As origin stories go, I’ve heard stranger. Shakmat is the brainchild of Alexis Ohanian, who is best known as the founder of Reddit and which is being produced and sold in conjunction with Flaviar/Caskers, our main retail partner.
In Armenia, brandy is known as “konyak,” and while it’s made in much the same way as French Cognac, it uses different grapes — Kangun, Kakhet, Garan Dmak, and Rkatsiteli in the case of Shakmat — and is aged in a different type of oak — in this case, Caucasian Oak. The name Shakmat comes from the Armenian word for chess, another national obsession along with brandy. (As you might expect, Ohanian has Armenian heritage, hence the particular interest.)
At 23 years old, Shakmat is a well-aged but traditional expression of Armenian brandy, which can be a bit jarring if you’re more accustomed to the much more delicate French and American brandies — a fact to which we can attest, as we received a bottle to review. Thoughts follow.
On the nose, the brandy is instantly bold and in your face with notes of chocolate, coffee, and plump raisins, the latter of which give it a strongly winey character. There’s ample oak here — which only grows with time in glass — and a spicy edge of cloves, too.
The palate focuses heavily on the wood, immediately evoking a more whiskey-like experience, with notes of chocolate and a heavy mulled wine element growing stronger in time. Moderate tannins give the finish a bittersweet character, with lingering notes of coffee alongside a big slug of wood. As the finish fades out, though, it’s that wine-heavy character that dominates, offering a lingering prune/raisin slurry that ultimately becomes a bit overblown and leaves a slightly saccharine taste on the tongue.
80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #2. 3500 bottles produced in this batch.
B / $110/ shakmatbrandy.com