The Legendary Armenian Cognac



BY RUZANNA AVAGYAN
TRANSLATED BY DIKRANOUHI KUSBEGIAN
From Greetings London

Among the Armenian cognac-lovers are numerable famous persons among whom was Winston Churchill. He loved the “Dvin” Armenian cognac. The first time he ever tasted the Armenian cognac was in 1943 during the well-know Tehran Conference. Churchill loved it so much that from that day on he drank a bottle of “Dvin” cognac every day for the rest of his life. Stalin personally oversaw the delivery of the “Dvin” Armenian cognac to the British Premier. During his old age when Churchill was asked what had been the secret of his longevity, without even giving it a second of thought, he had answered: “Don’t be late for lunch, smoke Havana cigars and drink Armenian cognac.”

It seems that the British Prime Minister wasn’t only a lover of noble drinks but also had a tremendous impact on the fate of the Armenian cognac… It’s been told that when Churchill found out that the quality of the “Tvin” cognac had fallen back, he complained about that to Stalin. It was found out that Markar Setragian, the chief expert of “Tvin” and other cognac brands had been exiled to Siberia. Immediately after Churchill’s complaint, Stalin set Markar Setragian free and restored him to his previous position.

Markar Setragian is the founder of the new technology for the production of cognac in the Soviet Union. We owe it to him to have the glorious variety of Armenian cognacs: “Hopelenagan” (the top quality cognac in Soviet Armenia), “Tvin,” “Yerevan,” “Nayiri,” “Donagan,” “Akhtamar,” “Armenia,” “40 Dari,” “50 Dari,” etc… The “Vasbouragan” brand was dedicated to the memory of the genius cognac-maker.

Historically, Armenia has been a vine producing land. It has around three thousand years of history. The annals of the Armenian cognac goes back to the 19th century. In 1877 the first quilt trader Nerses Tairov built the first wine factory in the castle area of Yerevan. He placed a 102 bucket size bronze distillation apparatus.

Soon other Armenians like Afrikian, Geozalov and Sarayev followed the example of Tairov and built wineries. Due to some difficulties in production in 1898 Tairov sold his factory to “Shousdov & Sons.” Later the Shousdovs built a second factory and established seven more factories for vine cultivation and preservation in different regions. After the death of Nicolay Shousdov, his sons Nicolyn and Leondyn took charge of the organization.

In 1900 during Paris International Symposium Nicolay Shousdov Jr. presented his cognac samples for “blind tasting.” After tasting it and without knowing the origin of the cognac, the committee gave the prestigious Grand Prix to the Armenian product. Because of the high quality Shousdov was allowed to label the bottles as “cognac” and not “brandy.” The label “cognac” was only used for the alcoholic vine products coming out of the Cognac province of France. Evidently, the Armenian cognac is the only drink in the world that has been given the privilege of being labeled as cognac because of its high quality.

The widest recognition that the Armenian cognac received was in 1913 when among thirty other Armenian and non-Armenian companies “Shousdov & Sons” started to deliver its products to the palace of the Russian Emperor.

Nicolay Shousdov Jr. was a unique personality. His advertisement skills are to be saluted. Along with a series of advertisement programs that he organized, he hired presentable men, dressed them suitably and sent them to different prestigious restaurants in Europe. The gentlemen would order Shousdov cognac and after being informed that they were not in their menu list, they would make a scene, get all worked up and hurl out of the restaurant slamming the door behind them. This plan produced stunning results. The Shousdov cognac invaded Europe. The company won one prize after the other; gold medals of “Nijni Novgorod,” “New Orleans” and Warsaw contests and others.

In 1912, Shousdov offered the Russian Tsar Nicolay II to have a shot of cognac with a slice of lemon; he was to have it in front of the whole royalty and, the most important of all, in front of the French Ambassador. After having the shot of the Armenian cognac, the Tsar smiled and said: “This is a marvelous cognac, Sirs, and I advise you all to have some.” From that time on the Shousdov cognac became trendy; and having it with a slice of lemon became known as “Nicolashka.” After the Revolution, the prestigious drink was being offered in Kremlin, especially during visits of foreign officials. It helped to solve so many problems and open so many doors.

The Armenian cognac is good. It is highly valued all around the world, including in France, the birthplace of the cognac. The unanimous viewpoint of the international experts is that     there are two types of cognac: the French and the Armenian. All the other cognacs belong to the third group.

The Armenian cognac was also praised by the Russian writer Maxim Gorki. In 1928, after tasting the Armenian cognac, he said: “Perhaps it’s easier to climb to the top of Ararat than to climb up from the cellars of “Ararat.”

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8 Comments

  1. greg misakyan said:

    If you want to know, the best testing Armenian cognacs are; St Grigor 30, 40 and 50. Noy 20 and 25. Tigran Mets 20, 25 and 40. I didn’t like Nairi 20.

    • Seervart said:

      Thanks for the heads up Greg. They do say above about Tvin, Hopelenagan, Yerevan, Donagan, Akhtamar, Nayiri, Armenia and Vasbouragan as the best. I heard about Noy though.

      • greg misakyan said:

        no, they are not. From that same company Nairi is the oldest and didn’t like it.

    • Seervart said:

      Where do you live John? I am positive they must have it in the LA area where there is a good deal of Armenians and Armenian shops in there.

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  3. Tra said:

    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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