A long while back I reviewed the Ararat Akhtamar, a 10-year Armenian Brandy. Readers interested in learning a little more about Armenian Brandy would be invited to give that review a peep.
So, onto the NOY. Just as every Russian vodka seems to work a minaret or two into the packaging, Armenian spirit makers love to throw in references to Mount Ararat and the story of Noah. Legend has it that when the flood waters receded, his ark sat atop the highest mountain on earth. And, strangely, that's where the name comes from. Think something along the lines of NO-UH. NO-UY. Something like that. Rather than something that rhymes with this.
From what I've been able to gather about Armenian Brandy, NOY is the Pepsi to Ararat's Coca Cola. You can read that reference in one of two ways. The first interpretation is that there's a healthy rivalry between two more-or-less equivalent products in the same category, with some consumers going one way and another group going the other. Lots of Armenian brandy makers are willing to throw down, and NOY is a capable product.
However, if you’re like me, you’d agree that Coke is flat-out better than the slightly weird Pepsi, and you’re perpetually dumbfounded that anyone would put Pepsi in their shopping cart when Coke exists on the shelf. Mind you, I'm not a big soda drinker: I last drank a mini-can of Coke about seven months ago when it went into a Cuba Libre. That said, I'll be dead before I buy my next can of Pepsi, which should give you some idea of how far into first place I think Coke is. And here, NOY is figuratively very Pepsi.
So what puts NOY so far into second place behind Ararat at the same age statement? Well, while both brands have that nice “forest floor” aroma I've come to love from sophisticated brandies, the NOY also has some scummy aromas mixed in there with straight-up booze and industrial solvents. I didn't want to smell this much.
Thankfully, the taste fares better. There's a lot of richness in the form of dates and prunes, and there's an unexpected (but not unwelcome) earthiness that reminded me of the lotus root I've had from Korean restaurants. I wasn't as enamored with the mouth-puckering nature of the NOY 10, but the slight sourness was familiar: a lot of red wine has the same tannic nature. My guess is the skin of the grape is making its way into the final product.
I can always give or take the aroma if all of the other components play nicely, but at the end of the day I think the NOY 10 isn't cohesive to my palate. Instead of a chorus of tastes, you've got flavors like licorice, banana, red wine, oak, lemon, dates, and Dr. Pepper all attempting to talk past one another. I’d try other versions of NOY, but the ten year fell flat.