerality to the final taste.
ATOTK: The bottle itself is so cool. Who created it?
DA: Well the concept for the bottle was designed by renowned artist, John Alexander, and inspired by the legend of the thirteen crystal skulls. I am fascinated by these stories and the acceptance that there is more to life than reality. Over half the world believes in some type of phenomenon. It was essential to create something with meaning. Our bottle is a symbol of life, reflecting power and enlightenment. These heads are a source of knowledge and allow us to connect to a higher power and purpose. The liquid was made with the bottle in mind, something to match the purity and innovation of the bottle.
ATOTK: So that being said between life and reality, will there be a new Ghostbusters film in the future? Everyone loves the series.
DA: I’ve heard that before (Laughs). Yes, Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2 is scheduled to release in Canada in December.
ATOTK: Awesome! Now where do you manufacture the bottles?
DA: We create our bottles from leading glass manufacturers in Europe. Our bottle’s complexity and commitment to high quality compels us to reject and re-melt over 40% of all glass made. The average bottle has a rejection rate of about 0.5%. Every bottle of is hand sorted and checked for defects before leaving the factory.
ATOTK: Was it John’s idea or yours to create such a piece of art for a product?
DA: Well, John enjoys going to the day of the dead in Mexico and loves the sugar skulls. He told me about the idea of the skulls with alcohol in them, and it was a great idea. The rest is history so to speak (Laughs).
ATOTK: How has the company grown from its inception?
DA: In the 15 years we have been selling, we have grown to over 20 people (not including the fine people at the NLC that bottle the product for us), and we are selling in about 75 countries. We started with one product in one size and now have over a dozen SKUs.
ATOTK: Taxes on spirits are insanely high. Were you aware of this going into it?
DA: Well truthfully I had yet to learn how high the taxes would be. I always figured it wouldn’t be cheap, but until you get into the industry, you don’t know how high the taxes are. Taxes aside, it’s a pretty exciting and dynamic industry. The people are interesting, and it can be fun at times. The government’s presence forces companies to be more creative to earn a profit than in other industries.
ATOTK: If you had 100 empty bottles on display, would you say a person has a drinking problem or becoming a hoarder (Laughs)?
DA: (Laughs) Well, we would thank them for their business first off. But that’s the thing about Crystal Head. You get an additive-free, no-sugar, award-winning vodka, and after you finish drinking it, you still have this fantastic artist-designed skull bottle. You certainly don’t see many of our bottles in recycling bins (Laughs).
ATOTK: Now, some quick questions. Best gig ever?
DA: Blues Brothers opening for Rolling Stones in Chicago. It was amazing.
ATOTK: Worst gig ever?
DA: Blues Brothers concert for Cadillac retailers - no one got up and danced.
ATOTK: Favourite character?
DA: Of all the great characters, I have to go with Beldar Conehead.
ATOTK: I won’t take up anymore of your time, Dan, I know how busy you are. Thank you for the insight on your tasty, unique business venture. Last words for our readers?
DA: Well, who doesn’t love the Kawarthas? Enjoy your spectacular surroundings, don’t take them for granted and treat them respectfully.