The legendary ARARAT brandy symbolises the culture, heritage and spirit of Armenia and is the most famous representation of the country worldwide. Made of local grapes, it is a perfect example of Armenian craftsmanship By Sudipta Dev
The name ARARAT brandy is synonymous with the country of its origin, Armenia, where the culture and religion of the people is intrinsically linked to the Biblical Ararat mountain. The history of Armenian brandy goes back to 118 years, to the year of 1887 when the first guild merchant Nerses Tairyants started brandy production in the country. “Following the advice of his cousin, Vasili Tairov, he invested his money, passion and thirst for perfection to start an enterprise which soon became the symbol of Armenia,” says Marina Badalyan, ARARAT brand ambassador of Yerevan Brandy Company (YBC). In 1899 the factory was acquired by well-known industrial company NL Shustov & Sons, and Armenian Brandy became the official purveyor of the Russian Imperial Court.
There have been many milestones ever since, with products of the company bagging prestigious awards at various international exhibitions. It was in 1902 that Mkrtich Musinyants created the first Armenian vintage brandy Fine-Champagne Select (Otborny) and presented it in France, the motherland of the cognac. “Armenian brandy won the recognition of French masters, which was evidence of the highest quality, a sign of leadership and innovative approach to making beverages. In 1907 Mkrtich Musinyants was awarded the diploma of co-operation during Bordeaux International Exhibition and Tasting,” says Badalyan, adding that, after the WWII the growth in brandy production necessitated the construction of the new building and in 1953, the (now iconic) new plant made of red tuff picturesquely rose at the Eastern entrance to the city centre. In 1998 YBC joined Pernod Ricard Group, the world leader in the premium spirits industry. “Today the red monumental building of YBC is an integral part of city’s landscape and is the very place where the legendary Armenian brandy ARARAT brandies are produced and represent Armenia in 30 countries worldwide,” states Badalyan with pride.
Reminding that ARARAT brandies are legendary and embody Armenia itself, its richest cultural and historical heritage, Badalyan mentions, “This product has been an inalienable attribute of life for many generations. And today it’s one of the most famous and successful brands in Armenia as well as worldwide.”
There are many factors attributing the ARARAT being the best brandy brand in the world. The authenticity of this brandy comes from the grapes used in the blends of ARARAT, as only local varieties of grape are used in its production. “They say that there are 300 sunny days a year in Armenia, that’s why the endemic Armenian grapes are so delicious and unique,” quips Badalyan, pointing out that, the method of double distillation that runs from 1887 preserves the flavour and aroma of grapes, and transfers them into the brandy spirits. This apart, the ageing of the brandies is done exclusively in oak barrels, and in 2002 the factory rebuilt its own cooperage industry in accordance with classic technology. During the ageing process the spirit is enriched with natural flavours of dried fruits, spices, chocolate and vanilla. Each of the nine brandies included in the ARARAT line: 3 stars, 5 stars, Ani(6YO), Otborny(7YO), Akhtamar(10YO), Vaspurakan(15YO), Nairi(20YO), Dvin Collection Reserve, and Erebuni (30YO) have their own unique taste.
Almost 92 per cent of ARARAT brandy is exported. Currently (YBC) is exporting its production to 30 countries worldwide including Europe, USA and Middle East. “For the time being YBC is not exporting to India, but hopes that India will also become one of ARARAT’s destinations,” says Badalyan.
From the mid 50s YBC introduced a tradition of hosting guests. In fact 30 presidents of different countries have visited the facility. While 50 years ago it was only the select VVIPs who were welcomed, today the facility is open to the public. ARARAT Museum of YBC hosts around 40,000 visitors annually from all over the world. “It is worth mentioning that it is very popular among Indian tourists. ARARAT Museum aims to share the richest history of ARARAT brandy and tries its best to do it in a modern way combining the visit to the halls where the oldest barrels are presented with the wide scale video installations presenting the whole cycle of brandy making,” states Badalyan. All the city tour packages include ARARAT Visitor Centre. Individual visitors also do the tour of the museum, which gives fascinating insights into the rich history of the brand.
Two types of tastings are offered to visitors, depending on the range of the brandies. For US$ 10 guests can taste two types of brandies – ARARAT 5 stars (5YO) and Akhtamar (10YO), and for US$ 21, they can taste Akhtamar (10YO), Nairi (20YO) and Dvin Collection Reserve. All the tours are guided and the price difference comes from the brandy range only.
By the end of the tour, most visitors begin to understand that ARARAT is not about just brandy, it is about Armenia. “Over the years it has kept its unchallenged quality and increased its export destinations. YBC is the biggest grape buyer and tax-payer in this space, and plays a significant role in terms of economic and social issues. The rich history of the brand, the skillful masters of blend, the passionate work and innovative ideas that are applied in ARARAT’s marketing make ARARAT much in demand even among high brow connoisseurs of the noble beverages,” affirms Badalyan.