Ararat's Armenian Legacy
I'm a sucker for any type of alcoholic beverage with a long history of tradition and a legacy of quality. That's why when my friend Val brought me these Ararat Armenian brandies, I was highly intrigued. I've long known that Armenian brandy is to Eastern Europe what Cognac is to Western Europe. Production dates back to the 19th century in some cases and I've tasted a few older expressions over the years that have rivaled some of the finest French brandies in the world.
"When I was growing up in the Soviet Union," Val told me, "these were the top of the line. Ararat is what everyone drank. We even called it Cognac, not brandy."
There's a historic reason for that actually. First established in 1887, the Yerevan Brandy Company was formatted with Cognac-style Charente pot stills and began distilling brandy from Armenian-grown grapes near the foot of Mount Ararat. Thirteen years later the company took home the Grand-Prix award in Paris, impressing even the French with the quality of its brandy, and earning the honor of using the name Cognac. Since that time Russians have been referring to Ararat as Armenian Cognac rather than brandy. After having tasted through the line-up with Val earlier this week, I can see why. These brandies can hold their own with just about any producer from the Charentes. They are the real freakin' deal. Even the simple three year old brandy smokes just about any other competitor in its price point. I've already cleaned out half of the bottle I purchased on Tuesday.
If you're a history buff, you might be interested in learning that Joseph Stalin gave Winston Churchill a bottle of Ararat brandy at the Yalta Conference and Churchill was so taken aback by its quality that he asked for several cases to be shipped after the meeting. In 2013, Putin gave Prime Minister David Cameron a bottle of Ararat as well in honor of that original exchange. Let me tell you something: world leaders aren't fucking around when they give gifts like this, so infer from these high-level interactions of world politics what you will! To make matters even more interesting (and a fact that was completely unknown to me until this week), Ararat was purchased in 1998 by Pernod-Ricard, so it's owned by the same folks who run the Glenlivet, Aberlour, and Midleton distilleries respectively.
It looks like Pernod-Ricard is making a new push in California with the products, so we've got them in stock! Check out the website if you're interested in giving them a go. I'm completely smitten at the moment. I'm a bit embarrassed I didn't know about them sooner.