Although Armenia may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of a good brandy, they do produce some very fine products.  But they are a little miffed that they are not allowed to call it Cognac in the west, although they do call it this in the Russian speaking countries of the former Soviet Union.  24 million bottles are exported to Russia every year, and Armenian brandies have been the deserved recipients of many awards and medal over the previous century.

Armenian Cognac nairi

Armenian brandy is distilled in a comparable fashion as Cognac; double distilled and matured in oak casks.  They also grade it as VS, VSOP and XO.  Indeed, near the end of World War II at the Yalta Conference, Josef Stalin presented Winston Churchill a gift of Armenian Brandy.  Allegedly this led to Churchill ordering several cases on an annual basis.

The first brandy was distilled in Armenia in 1878 by a Yerevan business man named Nerses Tairion.  He marketed the product nationally and then sold the distillery to a Moscow distributor in 1898.  This distributor, Nicolai Shustov was the reason the brandy became so popular in Russia and still remains so today.

Winston Churchill was a drinker of Armenian brandy

Armenian Brandy became a firm favourite amongst Soviet politicians, and the popularity continued to grow.  By 1980 there were 42 plants and branches in the USSR.  During these Soviet times, the Yerevan Brandy Company (YBC) was the sole producer who had the total support of the politicians and bureaucrats, and then in 1998 YBC was purchased by Pernod-Ricard.

The brandy is now sold under the name ‘Kanyak,’ which is the eastern European spelling of Cognac, and as of today, the legitimacy of this practice has not been really questioned. Of course it leads to problems, and the Cognac lobby doesn’t like it at all when Armenian brandy is called ‘Cognac’. Difficult.

Good it may be, excellent in fact.  But it’s still not Cognac! See more articles about the topic below at Related Posts e.g. the new naming ‘Arbun’


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Armenian Brandy: Good product but it’s not 'Cognac'

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Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.


  1. Avatar

    The good news is that it does not need to be Cognac!

    I was never into Cognac until recently. I have not tried a big variety, but I tried a few like Courvoisier and some other one, and also Armenian Brandy. Needless to say, I found the Armenian Brandy “Akhtamar” a lot more pleasing, and I’m not just saying that because I’m Armenian.

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    Armenian Cognac used to be the best in the centuries. Untill they started to ruin and fake all fine cognacs. Now no cares about Armenian Cognac. Everybody runs after Henessey..
    Good Job mobbers..

  3. Avatar

    All is bulshitt ! I visited this week the cognac factory in Yerevan Armenia, tried de 10 year and 20 year old. Nothing can tip de 20 Y old…so you be honest and don’t give me the shit about henessy, remy martin,…. And I am Belgian, centre of europe so neutral as hell. mmmm

  4. Pingback: Armenian Brandy – The Fuel of Diplomacy

  5. Avatar

    I have a bottle of Armenian cognac (Ararat – Apapat), which I am told is valuable. I went to St Petersburg back in 1994 on a language exchange, during the week of the first Chechen war, where it was given to me, by supposed accountants to the Malyshev crime family. It’s bottled with a strange metallic looking cap and has remained stored underground for over twenty years (in my hands). It was old and covered in dust, when I received it. The father told me, he had only one better bottle and that this was one of two bottles of this brand that he had in his possession. The other was to lie in storage, until his brother returned home and broke the seal with him (the brother was missing, due to some conflict or other). I think the brand may have had some personal significance for them. Even with my added years, I will never be able to appreciate this drink, but worried, that I’ll either forget where its stored, or just that it might eventually get broken, I am in the market for selling it to someone who might be able to derive pleasure from it. Please can you advise me on whether you would be interested in purchasing it, or what cognac body, might be able to help me value and sell it.

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    @Hans, the fact is that Armenia is the place to buy Armenian brandy. The best quality stays there. What they send e.g. to ex-Soviet countries is of second, third or no grade. But people will not go to Armenia solely to buy brandy. What I am after is a review of Armenian Ararat brandies that someone bought in EU or US. What you buy in Armenia IS NOT THE SAME as what you buy elsewhere.

  7. Avatar

    I tasted Ararat 5 years aged in Cuba during Soviet times and in the US Ararat Nairi 20 years aged, I had Courvoisier XO, Hennessey VSOP and I love Remy Martin 1738, however none of those good cognacs are better the Ararat Nairi. y the way another great “unknown” brandy is Great Preslav 17 years aged from Bulgaria.

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    The “specialist” who wrote this article does not know much about cognac or is subjective about the Armenian ArArAt! ArArAt is the ONLY non-French, non-Cognac region COGNAC in the world! The distillery was awarded this right in 1902. I would make it a point to “know before I write” .

  9. Avatar

    The TRUTH hurts enough that the author of this misleading “article” is afraid to publish a truth about his … “knowledge”! EXCELLENT! That is what the world has come to and so much for truth on ….


  10. Avatar

    I got nothing out of the quibbling in these reviews. Is Ararat 20 good or not?

  11. Avatar
    Fast Eddie

    What is the skinny on Ararat Niari brandy? Is it worth the money?

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    Romuald should know his history and facts before making such bold and ignorant claims. There was no such decree handed to Ararat to be called “Cognac” in 1902. What happened in 1902 is that they won an award for excellence at the Parisian Grand Prix. France would never allow an area outside of Cognac to be called Cognac simply because it would undermine the entire reason for having an AOC protected appellation system. Furthermore, Cognac itself didn’t even enjoy the protection of the region until 1936

    Maybe Romuald could have just looked at the name of the operating company – Yerevan Brandy Company, makers of Ararat: Legendary Armenian BRANDY

    Please stop spreading falsehoods. It may be wonderful and some of it really is. Its just not called Cognac because they don’t share the same geographic makeup, heritage and now French laws of the Cognac region

  13. Avatar

    I’ll take a 20 or even a 10 year Armenian brandy over Cognac any day of the week. The Armenian 20 year Ararat brandy is superior in my opinion.

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