- Nick's Import
Ararat 5 Year Old Brandy (700ml)
At the Yalta conference at the end of the Second World War, Winston Churchill was so impressed with an Armenian brandy given to him by Stalin, that he asked for 400 bottles of it to be sent to him each year. Churchill was not the only one to enthuse about this jewel of the Caucasus. Agatha Christie and Frank Sinatra were also fans. It impressed the French so much during a blind tasting, they bestowed it with the Gran-prix award at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and even permitted the company to call the product “Cognac” instead of brandy - a designation that's otherwise jealously guarded.
The accolade was all the more significant when one considers that Brandy production in Armenia covers a fraction of Cognac's history.
It began in 1887, when the Yerevan Brandy Company (YBC) was founded by a merchant, Nerses Tairyan, with the help of his cousin Vasily Tayrov. They began distilling using classical French equipment at a winery they'd founded earlier inside the former fortress of Yerevan. In 1899, a Russian company, “N.L. Shustov and Sons”, a well-known vodka and liqueur producer purchased YBC.Their brandy soon became the preferred beverage at the Russian Imperial Court.
Since then, just like the legendary Mount Ararat, the local specialty has become a symbol of national pride. Indeed, in a country with few natural resources and less than three million people with a per capita incomes around $600 a year, any success seems magnified.
After the Soviet system was established in Armenia, the YBC was nationalised and entered a new stage of development. Production expanded considerably. More recently, in 1999, the company became a part of the French drinks conglomerate, Pernod Ricard. It was a move that wasn't at first welcomed by the locals, but when they realised Pernod were in for the long haul, attitudes soon became more accepting. Foreign investment has been scarce in the country. Pernod Ricard's rare success has been cause to celebrate.
Armenian brandy remains a product made from Armenian varietals following a regulated production method. Only local grape varieties are used based on the unique microclimate of the Ararat Valley. These include special endemic varietals that are no longer planted outside of Armenia (survivors of the phylloxera epidemics). In all, there are about 13 such varieties, with the main ones being Voskehat, Garan Dmak and Kangun. Once harvested, the grapes are loaded in special horizontal screw presses where berries are pressed in a very gentle way to avoid causing damage to seeds. Different varieties do not get mixed.
Double steam distillation preserves the flavour and aroma of grapes, while the ageing of the brandies is done exclusively in oak barrels. In 2002 the factory rebuilt its own cooperage. The local Armenian oak species which is used has a rather tight grain and is virtually devoid of pores. The trees are at least 70 years old when they're harvested, and only the middle part of the tree is used. The oak imparts its natural flavours and aromas of dried fruits, spices, vanilla and chocolate. Filtered spring water from the Katnakhpiur source is used during blending. Just prior to bottling the brandy is chilled and then filtered twice.
YBC possesses approximately 90% of the total reserve of genuine brandy in Armenia. Several YBC brands are inaccessible to the retail network and can only be obtained at factory's shop: "Erebuni" - 25 years, "Kilikia" - 30 years, "Sparapet" - 40 years and "Noah's Ark" - 70 years of ageing in wooden casks.
We're pleased to announce the arrival of these world class brandies into Australia.
Tasting note: [42% Alc./Vol batch tasted] Deep gold, burnished brass colour. Attractive aromas include dried apricot, sultana, vanilla and gentle spices - in short, a lovely fruit-cake like bouquet that’s not at all overly sweet. Light entry follows into a light to medium bodied profile that like the bouquet is on the drier side - sultana, dried apricot and vanilla repeat. Finishes clean and bone dry by this genre's standards with a subtle, spicy aftertaste followed by a trace of caramel at the fade. A satisfyingly fresh and distinctive brandy that's altogether closer in style to better examples from Australia, Spain or South Africa rather than Cognac.
Note - we tasted the 20 year old version from this distillery several years ago which is also well worth seeking out.