Armenian brandy is a product regulated by the Standard of the Republic of Armenia. According to the law, this is a product made form Armenian grape varieties following a regulated production method. All stages involved in production of Armenian brandy must take place in Armenia. The varieties of grape that can be used in production of Armenian brandy, the minimum three-year aging process, as well as a multitude of technical requirements that are needed to craft the legendary ArArAt brandies are duly formalized in legislation.
The special endemic grape varieties with flavor properties that are no longer available anywhere in the world are used in production of ArArAt (as these grapes are the only ones that survived the phylloxera epidemics). In all, there are about 13 such varieties, with the main ones including grapes such as Voskehat, Garandmak, Chilar, Mskhali, Kangun and Rkaziteli. The grape harvesting takes place in September-October followed by pressing. The grapes are loaded in special horizontal screw presses where berries are pressed in a very gentle way to avoid causing damage to seeds. What is achieved in the outcome is called must (or grape juice). Different varieties do not get mixed, and each separate must is sent along its own way to the fermentation vat.
Sugar content in the grapes must be at least 17%. One metric ton of grape produces approximately 800 liters of must.
The fermentation process takes its natural course. Ethyl alcohol is released in the must under temperatures of 25-26° and seven days later it turns into dry white wine with 12-14% alcohol content.
Unfiltered young dry white wine, with 12-14% alcohol content, depending on grape variety (as grapes are not mixed before blending).
Steam distillation is used in production of ArArAt brandies. This method takes more time and is more complicated, but helps preserve all flavor qualities of Armenian grapes and pass them on unchanged to the spirits.
The still used during the first phase of distillation has the capacity of 5,000 liters.
The first phase of distillation produces 30-34% wash distillate.
The still used for the second distillation has the capacity of 1,500 liters.
The resulting product is alcohol, which is divided into three fractions, namely, head, heart and tail. Only the heart fraction is used in ArArAt brandy production, which has 73% alcohol.
Casks from the Caucasian (Armenian) oak are used in ArArAt brandy production. This oak species has rather tight pinkish grain and is virtually devoid of pores. Oak trees are at least 70 years old when they are harvested, and only the middle part of the tree is used in cooperage. First, the oak is seasoned during 36 months and then split along the grain to obtain the so-called staves, which are further used to construct a cask.
The oak imparts to ArArAt brandies its natural flavor notes and aromas of dried fruits, spices, vanilla and chocolate. The spirits distilled from endemic varieties of grape contact the cask made from the Caucasian oak and give birth to a unique Ararat brandy bouquet. During the aging process, the oak interacts with alcohol and does some breathing, which gives rise to an oxidation-reduction process resulting in evaporation of alcohol to the tune of 5% of each cask’s content per year. The evaporated part is called the “angels’ share”.
The YBC blending masters combine various spirits produced from different grapes and of different ages to create a unique brandy composition from the ArArAt range.
Filtered spring water from the Katnakhpiur source is used during ArArAt brandy blending. The finished blend is sent to repose, which is when the spirits assimilate and attain the best balance and harmony of flavors and aroma.
After the repose and just prior to bottling the brandy is chilled and then filtered twice.
Modern bottling line used at the YBC complies with all quality standards and is unparalleled in a sense that before brandy is ever poured inside the bottle, the bottle is rinsed twice: once using at least 10-year old brandy spirit and later using the same brandy that goes into the bottle. This prepares the bottle for brandy storage and serves as another reminder of the highest quality standards applied to ArArAt brandy production.