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US Government officially recognises Bolivian brandy

The US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has officially recognised Bolivian Singani as a unique type of brandy, thanks in part to a campaign spearheaded by Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh.

Soderbergh, who is known for directing hits such as Ocean’s ElevenBehind the Candelabra and Magic Mike’s Last Dance, first tasted Singani in 2007 during the production of his two-part Che Guevara biopic Che when his casting director gave him a bottle of the spirit. In partnership with Casa Real, Bolivia’s leading Singani producer, he would later launch Singani 63, a brandy made from Muscat of Alexandria.

Singani is a spirit distilled from Muscat of Alexandria and supposedly originates with Spanish missionaries who came to Bolivia in the Early Modern period. The missionaries managed to convert the population to both Catholicism and the eau de vie.

Previously classified as a brandy by the TTB, the new designation, published on 13 January, means that Singani will be in its own subcategory, and is recognised as a distinctive product of the landlocked South American nation.

Celebrating the milestone, Soderbergh said: “In 2014, when I sat across the table from 17 people representing four different agencies (Treasury, ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], TTB, FDA [Food and Drug Administration]), I felt like an ant at the bottom of the Matterhorn. The good news, however, is that each agency in the end acted to fulfil their mandate of informing the public about what they’re drinking when they drink Singani. This recognition is certainly a high point in the long history of Bolivia’s unique spirit.”

Casa Real CEO Luis Pablo Granier added: “Our family has been producing Singani for nearly 100 years and it has been an absolute joy to see our product on bar shelves across the U.S. over the last nine years for the first time in our history. To now have our life’s work recognised on a global stage and recognised by the U.S. Government is a moment my great-grandfather couldn’t and wouldn’t have dreamed of.”

In return for the re-designation, Bolivia will recognise Bourbon whiskey and Tennessee whiskey as distinctive products of the US.

In related news: the United Nations recently awarded World Heritage status to Serbian plum brandy.

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