For much of our iconic packaging series, most packaging we showcase concerns itself with outer packaging and design motifs. But this particular subject is one of the most memorable and radically different pieces of packaging. Let’s take a look Crystal Head Vodka and its stunning bottle shape.
Crystal Head Vodka was created by actor Dan Akroyd and artist John Alexander in 2007. Disappointed in their search for a vodka that was free of additives and fillers, they decided to make one themselves. Using peaches-and-cream corn grown in Ontario, Canada, it’s processed and distilled four times to create a neutral grain spirit consisting of 90% alcohol.
Reduced to 40% alcohol once mixed with Newfoundland water sources, it’s then filtered seven times. The last three of these filtrations uses Herkimer diamond crystals, which are double-terminated quartz stones (double-terminated means the crystal have naturally-forming faceted ends and are not cut by machinery or craftsmen).
It’s said these crystals may have healing properties such as amplifying spiritual energy. Whether that’s true or not, the processes used to create Crystal Head Vodka allow it to be certified as kosher and gluten-free. And we haven’t even talked about the packaging yet.
Crystal Head Vodka – Original Bottle
The OG, as they say (or should we be using OB?). It was designed by Alexander himself, based on the pair’s interest in the legend of the thirteen crystal skulls, and manufactured in Milan by Bruni Glass. It took two years of prototyping and refining before the ideal crystal head was created. First released in Southern California in 2008, its distribution spread to the rest of the United States in 2009 before going worldwide.
In 2010, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) in Canada actually banned Crystal Head Vodka. They claimed the use of a skull signified death and could be seen as offensive by consumers. Thanks to a mass mailing campaign by crystal skull fans (and a change to the box packaging), the LCBO reversed their decision the following year.
Are you curious about how the crystal skull’s face would’ve looked, had it been an actual person? We certainly are. And in 2014, a forensic artist named Nigel Cockerton set out to discover exactly that. Using clay, he rebuilt the skull’s muscle, skin and hair, and you can see the results below. Dan Akroyd loved the result, but admitted he’d originally assumed that the skull was feminine and nicknamed her Joy.
Crystal Head Vodka – Aurora Bottle
August 2015 saw the release of the Crystal Head Aurora bottle. Inspired by the northern and southern lights (the aurora borealis and aurora australis, respectively), the crystal skull features an iridescent metalized finish.
The effect is achieved by first placing the bottle in a sealed and pressurized chamber and electrically charging it. Then two powdered metals are added into the chamber, where the electric charge draws them onto the bottle’s surface. Once it’s baked at a high temperate, the powder melts and creates its signature look—one that is completely different for every bottle. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of their most popular bottle styles.
Interesting fact: the defect rate on aurora bottles is quite high. It’s said to be about 40% on the 750 mL bottle and nearly 70% on the 3 litre bottle. That’s a stark difference compared to a .5% defect rate on the standard crystal head bottles.
Crystal Head Vodka – John Alexander Bottle
As Crystal Head Vodka approached its 10th anniversary in 2018, Akroyd and Alexander knew they needed to do something special. As designer of the crystal head, Alexander created the John Alexander Artist Series No. 1 bottle, in a limited edition of 25,000 bottles.
The artwork features a version of Alexander’s 1988 oil painting entitled “Dancing on the Water Lilies of Life.” The artwork itself is on display in the Dallas Museum of Art. Each bottle wrap was hand-decorated and numbered by skilled craftsmen. Available in 700 mL and 750 mL sizes, it also features special edition packaging that’s as coveted as the bottle itself.
Crystal Head Vodka – Bone Bottle
Right around Halloween 2019, Crystal Head Vodka launched the limited-edition Bone Bottle. Available just in the States and three Canadian provinces, it features a chalky white ceramic coating that mimics the look of, you guessed it, human bone. And just like its Aurora sibling, no two bottles are exactly alike.
Crystal Head Vodka – Gift Sets
Who doesn’t love Crystal Head Vodka? And who doesn’t love getting gifts? Well, here’s the perfect meld of the two. The first Crystal Head Vodka gift set includes a 700 mL version of the standard bottle and four skull-shaped shot glasses. This is one big box of cool, isn’t it?
And while it’s probably tough to top skull-shaped shot glasses, we think the following gift set gives them a good run for their money. Here’s the limited edition Memorial Day 3-piece gift set. Love it.
Crystal Head Vodka – Bottle Sizes
Over time, Crystal Head Vodka has added several bottle sizes to its collection. We think it’s pretty impressive that such a unique and detailed bottle design has been able to scale up and down so well. The picture above showcases the four sizes you’re likely to find out in the world: the Mini 50 mL, the Standard 700 mL, the Magnum 1.75 L and the Jeroboam 3 L. We think they’d all look great lined up on your mantle. Send us a picture!
It’s not common practice for a bottle of alcohol to have its packaging so drastically altered. But we think it’s pretty clear that the choice was a good one. Crystal Head Vodka is one of the most unique and easily identifiable bottles out there, and if that’s not iconic packaging, then what really is?
What packaging do you think is worth of the iconic packaging title? Let us know!