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Ararat Brandy - Cheers!

sunny 40 °C

  • You can smell the brandy as soon as you walk through the door of the visitors centre.
  • We have come to the administrative HQ of the Yerevan Brandy Company. They also store 15000 barrels of world renowned Armenian 'cognac' here. The factory compound is massive, a real landmark of the city, located as it is on top of a hill within the city centre.
  • It is only 10 a.m., we have just eaten breakfast and here we are, about to drink brandy.
  • You must book tours of the brandy factory in advance by filling in the online form. You are then allocated a time on the day you have requested. We did not try to change the 10 a.m. slot, reasoning that it at leasts leaves the rest of the day for other activities.
  • The tour lasts around 45 minutes and then you taste 2 or 3 brandies depending on how much you pay. A sample of 2 brandies costs just under 10 euros.
  • Ararat Brandy, the generic trading name of the Yerevan Brandy Company was established in 1887 when Armenia was part of the Russian empire. It became a nationalised industry under Soviet rule and even today, 70% of its production goes to Russia. However ownership has changed and since 1999 it has belonged to the French Pernod Ricard family group.
  • It is perhaps for this reason that the bottle labelling on exports destined to Russia & other former Soviet states still use the term 'cognac' in Russian script. Cognac is a registered trade mark and in its romanised form can only be used for products originating from the cognac region of France. A blind eye is obviously turned to the Russian script version. The French are good at bending rules.
  • We see the Peace Barrel in a display area that is covered with signatures. The barrel contains brandy that was produced in 1994 when Armenia & Azerbaijan signed a Cease Fire Agreement. It will be opened and bottled only when a permanent solution can be found to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. ( See yesterday's entry for details )
  • This is the only public place in Armenia where the Azerbaijan flag is flown.
  • On the subject of flags - the Armenian flag, introduced after independence from Russia, is a tricolore of red, blue & orange. Apparently red represents blood shed by its people, blue stands for calm and peace, and orange symbolises creation of a nation.
  • Back to Ararat Brandy.
  • Heads of State who visit Yerevan are offered a barrel of high quality brandy which will be aged & bottled on site. They will then be sent an annual 'allowance ' from their very own barrel. A single barrel may contain between 400-500 litres. The variation in volume occurs because the barrels are all hand made.
  • Ararat Brandy has 4 factories in Armenia. Six different Armenian grapes are used in its production. Fermentation takes 2 weeks and then there is a process of double distillation and ageing in Armenian oak barrels.
  • The colour of brandy comes from the oak wood of the barrels. The longer it stays in the barrel, the deeper the colour.
  • The smell that hits you when you walk into the storage area of Ararat Brandy, is caused by the evaporation of alcohol from the barrels. About 3-4% of liquid is lost every year. The barrels are opened once a year and topped up with brandy of either a similar age or a blend ( depending on the quality of brandy ) of other age groups. Barrels must be stored full to guarantee the best ageing.
  • Just as in perfume production there is a 'master nose ' responsible for harmony of smells, so there is a master blender at Ararat. He decides how to 'blend' the more expensive brandies.
  • The company stores a quantity of every year's production in what is euphemistically known as 'paradise'. The oldest wine in paradise dates from 1902.
  • One of Ararat's most famous admirers was Sir Winston Churchill.
  • Rumour has it that at the Yalta Conference in 1945, Stalin introduced Churchill to Armenian cognac. He was smitten & he enquired how he could get more. Stalin organised for 12 bottles per month to be sent to him in England. And for several years after his death they kept on arriving, much to the delight of the Churchill family.
  • When asked about the secrets of his longevity ( he died aged 91 years ), Churchill attributed his grand old age to: no sport, never being late, smoking Cuban cigars and drinking Armenian brandy.
  • At the brandy tasting we sample a 3 year & 10 year old Brandy. Our table neighbours let us taste their 20 year old Brandy. It is quite obvious that once your taste buds have been tickled by quality, you cannot consider downscaling back to the first Brandy you tasted.
  • Entirely mellow, we leave the Ararat Brandy factory in search of a taxi, preferably with a meter.
  • We are dropped off outside the large indoor market in the SW area of the city. Colloquially known as Gumi Shuka. We always find it insightful of local cuisine, to see where people come to buy their food.
  • Finally we take a quick look at Surp Grigor Cathedral which was consecrated in 2001. It is located in a somewhat elevated site and is built along traditional lines with distinctly modern twists. The interior is light, airy & peaceful - and modern. After all the ancient churches & monasteries on our agenda of the last 3 days, we are somewhat underwhelmed.
  • It is probably the 40 degree heat suppressing not only our appetite but also our enthusiasm for sightseeing. It's time for lunch and a break from tourism.
  • This evening we are eating at another insider recommendation called Yerevan Village Restaurant. Any day but Monday you should find not only reasonable food but also live Armenian music.
  • Yes Yerevan is a happening place! Best come here too...

AG in Front  of Ararat  Brandy Factory - Real Landmark in the Physical & Spiritual Meaning!

AG in Front of Ararat Brandy Factory - Real Landmark in the Physical & Spiritual Meaning!

Barrels of Brandy Ageing Before Bottling

Barrels of Brandy Ageing Before Bottling

Peace Barrel at Ararat Brandy Factory

Peace Barrel at Ararat Brandy Factory

1902 Ararat Brandy - the Oldest in the Factory

1902 Ararat Brandy - the Oldest in the Factory

Shows an Unfinished Barrel.

Shows an Unfinished Barrel.

Visiting Heads of State Are Given a Barrel of Ararat Best Brandy

Visiting Heads of State Are Given a Barrel of Ararat Best Brandy

The Door to Paradise is Very Secure

The Door to Paradise is Very Secure

Bottles for Export to Russia Use the Word Cognac in Russian Script

Bottles for Export to Russia Use the Word Cognac in Russian Script

Brandy Tasting Session at End of Tour

Brandy Tasting Session at End of Tour

Tulip Shaped Brandy Glasses Filled to Perfection

Tulip Shaped Brandy Glasses Filled to Perfection

Showing the Regions  of Armenia, Even the Disputed Territory of Nagorno Karabakh

Showing the Regions of Armenia, Even the Disputed Territory of Nagorno Karabakh

Armenian Flag 1918-21 & Re-Adopted in 1990

Armenian Flag 1918-21 & Re-Adopted in 1990

Master Butcher in Yerevan Shuka

Master Butcher in Yerevan Shuka

Very Large Cherries & Piled So High

Very Large Cherries & Piled So High

Hazelnuts in Their Husks @ Yerevan Shuka ( Market )

Hazelnuts in Their Husks @ Yerevan Shuka ( Market )

Sweet Armenian Specialities Filled With Walnut Paste

Sweet Armenian Specialities Filled With Walnut Paste

Surp Grigor Lusavorich Cathedral Consacrated in 2001

Surp Grigor Lusavorich Cathedral Consacrated in 2001

Posted by sagbucks 21:25 Archived in Armenia

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