Monday, May 10, 2010

Vodkas and Skulls: Talking to Dan Aykroyd

Dan Aykroyd spends more time than you might guess in Austin. The man known for his comedic masterpieces like Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers, Beldar Conehead, the "wild and crazy" Festrunk boys, Fred Garvin-Male Prostitute, and Julia Child (“Oh, I’ve cut myself!”) is also a very smart businessman. That’s why he’s coming to town this time, to publicize his Crystal Head Vodka. Turns out he’s a big distributor of wines and liquors in his home country of Canada.

After asking him what appealed to him about Austin, he raved, “Oh, I think one of the greatest guys in the world lives here,” he said. “John Paul DeJoria (Austin resident, and founder of both Patrón tequila and the hair care company, John Paul Mitchell Systems) let me distribute the Patrón line in Canada, and we’ve done really well with getting Canadians to try premium Tequilas.”

Aykroyd was clearly ready to talk. In fact, I just let him run on what he loves about Austin. “And it’s beautiful,” he continued. “You’ve got that great capital with pink marble and I love the architectural integrity of the whole city. Austin still feels like the old west and you can feel the German influences. Plus, of course, there’s the incredible tradition of the Vaughan brothers, Antone’s, the music, Freddie King, and Clifford Antone’s contribution to world culture.”

Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka is his current passion. But why Vodka? There’s a million of them on the North American market (Crystal Head is also sold in the U.S., including right here in Austin). “It originated with the package,” he said. “John Alexander is a wonderful artist from Beaumont, Texas. He has exhibited in art museums all over. He’s a great Texas legacy and one of America’s most venerated portrait and landscape artists. Well, he had always wanted to do a bottle that celebrates the Day of the Dead and with the belief that the spirits are still alive. I was interested, so, he sat there in two minutes and drew up this beautiful bottle. And It looks like one of the Crystal Skulls. So I said Wow, let’s do a spirit. But it had to have purity and so it had to be a clean spirit. So we made what maybe the cleanest vodka in the world.”

“We went back to the basic Russian recipe by getting the best water in Newfoundland. It was the sweetest and purist we found anywhere in the world, from pristine aquifer waters. We also use sunset wheat with peaches and cream corn. We have now reached 1,000,000 bottles. Our vodka has no glycol, no citrus oil, no fusil oil. Others add these chemicals to mask the alcohol. Ours has no impurities. It is the one to step up to if you want the very best. It’s pricey, but it is the best and purist you can buy. Then people save the bottles. They are art works. People put M&M’s in them, silver spangles, cover them with leather, all sorts of stuff.”

Aykroyd likes to drink his own Vodka on ice, with a bit of lime and mint.

We talked for about 20 minutes. At the end, I thanked him for all the times he made me laugh. He still wanted to talk about Vodka.

And you can talk about Vodka with him, between 4pm and 6pm today at the Twin Liquors on 1000 E41st.