It’s easy to goof on the growing number of celebrity musicians and actors getting into the spirits game lately.
Singer Justin Timberlake’s Sauza 901 tequila, a joint brand made with Beam’s Suntory Inc., hit stores last week. Last month, Diageo announced retired soccer star David Beckham would launch Haig Club single-grain Scotch and be its brand ambassador. Rapper and businessman Sean “Diddy” Combs also partnered with Diageo to buy DeLeon tequila to build on the success of his Ciroc vodka line.
Most celebs probably know enough about spirits production to barely wet the bottom of a shot glass. The same cannot be said for comedian, actor, musician and Crystal Head vodka owner Dan Aykroyd, who performed last Saturday night as Elwood Blues alongside actor Jim Belushi at Taste of Pinellas 2014 at Albert Whitted Park in St. Petersburg.
Aykroyd, who worked in a speakeasy as he was making his way into show business, got his start in the adult beverage industry in 2005 when he and a group of investors became the first to import Patron into Canada. Later, he invested in Niagara Cellars Inc., owner of several Ontario province wineries.
Crystal Head debuted in 2007, featuring water from a deep glacial aquifer in Newfoundland and a quadruple distillation process that uses Peaches and Cream summer corn as its base. After being filtered six times, the liquid passes over Herkimer diamonds three times for another layer of scrubbing. The product gets its name from a skull-shaped bottle designed by artist John Alexander and manufactured in Milan.
“Vodka is an old Russian word for water,” Aykroyd said by phone from Toronto. “All vodka starts with water. Great vodka starts with beautiful, pure glacial water.”
The resulting spirit is free of additives, is gluten free and kosher. It pairs well with Middle Eastern food, especially Jewish staples of chopped liver, matzo, caviar and gefilte fish.
“It’s suitable for Seder,” he said.
In 2013, Crystal Head won a gold medal in the prestigious ProdExpo International Tasting Contest in Moscow. Judges there described it as having sweet, vanilla, dry, crisp flavors with a kick of heat in the finish.
“As a vodka maker, I almost drove off the highway when I heard that description,” Aykroyd said.
He makes about two dozen appearances annually on behalf of the vodka. In 2012, he visited MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa to sign bottles and meet service personnel.
Which is better, going through the world as Elwood Blues or the owner of a vodka company? Aykroyd says music gets the edge.
“What’s great in terms of the vodka and selling it is I’ve got something people want,” he said. “I must say, though, that the music is irreplaceable. When music is a component it makes it all that much more fun.”
Cafe Hey Would You Like A Beer?
There’s the hard sell and then there’s this unique approach to sell craft beer by Cafe Hey north of downtown Tampa. I prefer this way (photo above).
Quote of the Month
“My first impression [of Tampa] is, well, I walked into my hotel room and I thought, ‘They think that I’m an alcoholic.’ ... The bar area was insanely filled with every kind of drink you could ever want to drink and like five champagne bottles. I’m here for a day! So I started drinking very early, and that’s why this is going so well.”
— Actor Kevin Spacey during a press conference in Tampa before the International Indian Film Academy Awards.
♦ Landmark 2011 Overlook Chardonnay. Great summer wine with peach, nectarine and Meyer lemon notes.
♦ Dashe 2011 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. Black cherry, chocolate and blackberry flavors with a floral nose.
♦ Gloria Ferrer 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir. Silky, fruit-forward. Big berry flavor along with cherry and pomegranate.
♦ Finca Nueva 2007 Reserva. Polished but intense tannins. Fruit forward. As if you needed another reason to love Spain’s Rioja wine region.