Armenian Brandy.

Nerses Tairian, a Yerevan businessman, who started a winery in 1877, distilled the first brandy in Armenia. The brandy was distilled ten year later.

He was successful in marketing the product within Armenia, and retained the services of a Moscow distributor, who decided to purchase the distillery in 1898. Mr. Nicolai Shustov popularized the brandy in Russia so that even today 85 per cent of all the brandy exports of Armenia go to Russia.

Armenian brandy became so popular that there were 15 distilleries in 1914, but six years later all were nationalized.

After the annexation of the country to the U.S.S.R. , the market grew by leaps and bounds in the Soviet Union to the extent that by 1980 42 plants and branches in the Soviet Union were blending  and packaging Armenian brandy.

A significant quantity of brandy was exported in bulk to Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg) for bottling. A few outlets also blended bulk Armenian brandy with those from other sources of inferior quality. This practice caused significant problems after the U.S.S.R. dissolved. Some plants continued to source inferior spirits from other countries and market them as Armenian products. Armenian brandy, particularly YBC brandy, was always associated with high quality.

Soviet politicians were very fond of Armenian brandy, and all embassies featured them in their receptions. All high level bureaucrats in the country and abroad consumed copious quantities of Armenian.

Stalin was also very fond of Armenian brandy, as was w. Churchill who consumed liberal quantities daily along with champagne (Pol Roger) and Scotch whisky.

Stalin shipped a case of Armenian brandy to Churchill annually.

During Soviet times, the Yerevan brandy Factory (now called Yerevan Brandy Company) was the only entity enjoying the unabashed support of politicians and bureaucrats.

It is located on a hill and in an imposing building.

Pernod-Ricard, a French wine and spirits conglomerate bought YBC in 1998 for $ 30.0 million, including two distilleries in Armavir and Aijevan, and all the brandy inventory in warehouses, with the promise to spend an additional $ 5.0 million to improve production, packaging ad employee benefits. This amount increased to $ 50.0 million in the last decade.

YBC uses mainly Ararat Valley grapes grown on 700 metres above sea level on a variety of soils (30 different types).

The following grape varieties are used – voskeat, rkatsiteli, garan dmak, mskhali, and kangun. These grape varieties yield their best, with the exclusion of rkatsiteli, which originates in Georgia, in the Ararat Valley.

After the fermentation, the high-acid wines are distilled twice in their patented stills and aged in Caucasus and Nagorno Karabagh oak barrels which are tight-grained and less tannic than others from Russia and elsewhere in teh world.
Since the purchase of the distillery Pernod-Ricard improved packaging, and brands have been extended to include – Ararat 3 and 5 years old; Ani 6; Oktemberyan 7; Akhtamar 10; Prazdnichny 15, and Nairi 20.

YBC exports 91 per cent of the production to 25 countries including Australia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Georgia, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, Mongolia, Poland and Kazakhstan and has increased volume and marketing efforts considerably.

The second biggest distillery is Great Valley, an Armenian and Cypriot joint venture with six plants in the country and extensive aging warehouses.

The Great Valley distillery brands are three to five year old basic brands, 6 year old Great Valley, 7 Kars, 8 Gavar, 10 Ashtarak, 15 Yerevan, 18 Collectors, 25 Arin Verd, and Tsar Dikran a blend of 12 – 30 year old brandies.

The following wineries and distilleries produce and market brandies – Proschian Cognac Plant, Avshar, Aregak, Yegnard Winery and Cognac Plant, Stepanakert Brandy Factory, Ashtarak Brandy Factory, Vedi Alco, Ijevan Wine factory, Merdzavan Alcohol Beverage Co., Mets Syunik Wine Factory.

YBC was awarded several international gold, silver and bronze medals for quality and flavour in teh 20th century in London, Paris, and Brussels.

Armenian distillers market their brandies as Kanyak (the spelling of cognac in eastern European countries).

To date, cognac distilleries in France have not disputed the legitimacy of the practice.

Armenian brandies are smooth, smell of apricots, exude purity of flavours, and are free of additives (tannin powder, caramel for colour homogeneity etc.) often employed by distilleries of other countries.

Hrayr Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?

Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.


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