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Odessa Cognac Factory
by
Terry Sullivan

Photos by
Odessa Cognac Company

Brandy Tasting Photos by
Terry Sullivan

 

Odessa Cognac FactoryOne early reference to brandy dates to the 16th century in France. Dutch settlers ventured to the Cognac region of France. In order to protect wine for a long voyage, they distilled the wine into an eau-de-vie. These Dutch settlers then distilled the spirit a second time. They used the word “brandewijn” for burnt wine. The word has been shortened to brandy. Today, only brandy made in the Cognac region of France made from certain grape varieties may be called cognac. However, in centuries past, the word cognac was more widely used.

In 1803, citizens of Odessa, Ukraine had access to the cognacs from France. By 1840 a backyard industry was crafting brandy. in 1863, Nikolai Leontevich Shustov founded a distillery and produced a brand known as Shustov. By the end of the century, Shustov’s sons were running the company and by 1897 crafted the first brandy in Odessa called Phoenix.

Odessa Cognac FactoryThe Odessa Shustov factory was named Odessa Cognac Factory in 1929. By the mid-1950s, the Odessa Cognac Factory was the only producer making brandy in Ukraine. In 2012, the European Business Assembly awarded the Odessa Cognac Factory as the best cognac company in Europe. The business group sited the companies 100-year history of crafting brandy the same way is it is done in Cognac, France. Today the Odessa Cognac Factory is the largest in Europe. In 2013, the company opened the N.L. Shustov Cognac Museum.

We had the opportunity to conduct an online interview with Edward Gorodetsky, Chairman of the Board, Odessa Cognac Factory. We also had a sample of Odessa Premium Quality Brandy V.S.O.P.

Interview

Describe your distilling journey; when did you start distilling; why did you want to distill?
 
Odessa Cognac FactoryI am a third-generation distiller. I grew up at Odessa Cognac Factory and soaked up the spirit and philosophy of the right brandy production as a child. I’ve worked as a distiller for 20 years, and my entire career has been tied to the Odessa Cognac Factory.
 
Do you create distilled products in addition to brandy? 
 
Odessa Cognac Factory boasts 153 years of existence. Nearly since its opening, it has combined distilling of great brandies with distilling of vodka and bitters. Over the past decade, we stopped producing vodka and only make brandies and sparkling wines.
 
What advice would you offer people who would like to start distilling?
 
Do not forget there are no little things in this business. The devil is in the detail, so nothing should be neglected.
 
What is unique about the Odessa Cognac Factory?
 
Odessa Cognac Factory is the oldest and largest enterprise of its kind in Ukraine, founded in 1863, and one of the stable leaders of the brandy market in Ukraine and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. We boast a complete production cycle for brandies, which includes the most powerful distillation shop floor capable of distilling up to 30 million liters of wine per season (six months), as well as aging shop floors for more than 15 million liters of brandy spirits. The youngest of our brandies are one day old, the oldest are 50 years old. We produce brandies aged one to 40 years.
 
When the Odessa Cognac Factory was built and brandy made, was it difficult to get the public to purchase brandy rather than vodka? 

The Shustovs were geniuses of marketing and promotion of that time; their brandies gained popularity in our country and beyond quickly.

What is the consumer’s opinion of brandy today and how does it sell compared to vodka? 
 
Brandy is a very dynamic segment on the alcohol market, but it’s still lagging significantly behind vodka in terms of sales.  
 
Odessa Cognac FactoryIs the distillery open for tourism?

 
It’s been three years since we opened the Nikolay Shustov Brandy Museum in the production facility. Groups of our guests, including tourists, are allowed to visit the distillery on a daily basis and see the mystery of creation of real brandies. 

Production

Around 1000 hectares (about 2,471 acres) near the village of Velikodolinskoe are home to white grapes such as Rkatsiteli, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Aligote. Vines grow deep reaching the limestone deposits after penetrating the fertile top soil and a layer of humus. After harvest and pressing, the must is fermented for up to three weeks. The wine is distilled twice over a period of 36 hours. Ten liters of wine produce one liter of brandy spirit.

The brandy spirits are placed in wood barrels and age from one to fifty years. The master distiller blends spirits from the same vintage with spirits from different vintages. The blend goes through a period of resting for one year in oak barrels. The resulting commercial brandies are labeled V.S., V.S.O.P., V.V.S.O.P. and X.O. depending on the years the brandy was aged.

Odessa Cognac FactoryOdessa Cognac Factory

Brandy Tasting

The Odessa Premium Quality Brandy V.S.O.P. was a gold color. The aroma reminded me of citrus and dried fruits. Warming the brandy glass by hand releases more dried fruit notes. A silky mouthfeel is accompanied by a bit of alcohol heat on the finish. The fruity taste is evident while in the mouth and during the long aftertaste. Kathy was picking up dried fruit and brown sugar. Dried fruit is used for fruit cake recipes and other desserts.

 

Shustov Cognac Winery Museum

Odessa Cognac FactoryIn the heart of Odessa, the Shustov Cognac Winery Museum opened in 2013 and quickly became a tourist destination. The lower level encompasses 1,700 square meters, where visitors learn about the history of brandy and its production process. Notable museum artifacts include a copy of an alembic still and a reconstructed model of a horse-drawn tram used to advertise Shustov cognac. After a tour, visitors can taste brandy in the tasting room.

If you are traveling to Odessa, plan to stop at the Nikolay Shustov Brandy Museum. Brandy enthusiasts can find Odessa Brandy in the United States. In Washington D.C., Potomac Wine and Spirits sells a 750 ml bottle of the Odessa Premium Quality Brandy V.S.O.P. for $14.99.

 

Odessa Cognac Factory
Mel'nyts'ka St, 13, Odesa, Odessa Oblast, Ukraine, 65000

 

Article written October 2016


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