After all, it could have had a mellowing effect on the stress of taming tigers, feeding hippos, and keeping a kangaroo or two from hopping overboard into a lashing sea. Plus it could have lifted the doldrums that may have set in during 40 days and 40 nights of torrential rain.
The cradle of winemaking
A leader emerges
At the turn of the century, though, the operation was acquired by Russian businessman and winemaker Nikolay Shustov who named the company Shustov & Sons and subsequently made it the official supplier of Brandy to Tsar Nicholas II. In 1998, Ararat got the nod of global legitimacy when it was acquired by Pernod Ricard. It is now exported to 30 countries around the world, including Russia, its top export market and where it is said to be enjoyed by President Vladimir Putin himself.
The power circleWinston Churchill is said to have been a fan of Armenian Brandy, having gotten hooked on the cigar-friendly Spirit in 1945 at the Yalta Conference in Crimea, Soviet Union, which was called to discuss the fate of Germany and the reorganization of Europe after World War II. Churchill subsequently received a cask of the Brandy from Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union who was joined not only by Churchill at the conference but also by Franklin D. Roosevelt, then president of the United States.
The name game
Double distillation is followed by aging in Caucasian oak casks that are hundreds of years old. The casks impart a unique flavor that has been described as being as smooth as velvet—and as being reminiscent of toasted hazelnuts, orange peels, and smoky plums.
Making a business of itAccording to the Observatory of Export Complexity, as of 2016, hard liquor ranked fourth among Armenia’s $2.2 billion in exports behind copper ore, gold, and rolled tobacco, and ahead of diamonds, aluminum, grapes, and tomatoes. And though the statistics reflect Ararat’s heft in the Brandy category, there are other players.
Noy, meaning “Noah,” is a sibling brand to Ararat, sharing not only production facilities but also a history that includes changes in management and ownership as a result of the annexation by, and then independence from, the Soviet Union.
There is also Araks, bottled in feminine etched glass that tapers at the waist, Kilikia, an XO Extra named for a region that is now part of Turkey, and a slew of brands marketed in handmade novelty bottles shaped like swords (Five Star), monkeys (Mane), violins (Proshyan), horses (Soul Horse, XO), and other silhouettes. Some are shipped to France and aged in barrels before being bottled.
Putin, Churchill, Stalin. Will the titans’ brand of choice have a place on the Thanksgiving table of America’s most notorious Armenian family? (Hint: their names begin with a “K.”) If a few of the more curvaceous bottles are available, the odds are good. With that kind of product endorsement, Armenian Brandy could make a splash on family tables well beyond the gloss of Los Angeles.