The history of brandy making in Armenia dates back to 1887, when the Yerevan Brandy Company was founded by a first guild merchant Nerses Tairyan, who began distilling brandy at the winery he had founded earlier inside the former fortress of Yerevan. The distillation of brandy spirit was done using classical French technology. In 1899, a famous Russian company, “N.L. Shustov and Sons”, purchased the Yerevan Brandy Company. Armenian brandy became the preferable beverage served at the Russian Court. When the Soviet system was established in Armenia, the factory was nationalized and entered a new stage of development, enlarging the brandy production. And in 1999, Yerevan Brandy Company became a part of the Pernod Ricard Group, a French company producing distilled beverages.
All stages of producing the brandy take place in Armenia starting from picking up the grapes and ending with bottling. The stages are: grapes, grape juice, fermentation, white wine, brandy spirits, ageing, blending and bottling. Only local endemic grape varieties, such as Voskehat, Garan Dmak, Kangun and others, are used in Ararat production. The blending process has its distinctive features, and one of them is that instead of using distilled water as in classical French production, spring water is used at Yerevan Brandy Company. It runs through filters and goes through bacteriological tests before blending. Right after blending, the brandy is chilled and then it runs through filters for the second time to make sure that all sediments have been removed. As for ageing, the brandy spirits are aged exclusively in barrels made from Caucasian oak. The Yerevan Brandy Company currently owns over 38,000 barrels. The barrel quality determines the final flavor, taste and color of the originally transparent distillate.
Many famous world leaders and celebrities, such as Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russia’s prime-minister Dmitry Medvedev, Poland’s current president Bronisław Komorowski, 16th President of Lebanon Michel Suleiman, Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, George Benson, Peter Gabriel, Emir Kusturica and many others, have their own personal barrels of Armenian brandy that are kept in the company and as the tour guide said, it’s up to them to decide the future of the barrels.
The oldest brandy kept at Yerevan Brandy Company is the 1902 OTBORNY brandy, the first of the Armenian vintage brandies. Alc. by vol. – 55,2%.
After the tour we had brandy tasting. As I mentioned before, we were offered 3 years Ararat, 10 years Akhtamar and 20 years Nairi brandies.
The 3 star Ararat brandy has an amber color with a touch of gold. It has a lively, spicy, somewhat metallic flavor with fruit and flower overtones, emphasized by touches of fresh butter and oak. Strong and intense taste, slightly piquant at the onset. Refined sweetness is replaced by light dryness at the very end.
The 10 years Akhtamar brandy, my favorite one, has an amber color with a touch of copper and a lively and elegant aroma. The bouquet is dominated by beeswax, hazelnut and oak bark with traces of vanilla and dried plum. Light dryness in the end is counter-balanced by shades of cinnamon.
The 20 years Nairi brandy has a deep dark amber color and a harmonious, silky, complex and refined texture. Balsamic fragrance and transition to cedar tones. Rich and complex taste with a pleasant long-lasting aftertaste. Refined combination of fried bread and cloves is counterbalanced by tinges of cinnamon and honey.
The tour at Yerevan Brandy Company is a good chance to get to know the Armenian brandies closer and to take a look at brandy production from inside. Qualified tour guides, fluent in foreign languages, very welcoming and pleasant staff. And although I don’t like guided tours at all, I personally recommend this tour, especially if you like Armenian cognac.
Ararat Visitor’s Center
2 Isakov Ave., Yerevan Armenia
Tel: (+374 10) 540000, 510160 (shop)
Tours in Armenian, Russian, English and French
Monday to Friday, 09:00-18:00
Costs 3500 AMD per person (includes tasting of three different brandies)
1 USD = 409AMD (as of 14 Sep 2012)