Armenia along with its northern neighbor state Georgia is believed to be the birthplace of wine. The oldest historical evidence of winemaking dating as back as 6,000 years is found in this region, though some grape varieties may have had several independent places of origin (See more: 6,100 Years Old Wine-Making Facility in Armenia).
According to one of the local legends, the Armenians have been distilling wine into brandy since the 12th century, though there is only little definitive evidence of this. Some evidence shows that alcohol distillation techniques first occurred in the territory now known as Lebanon and Iran during the stated period, so the knowledge of distillation might have made it to Armenia at that time. If this is confirmed to be true, Armenia will predate alcohol distillation in France and Spain by several centuries.
During the late 19th century, a brandy industry started to thrive in Armenia. The Armenian Brandy was labeled as Konyak (the Armenian spelling of Cognac) due to the popularity of Cognac (a variety of brandy) in Russia, which has been a consequence of the anti-German Franco-Russian alliance preceding WWI. The practice of the name continues in Armenia, as well as a number of former Soviet republics to this day.
An Armenian brandy producer Nikolay Shustov had the short-living right to produce his brandy under the Cognac label. At the 1900 Universal Expo of Paris, Shustov & Sons’ brandy, the company of Nikolay Shustov, won the title of the best brandy in a blind judging, beating the tight competition from Cognac’s leading producer. This victory earned Shustov & Sons a right to legally call their brandy Cognac.
However, this right was revoked after WWII. In 2013, the Armenian government unsuccessfully lobbied in the EU for permission to use the term Konyak in their brandy production.
As for the company Shustov & Sons, it lived a successful life. Having been the official supplier of the Armenian brandy to the court of Russian Tsar Nicholas II, Shustov & Sons now operates under the name “Yerevan Brandy Company” and is the largest brandy producer in Armenia today.