All my family and friends know that I enjoy rare and exotic alcoholic drinks. The direct consequence of this is that I often receive some bottles from different countries as they remember about me when they travel and bring me the drinks as a gift. Whereas some of the beverages do not deserve a blog post (I still can't finish a bottle of rakia that was given to me a couple of years ago), sometimes the stuff is simply amazing.
This little series of 2 blog posts will concern brandy (locally called cognac although cognac, as its name suggests, can only be produced in the Cognac area in France) produced in the ex-U.S.S.R. regions, such as Armenia (now a separate country) and Dagestan (a republic of the Russian Federation).
According to a biblical legend, Noah's Ark moored to the Ararat mountain (now located in Turkey). When the water rushed back, he walked down and started growing grapes (besides other things). He would be the first person to have tasted wine...
Armenia has been known as a grape-growing country for over 3500 years. Production of brandy started in 1887, using recipes and technology similar to the French ones (the French began distilling cognac in the 17th century). The volumes grew and more and more factories were opened. After the revolution, the industry was nationalized and was named "Ararat wine and cognac trust". At that time, the Armenian cognac was already very popular and in high demand both in the USSR and abroad. It is known, for example, that Winston Churchill was fond of this drink (everytime I write an article about alcohol, his name comes up) and Stalin was personally supervising the shipments to the Prime Minister.
In 1998, the Yerevan cognac plant (the biggest and by far the most famous one) was bought by Pernod Ricard (second largest world alcohol distributor, group behind Chival Regal, Mumm, Malibu...) for $30 million. One year later, a chart was put in place strictly regulating the production.
The bottle that I received was a ApApAт (ararat) 5 stars (which means that this is a 5 years old brandy). It was a simple, very pleasant drink that, as other cognacs, is a good fit for a full-bodied cigar. It is definitely on par with a good French VSOP. I recommend you to try it out, especially considering the fact that the price is not very high. A bottle will cost you $20-$35 depending on the store. You can compare prices by clicking here.
Enjoy and let me know what you think! If you have already tried Armenian brandy, feel free to share your experience.