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Armenian Brendy and Winston Churchill

Explore the rich history of Armenian winemaking dating back 6,000 years, with the discovery of the oldest winery in the Areni caves. Journey through time to 1887 when the first Armenian cognac factory emerged, laying the foundation for a flourishing industry. Discover the pivotal role played by the Shustov family in elevating Armenian brandy to international acclaim, earning the right to be called 'Cognac' after a surprising triumph at the 1900 Paris Exhibition. Uncover the fascinating connection between Winston Churchill and Ararat brandy, a bond so strong that it influenced political decisions and shaped the destiny of an Armenian.

Archaeological finds indicate that the traditions of Armenian winemaking began 6,000 years ago. The oldest winery was discovered in the Areni caves in the Vayots Dzor region. However, the first cognac factory appeared in Armenia in 1887 when the merchant of the first guild, Nerses Tairyan, brought the Charente apparatus from France to Armenia and began producing cognac. After 12 years, the company was bought by the Russian company Shustov and Sons. Shustov spared no effort nor investment.

 

Between 1893 and 1894, three new brandy factories were built in Yerevan, and in 1914, the number of factories in Armenia reached 15. The biggest one was the brandy factory bought by the Shustovs from Tairyan. Kirill Silchenko became the chief winemaker of the factory until 1947 and the first manager. During his leadership, "Tonakan," "Hobelyanakan," and other brandy cognacs were created.

The first oak barrels for Armenian brandy were brought from France, and until today, the main types of brandy are kept in those barrels. It is obvious that the French technology of cognac production and the French education of Inspector Musinyan caused the high quality of Armenian cognacs at that time.

 



The mighty walls of Ararat Brandy Company


It was thanks to Shustov that Armenian brandy received the right to be called cognac. In 1900, a young entrepreneur sent a drink to the Paris Exhibition, and during blind testing, this particular sample was recognized as the best. The French were so surprised that the Grand Prix was awarded not to French cognac but to its Armenian counterpart, allowing Shustov to use the original name “Cognac” on the label. This is how Armenian cognac appeared.

 


An impressive bas relief of Armenian mythological warrior god “Vahagn the Dragon-reaper” on the wall of Ararat Brandy Company! Sculptor: Artashes Hovsepyan


In 1937, a group of specialists led by Ivan Papanin set out for the North Pole. Each Soviet republic contributed something to support the participants of this scientific expedition. Belarus provided warm clothing, Ukraine contributed salt, and Armenia supplied brandy. The "Pravda" newspaper published an article and a photo featuring the expedition members holding a brandy barrel. The article mentioned that the campaign faced such severe cold conditions that even the 42-degree Armenian cognac couldn't provide enough warmth. This prompted the question: could a brandy with a higher alcohol content be created? Master Margar showcased his creative talent by crafting "Dvin" with a strength of 50 degrees, and in 1947, the "Yerevan" cognac was introduced with a strength of 57 degrees, making it the strongest in cognac production.

 


Winston Churchill


One of the most famous fans of Armenian brandy was Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and one of the leaders of the Allied forces during World War II.

According to some accounts, Stalin sent Churchill Armenian cognac annually, and even on the 75th anniversary of Churchill, he sent 75 bottles of brandy to him. Churchill’s response was: "What a pity, I don’t celebrate my 100th Anniversary..." It’s believed that Churchill drank one bottle of “Dvin” a day, but one day he claimed to Stalin that the quality of the brandy was not the same.  Stalin ordered to find out what’s the problem! Soon he was told that  that the master of “Dvin” brandy had been exiled.

Churchill’s love towards Armenian brandy and respect for the master of “Dvin” was so big that he influenced Stalin’s decision to set Margar Sedrakyan free. That is the story of how Churchill rescued the life of an Armenian.

 

Churchill enjoyed drinking Ararat brandy regularly, often accompanied by his cigar and his favorite food: roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. He also used it as a gift for his friends and allies, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle. He reportedly said that “Ararat” was “the best thing that ever happened to me”.

No wonder that when ie was asked about the secret of his long life, Churchill replied: “Cuban cigars, Armenian brandy and no sport.”

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