Ararat Brandy Factory: A Little Bit of Brandy and a Whole Lot of History
(Excursion included in the Policy and Conflict Program, Fall 2017)
Cost of Souvenir Brandy: 7,170-16,730 Armenian Dram ($15-$35 depending on quality of brandy)
During our one-week stay in Armenia, my group had a special excursion to the Ararat Brandy Factory in Yerevan, and it easily turned out to be my favorite excursion in Armenia! The factory was established in 1887 under the Russian Empire, and is now one of the most reputable brandy producers in the world. In Armenia, winemaking and brandy-making have been integral parts of the culture for centuries. Now, with Armenia’s dry climate and profound knowledge in alcohol production, it’s no wonder how Ararat became so good at creating the perfect, smoky brandy.
When Armenia became a part of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin worshipped and monopolized the Ararat Brandy Factory. It is said that Stalin sent Winston Churchill a special bottle of brandy from the factory, and Churchill loved it so much that he purchased three hundred bottles a year from Ararat. Churchill continued this spending trend until the day he died.
When we first arrived, we met our tour guide who conducted the tour in English (tours are offered in various languages, including Russian and French). The tour guide walked us through the facility and explained the extensive procedures that are completed to produce a famous bottle of Ararat Brandy. At the end of the tour, we sat down for a brandy tasting, which included two types (a 3-year and a 10-year brandy).
To maximize and richen their product, the factory only uses wooden barrels while aging the brandy. The tour guide explained the process of creating these barrels, which includes using fire to add an additional smoked essence. Each barrel can be used for 80 years, and once a barrel has reached its maximum usage time, it is then burned. The fire from the burning barrel is used in the creation of new barrels. The factory currently sells 10 different types of brandy and exports their products across the globe.
Due to Ararat’s renowned reputation, many high-ranking officials and diplomats place special orders for their own barrel of brandy. Dozens of presidents and politicians from across Europe have their own barrels sitting and aging at the Ararat Factory.
The most intriguing part of the tour was the special barrel designated to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In 1994, a ceasefire was established between Armenia, Azerbaijan and the de-facto state of Nagorno-Karabakh; however, the territorial and ethnic conflict remains to this day. The Ararat Brandy Factory sealed a special barrel of brandy on the day the ceasefire was signed, and stated that they will only open the barrel once the conflict has fully been resolved. The barrel sits alongside the flags of Armenia, Azerbaijan, the de-facto state of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the three mediating countries of France, Russia, and the United States. It is said that this is the only location where all six of these flags hang in unison.
The Ararat Brandy Factory was an amazing way to spend to spend one of our last nights in Yerevan! If you’re looking for some grade-A brandy and a taste of Armenian history, I strongly recommend taking a tour of their facility!
And, as they say at Ararat, “Grapes turn into juice, juice turns into wine, wine turns into spirits, spirits turn into brandy, and brandy turns into the best moments of your life!”