Is Singani a brandy?

 

It's a common belief, and a lot of sources plainly say so.  But in its characteristics, Singani has more in common with French eau-de-vie or even tequila than brandy.  Being derived from grapes does not necessarily make something a brandy, for example, Ciroc, which is derived from grapes in some fashion or another, is not called brandy, but is actually referred to as a type of vodka.

But it says "brandy" on the Singani label.  The US government requires that all spirits sold in the US be labeled with a liquor category from a quite limited list.  Everything has to be shoe-horned into that list one way or another, and Singani is the new kid on the block, so in it goes.

Here's a comparison table, see what you think.

Brandy Eau de vie
  • aged in wood
  • artificial colors OK
  • marc, pomace or lees OK
  • made from fruit (all kinds)
  • congeners not removed
  • goal: change the spirit
  • not aged in wood
  • no artificial colors
  • no marc, pomace or lees
  • made from fruit (all kinds)
  • congeners removed
  • goal: showcase the spirit
Cognac Singani
  • aged in wood
  • no artificial colors
  • no marc, pomace or lees
  • made from fruit (grapes)
  • congeners not removed
  • goal: change the spirit
  • not aged in wood
  • no artificial colors
  • no marc, pomace or lees
  • made from fruit (grapes)
  • congeners removed
  • goal: showcase the spirit

 

In general, brown spirits (left) are different from white spirits (right).  Brown spirits have the goal of changing the taste of the spirit by aging; the aging process mellows the raw taste of congeners.  White spirits have the goal of optimizing the original taste of the spirit by careful distillation and removal of congeners (a goal that many liquors find difficult to achieve, thus the popularity of aging).

Overall, Singani compares best with eau de vie, both strive to retain the original "spirit" or essence by eliminating the congeners during the production process rather than use aging to do it. 

Therefore Singani's connection to brandy is not strong.  But as there is no government category for Eau de vie, and Cognac is a domain of origin, that leaves brandy as the only place to put it for now.

Ultimately, the best way to describe Singani is its own thing, as tequila is its own thing and pisco is its own thing.  In the meantime, you will not hear us refering to Singani as a "brandy".