Really, Canada? Really?

I realize that this is in danger of becoming a “Stupid Liquor Laws” blog, but that category really is a target-rich environment lately….

Today’s amusing-if-it-weren’t-alarming idiocy comes to us courtesy of the Liquor Control Board of Canada (via The Globe and Mail, via Ed Driscoll). The LCBO has seen fit to ban Crystal Head Vodka from stores in the increasingly benighted province.
Er, the bottle, as you can see above, is in the shape of an attractive crystal skull. And, um, That’s an image that’s commonly associated with death.
Well, the concern du jour in prohibitionist government regulatory circles is [spins Wheel of Furrowed Brows] the possibility of binge drinking. And since binge drinking occasionally leads to alcohol poisoning, which occasionally leads to death, a skull bottle of vodka is apparently an inducement to, um, something. But whatever it is, it’s bad! Very Bad!
Oh, but bars and restaurants can still serve it in Ontario, and display this visual inducement to ethanol-induced suicide right there where the children, the children can see it. And you can buy it by the case as well. Because it is always better to sell binge-drinking products in bulk. You know, for safety.
The LCBO might consider that Crystal Head is not exactly in your average binge drinkers target price range. You’ll need to pony up fifty bucks (sixty if your cash has the Queen on it), to buy a bottle.

As it happens, I happen to have a bottle of this dangerous, banned product sitting on the display shelf of my Basement Bar. Dan Aykroyd sent it to me to try. Well, his minions sent it to me, but it is much cooler to use the Transitive Property of Liquor Fairys and claim he did. Why Dan? Because Crystal Head is Aykroyd’s company. He started the brand as a joke, and to ensure he had a ready supply of unique and fun gifts for the holidays. But the bottle is really cool looking, and the product it contains is good, so he has found himself with a profitable business.
And Aykroyd, who has more marketing acumen locked up in his own, personal skull than possessed by the collective rocket scientists at the LCBO, is unfazed by the ban. I like it, it kind of makes the product more appealing in my view, he told the Globe and Mail.
While Crystal Head may not be terribly inconvenienced, and perhaps may be helped, by this ban, the problem is that every ban like this that slides through makes the next, possibly more damaging one easier to put in place. If this stands (and it will) you may turn around in five years and hear the LCBO say that Creme de Violette is pretty, and has flowers in the name. And little girls like pretty things and flowers. So they are banning Creme de Violette because it might induce little girls to drink. (I have more realistic examples to offer, but I refuse to give the ninnys any ideas.)

If you are interested, I do like the vodka. As I demonstrated in my last post, I’m no anti-vodka cocktail snob. And I damn sure can tell the difference between brands. Crystal Head is every bit as good as most other premium vodkas, and better than some. But let’s face it, at this price point, you are buying it for the bottle, not the liquor. True to Aykroyd’s initial idea, it makes a cool, distinctive gift. Also, it is fun to pour from when you have guests over and you need a conversation starter. (Careful when you show off with this bottle, it is lovely, but not ergonomic.)

I’ll throw the Liquor Fairy disclaimer down below for disclosure’s sake. But I go the bottle a while ago, and chose not to write about it because everything I had wanted to say about it had already been said (with better photographs) by lots of other blogs. It’s very irritating when other bloggers write what you want to say before you can say it, leaving the choice of sounding like a copycat, or not writing about an interesting product. So I guess what I’m ending with is a thank you to the LCBO, whose cranio-rectal inversion gives me an excuse to finally write about Crystal Head.

The-Liquor-Fairy-ThumbThe Liquor Fairy Was Here!
The following product, Crystal Head Vodka, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the Liquor Fairy link in the header of this page.


  1. Just a comment, you seem ornery today so I won’t push your buttons too much!

    The LCBO (just Ontario, not Canada) is anything but prohibitionist. They are the largest retailer of alcohol in the world. They sold $4.3 billion worth of liquor and wine for a population of 11.5 million (or about $400 for every man, women, child, abstainer, etc.) and have some of the nicest looking stores around. Very open, clean, neat and tidy with no dusty bottles and crapped spacing. They even have a very nice magazine (Food & Drink available for free) at the stores that promotes lots of alcoholic beverages.

    I know a lot of people bash the LCBO, but if you look at the majority of the population they serve it very well. Plus we can drink at 19, partially because they do a good job of controlling the flow of hooch.

    Sure they have packaging standards and reasons for them, but who’s really going to miss another bottle of vodka. Really, vodka was so 2003.

    And after one sip of vodka it’s unlikely you’ll be able to differentiate vodka. Do a blind test.

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  2. Doug

    24 May

    I’m always ornery. I just do a better job of hiding it most days!

    I am aware that Canada is miles more liberal than the US when it comes to intoxicants. My belief is that nanny state actions are always (whether prohibitionist in and of themselves) beneficial to the cause of prohibitionists, and sometimes are the acts of prohibitionists pretending not to be. Pure motives are no excuse for bad government.
    And I certainly applaud the lower drinking age (see earlier posts here).

    And interestingly, I really can differentiate between brands of vodka (or used to be able to, when I mostly drank Vodka Martinis). I once did a blind taste test with six premium brands and nailed them all. (To be fair, I knew which six brands I was tasting) That said, unless I am buying the bottle for the bottle’s sake, the only vodka I buy now is Sobieski.

    And finally, whether you will miss a product being unfairly or even stupidly targeted or not, you should condemn the targeting. That is, if you want someone who could care less about your favorite to give a rat’s ass when it is your turn to face a bureaucrat who thinks things that look better than props from a certain Indiana Jones film are damaging Ontarian youth. (Hmmm, if you want to preserve brain cells, perhaps you should ban sales of that DVD….)

    And yes, I’d rather toil under the iron heel of the LCBO than Ohio’s equivalent.

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  3. All good points, but I do tend to agree with the LCBO (plus most the US) that packaging plays an important role in the target market. Skulls attract teenage males, why I don’t know (World of Warcraft maybe), but I can’t picture a group of 40 somethings discussing the finer points of glass skulls, unless they were Amazon explorers and then they’d just chastise it for shoddy reproduction values.

    Really, a crystal skull filled with vodka has only one response: “Cool!” and that would be uttered by underage drinkers.

    Anyway, I agree that libertarian principals are great, but human nature trumps any grand ideas with ape like behaviour.

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  4. Doug

    24 May

    First, I resent that…. I am *NOT* underage!

    Second, I agree that libertarian ideals can on occasion be taken too far. But you also need to keep in mind that government is also prone to ape like behavior as well.

    Tolerating judgement call restrictions on commercial free speech by unelected regulators is a great way to encourage that.

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  5. Ryan

    7 June

    Darcy, come on! For the sake of your own brain and the world at large, please allow logic to enter into this argument.

    The fear here is kids buying booze and getting *GASP!!!* drunk. First of all, the only (ONLY) way to stop that is to ban liquor entirely…oh wait…we already tried that and it only made things worse in The States. There is NO WAY to stop kids from drinking entirely. Kids who want to drink WILL find a way to drink and they were doing that WAY before Crystal Head Vodka hit the market.

    As for the target market? The target market is people who have too much money. What kind of kid can afford $50 for vodka? And lets say, just for the sake of your sad argument, that 5 dumb kids get together and put in $10 so their older brother will buy them a bottle. Those are kids who already want to get drunk and in that case the high price just guaranteed that they will get a lot LESS drunk than if they each bought a handle of bottom shelf vodka.

    No offense to anyone who really loves Crystal Head, (I actually think it’s damn cool) but even Dan Aykroid knows that it sells the FIRST time because people buy into the gimmick of vodka in a glass skull. As for repeat business, only time will tell if what’s in the bottle is worth shelling out $50 over and over again.

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  6. John Cowling

    29 September

    Doug, I only WISH the LCBO had Creme de Violette to consider banning. Then I wouldn’t have to bootleg mine from Chicago…ninnies indeed! Keep up the good fight. love your work.

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