It would seem that not a single drink can compete with brandy made in France. But the history of the production of Armenian brandy proved the opposite. The production of the Ararat brandy is unquestioningly following the traditions and standards of the brandy business, as well as is an example of incessant pursuit of perfection.
The culture of winemaking in Armenia is millennia-old, but that very famous Armenian brandy which is now renowned around the world appeared only at the end of the 19th century. To be precise, it was first produced in Erivan by merchant and philanthropist Nerses Tairyan. He was the first in Armenia to use the classic French technology of alcohol distillation in brandy production.
A mere quarter of a century later, Armenian brandy achieved international recognition, and its production acquired an unprecedented scale. The success of the Yerevan Brandy Factory continued after its transition to the Russian “Shustov and Sons” partnership in 1899.
After such a success, even the revolutionary upheavals were unable to harm the significance of Armenian brandy production. After the revolution, as the most valuable Armenian enterprise, the Yerevan Brandy Factory was nationalized and along with other companies producing alcohol in Armenia entered the ARARAT trust in 1923.
It was the Soviet era that gave the world a whole range of legendary Ararat brandy brands. The Yerevan Brandy Company itself was also provided with its monumental building on the right bank of the Hrazdan River.
In June 1998, the Yerevan Brandy Company became part of the Pernod Ricard Group company, having been sold for $30 million.
Today, the Yerevan Brandy Company is equipped with the newest facilities and employs the newest brandy-making techniques. But, in spite of the use of high-class equipment, employees of the company still find the production of Armenian brandy to be genuine art. Deep respect for the traditions of the past and passionate dedication, as in previous times, fill this legendary drink with human warmth. At the same time, the unique quality standards of the Yerevan Brandy Company remain unchanged.
The Ararat brandy is produced exclusively from local Armenian grapes grown in the Ararat valley, Tavush province, and Artsakh. Every September, farmers and their families manually harvest the entire crop in just a few weeks.
To obtain grape juice, specialists of the Yerevan Brandy Company use pneumatic presses designed for the production of expensive sparkling wines. Only delicate press techniques that don’t damage the seeds and the skin allow for the retention of the rich aroma of Armenian grapes.
After squeezing, as a result of natural fermentation, high-quality white wine is obtained from the juice, which is the basis of the further distillation of brandy alcohol.
The transformation of wine ingredients into brandy alcohol is the task of an ancient, complex, and delicate process known as distillation. In accordance with the technological standards of brandy production, wine ingredients undergo two stages of distillation – primary and secondary/fractionated distillation.
As a result of the first stage of distillation, crude alcohol with alcohol by volume (ABV) of up to 32% is obtained, which is then distilled again. Secondary distillation divides the alcohol into three fractions – “head”, “heart”, and “tail.” Ararat is made from the thinnest “heart” fraction of brandy spirits obtained during double steam distillation.
After distillation, brandy spirits undergo a long and mysterious process – aging in oak barrels. Only trees older than 70 years are used in barrels, and each of them is handmade by craftsmen in their workshops in the factory.
The alcohol spends between three years and half a century and longer in the barrels while being enriched with various shades of color, taste, and aroma. It is thanks to the special structure of Caucasian oak that the spirits of future Ararat brandies acquire their unique character with pronounced tones of dried fruits, spices, vanilla, and chocolate.
The culmination moment of brandy creation – blending – is the most creative and responsible process in the whole chain. This is where the mastery of brandy production comes to life. When combining alcohols of different ages from different grape varieties into a single composition, the blend master deals with a complex palette of tastes, forming the character of each of the Ararat brandies from more than 700 alcohols. Water plays a special role in the blending – Ararat brandies use water from the natural source of Katnaghbyur.
The finished blend is again sent to the oak barrels for “rest”, during which the spirits adapt to each other and eventually become the legendary Ararat brandy. Then, it remains only to pour the brandy into the brand bottles with the distinctive features of the Yerevan Brandy Company.