turning down Charles Aznavour Alley, guests
of the factory are about 45 minutes away from
. . .
There's really not a lot to see on a tour of
the Yerevan Brandy Factory. Once you've seen one
barrel or bottle, the next one isn't all that
But an hour-long visit under the big red Ararat
sign is a gift to the other senses.
Before a word is said; before, for example, a
guide tells you that Armenian brandy has been
in production since 1887 and in this factory since
1953, the smell of the product has already become
part of you.
Across a small garden of grapes and over the
asphalt of the administration courtyard, the sweet,
musky and, yes, intoxicating smell of brandy greets
visitors to this hill top.
An hour later, the sampling room awaits, where
all the things you've been told about find their
proof in three snifters of three different vintages.
To get there, you first enter a reception area,
where you learn that Armenian brandy is made only
from white grapes from five different varieties.
You'll walk down Charles Aznavour Alley past
barrels autographed by dignitaries who have visited
and been given their own stock. First Lady of
Russia, Ludmilla Putin's 400 liter barrel sits
opposite the same sized one owned by the Catholicos
of All Armenians.
You'll pass, too, the "Peace Barrel",
and your guide will tell you that that special
brandy will be served only when Armenia and Azerbaijan
reach a peace agreement over Karabakh.
And if you tour guide is a sweet girl named Marina,
she will say: "Usually, it is better for
the brandy to be aged. But this barrel is the
only one we would like to open early."
Don't call it cognac, unless you're from one
of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Seems
they've got some marketing dispensation (perhaps
because the labels appear in Russian) on the French-held
right to use of the word for product exclusively
produced in France.
Cognac or brandy. From the reception, to the
basement where there are 450 bottles dating to
1902 and shelves holding "Dvin", a 50-proof
(!) blend that was specially shipped to Siberia
in Soviet times, the liquid seeps from inside
its oak casks and into its admirers.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill admired
Armenian brandy a lot, and a lot of it. Josef
Stalin shipped 300 bottles per year to Churchill.
He sent him the 50-proof stuff, which is why it
is called the "Diplomat" brandy.
Seems there is a lot of poetry that goes into
brandy. Maybe that's because it spends most of
its life just sitting around, lending itself to
comment and out-right hyperbolic praise.
. . the reason they took the tour.
When you enter a room where the older brandies
are "resting", you'll enjoy a phenomenon
known as "the angels' share". It is
the heady smelly of brandy evaporating. Three
to four percent evaporates through the oak each
year in a room called "Paradise".
Do you know about "legs"? After the
tour you will. "Legs", also known as
"tears" or "church windows"
is the name given to that part of the brandy that
clings to the glass after it has been tilted back
for a sip. It is a test of quality: The longer
the legs hold, the higher the quality.
This, you learn in the tasting room - the payoff
for an hour of hearing brandy minutae.
There, your guide might tell you that the brandy
snifter should be held in the left hand (closer
to the heart). And that there is a culture of
brandy drinking that turns the act into something
Members of the brandy-believer faith should first
admire the liquid's color, then feel its aroma,
then sit it down and speak to the brandy. And
only after that should one partake. Think: courtship
with a bottle, and you get the right idea.
It is a long way and a long time from grapes
in the ground to Armenian brandy in a glass. Twenty-year
old Nairi, or even 10-year old Aktamar are worth
the wait. And starting from the aromatic reception
to the tasting room, tourists only have to wait
Last year about 6,000 guests visited the factory.
Tours are given from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and cost 3,500
drams (about $6) per person.
For more information: www.ybc.am;